These are the reactions I get when I tell people I'm a divorce lawyer:
1. Shudders and disdain: Usually that's the response from my corporate brethren and sistern, you know, the tax lawyers, commercial litigators, mergers & acquisitions specialists, intellectual property gurus -- virtually all lawyers except personal injury and criminal lawyers. Because their rep (that of the PI and criminal bar) is as bad as ours, maybe worse. They get down and dirty, too, just like we do: Sex, drugs, violence... : )
2. Pity: Usually from the corporate crew. Because they assume divorce lawyers are too stupid to go into the more high-falutin' areas of the law. Revealing I'm a Georgetown Law alum, and a former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius lawyer, usually shuts that one down fairly quickly. Along with asking the M&A lawyer if s/he knows what a QDRO is. See, most other specialities don't realize that matrimonial law requires a breadth of knowledge. In order to be any good at it, we need to know a lot about contracts, tax, real property, pensions, and estate law. As well as how to get down and dirty, of course. ; )
3. Requests for advice: Because everybody has either had a divorce, or post-divorce issues, or their brother or sister or cousin or best friend is in a pickle. And I'm, like, do I really want to give free advice on a case I know absolutely nothing about, second-guessing the lawyers in the trenches? On the other hand, can I stop myself from butting in and pontificating? Sigh.
4. TMI: That's short for 'too much information.' A whoosh of disclosures about the person's personal life comes flying at me. It's as if I were sitting next to a stranger on a plane who has to unload on somebody and that somebody is lucky me. It usually takes me a good fifteen minutes to extricate myself. I don't want to be rude, ya know? And the thing is, the person is usually not a stranger. So repeat encounters and additional disclosures are likely. I learned a long time ago: It comes with the territory.
5. Hostility: Okay, I saved this for last because it crosses age, gender, religion, race, occupation and socio-economics. And how can I respond when I'm barraged with what creeps divorce lawyers are?How we should be ejected from the planet, or banished to the swamps of Borneo without mosquito nets? I AGREE. Because if it weren't for the damn dabblers out there - the lawyers who toss 'divorce' on their list of practice areas (along with traffic tickets, wills, worker's comp, accidents, house closings, bankruptcy and criminal defense) on their website or on those paper placements in the local diner - the world would be a better place. My internist shouldn't attempt brain surgery. Not that divorce lawyers are the equivalent of neurosurgeons, but you get my drift. Dabblers make me soooo mad. Grrrr.
Being a divorce lawyer was my choice. No one forced me into it, and honestly? It has had more than its fair share of stressors and hassles.
But it has also been intensely gratifying. Like helping someone move on with his/her life to a far more positive place; getting kids to live with the parent who is providing them with a stable, safe home and learning, years later, that the kids are now successful and happy adults; unraveling the mess in someone's life efficiently and with a minimum of anger; cleaning up a post-divorce disaster so there's no room for future uncertainty; closing a deal that provides financial security and logical parenting arrangements in a nice, tight agreement...
Granted, the good moments occur less frequently than the grueling ones, but when they do? Ain't nothin' like it.