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May 01, 2023 From the Chair

Supporting Each Other in Difficult Times

Thad F. Woody
Where flowers bloom, so does hope.

—Lady Bird Johnson

The past few years have been hard as we all navigated difficult times together. The practice of family law was no different. We saw priorities for people shift, bringing a surge of new cases and new challenges to our practices. In my own practice, I saw several new clients who came to me after reevaluating what is now important to them in life and no longer wishing to delay their own happiness and start of that next chapter. It is easy to understand why when so many people experienced the fragility of life first hand.

We were all reminded of that fragility this past December when an opposing party shot and killed attorney Doug Lewis after a contentious divorce case—a horrific tragedy that sent shock waves throughout our legal community. Sadly, this was not the first time this had happened in the Atlanta area, where I practice. In 2018, an opposing party shot and killed attorney Antonio Mari after another contentious divorce case.

I share these examples as reminders to us all that our profession is riddled with difficult and complex personalities and to not only be careful but also supportive of colleagues who may be managing difficult workloads. My heart goes out to the family members, friends, and work colleagues of these lawyers who were doing their jobs just as we all do each day.

No matter in what corner of the country you might practice, it is more important than ever to focus on your own mental health. Part of that, for me, is creating a good support community. Some of you have a built-in support community at home or within your firm, but expanding that community to include lawyers from other jurisdictions has been incredibly enriching for me both professionally and mentally. I invite all of you to gather together at the ABA Family Law Section’s Spring CLE Conference in Las Vegas April 19–22 to take advantage of all the programming and to work on expanding your current professional network. If conferences are not your thing, we also have online programming through our monthly brown-bag learning events. Either way, having friends and colleagues from across the country going through the same daily battles as ourselves can be our own best therapy while providing opportunities for learning and growth. Until then, take time to check in on colleagues you haven’t spoken to lately, and let them know you are thinking about them. In a profession rife with conflict, human connection is critically important for all our mental health, and being kind and compassionate towards others will always provide hope to others for better days ahead.

Stay safe and well.

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Thad F. Woody is Chair of the ABA Family Law Section and the executive partner with the law firm of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC in Atlanta. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Georgia State College of Law.