Authored By: Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a. " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "
I often wonder where the caring went in our society. So many people seem in so much need of help and yet as much as I try to focus on the people that are helping others I don't see it in my profession. It's sad.
It reminds me of Christmas time. Everything is so commercialized. It's not about the religious nature of the holiday anymore it's about giving gifts and fighting each other on Black Friday to get the best deals by seeing who we can stomp first to get to the front of the line first. It's odd to see what we do to our fellow man. The same is true for my profession. I wanted to join a truly noble profession and make a difference. I didn't want to reach down into some poor guy's wallet or some woman's purse for their last dollar and take it so they couldn't afford to fight for their rights or defend themselves in court. That wasn't my objective at all. It was to help people with my skills. Am I claiming to be a saint? Of course not! Obviously I have bills to pay myself so I have to charge something for my services, but what I charge makes a difference.
I drive down the street and see people putting up their houses for sale as the values plummet. I see abandoned houses in my own neighborhood and go up to some nice houses to read the foreclosure notices on the doors of homes long since left empty.
I see the local Salvation Army doing more business than ever before with lines that rival Super Stop & Shop on one of their best days. It's not a pleasant site to see our recession. I'm far from immune to it. I've taken every energy saving tip I can find and put it to good use. I look for every sale possible. I cut coupons and I do without some of the things I used to be able to afford because the economy isn't that good for people and frankly I'm not going to be the one that breaks their wallets.
This world revolves around people and I see people hurting everywhere. The business for Family Dollar and Dollar Tree is up while the big businesses are down and people are swarming to pawn shops with whatever they can to pay their bills.
I've talked to numerous lawyers during this recession. I hear some of them doing very well and talking about themselves and their families, etc.. I ask if they've changed their billing practices or rates and the answer has been the same... no.
I must admit that I get rather angry at times. Here I am, an experienced family law attorney tucked away in a home office like a pearl inside an oyster they haven't found and I'm giving my all for the client. I've reduced my rates in this economy not because I'm not worth it but because folks need a break. So here I am, this oyster hidden away in a corner just about jumping up and down saying "here I am" all you have to do is open your eyes and see me.
Yet perhaps what disappoints me more than not being noticed when I'm trying to help people is to see the people going to the lawyers listed at the top of Google because they must be the one's you should hire because that's where they are, right? I used to be up there at the top of Google and I had clients who I had to limit because I couldn't keep up with them all. Yet I'm not up there... so people don't see me. What gets me most is knowing that they'll go to the lawyers I see listed on the first page of Google.com and knowing how much they'll be charged and how they'll be treated like a number and not like a person.
Is this jealousy? For being on the first page perhaps, but certainly not for doing what they do. You see, I realized a long time ago that it would be very easy to take a client for every last dime he or she had. It wouldn't be that hard. In fact, I could become good at it in such a very short time. I've already had hundreds of opportunities to do so. So what's my problem, right? My problem is that I have a conscience. I seem to be one of these rare attorneys who worries more about his clients than about his wallet. Yes, I even have sleepless nights worrying about mothers, fathers, and children in my cases. Am I one of the few practitioners who wants to make others lives better and doesn't harp about collecting the almighty dollar every other second?
People are hurting and affordability is what they need. Affordability, skill and perhaps a little bit of caring. You know, I don't know a single attorney in Rhode Island who practices family law who puts the client before the bill except myself. Perhaps I'm too giving. Perhaps I just don't know enough Rhode Island family lawyers. Perhaps I'm not a good businessman as some of the wealthier attorneys have commented to me. And perhaps...I'm that affordable angel that people are trying to find who actually gives a dam.
If this sounds self-righteous, well, then it does though it's not meant to be. I suppose I just don't understand it. In the end, I ended up being a divorce lawyer who really cares, but perhaps I should have been a Catholic Priest after all.