Working with Families

AuthorElizabeth Kelley
If I had a nickel for every time a mother or father or sibling or significant other
called me complaining that a loved one’s attorney was not returning phone
calls . . . Perhaps the family member has dropped off medical records to the
lawyer’s office and this has not been acknowledged. Perhaps the family has
even tried to call the court or the judge.
Working with the family of a client with mental disabilities is time-consuming
and delicate, but it is vital if you are to effectively represent that client. This
chapter identifies some of the situations you may encounter with families and
provides some strategies I and other lawyers have used.
• • •
When they come to you, they are bitter.
Often, by the time a family meets with you, that family has endured
years or even decades of misunderstanding. The family has had to deal
with neighbors, schools, and employers who do not understand the nature
of their loved one’s disability, and may be unwilling to make accommoda-
tions. Thus, you may have to deal with a good deal of anger and resent-
ment. And the fact that you keep a lawyerly demeanor may eventually
provoke criticism that you don’t care. Explain that you are a lawyer and
you must work within the legal system. This is not to say that you cannot
be creative or a passionate advocate. But you are an attorney and must
work within the system.
I know one attorney who always asks the client and the family “What
is the goal?” This helps focus attention and allows the attorney to explain
Working with Families
Elizabeth Kelley

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT