Exiting the Salt Lake City International Airport, you are greeted with a welcome sign bearing our state’s slogan, “Life Elevated.” Seeing this sign after returning from the Mountain States Chapter meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) last weekend helped me focus on my main takeaway: elevating the practice of family law.
The AAML is a national organization of the top family lawyers in the country. To be admitted one has to have the endorsement of fellow academy members, your peers, and the judges you appear before. You also have to take a comprehensive examination to demonstrate you are well-versed in various complex family law matters. It is a challenge to be admitted to the AAML, and it is an honor to be considered among the best at what I do, but with that honor comes a duty.
At the chapter meeting, we enjoyed presentations from experts, participated in roundtable discussions of family law issues, and had the opportunity for one-on-one dialogs with each other. While our topics varied, a theme emerged: elevating the practice of family law. As AAML fellows, we are leaders in our field, and we have a unique opportunity to lead by our example of being highly skilled and by how we treat all we encounter in our practice. Whether it is treating court staff with respect, granting yet another harmless extension to an opposing counsel, or letting a snide comment or angry outburst slide, as attorneys, we have a choice in how we respond. We can respond with kindness and dignity or buy into the outdated (and frankly ineffective) thinking that a lawyer must be hardnosed and brusque to all people and at all times. The behavior we choose to model is the behavior others will notice and reciprocate.
I am proud to be a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. I have worked hard to get to this point, and I am pleased to say I did not sacrifice my values to get here and have striven to err on the side of kindness. I will now serve as the Mountain States Chapter president for the next year and will take this opportunity to elevate family law practice in our region. Reflecting on this role and opportunity, one word kept coming to me: gracious. I have adopted gracious as the theme for my term in office. Webster’s main definition of gracious is “marked by kindness and courtesy.” Black’s Law Dictionary does not contain a definition for gracious . . . yet.