Law and the Pursuit of Happiness (from a Litigator’s Perspective)

As business people, we are often encouraged to promote our goods and services by appealing to our customers' deepest desires... for peace of mind, for social status, for abundant wealth, better health, greater sex appeal, in short for happiness. But when you are faced with a potentially life-changing legal dispute, a lawyer pitching legal services with the promise of happiness seems fundamentally wrong. Is happiness even possible when…

  • Your spouse whom you have loved for many years leaves you and takes your children?
  • Your business partner locks you out of the business (or leaves the business without warning), taking money, assets or customers?
  • You discover your child has been sexually assaulted by your spouse?
  • Your use of alcohol or drugs has spun out of control and your actions have landed you in jail and maybe you don’t even recall what happened?
  • You've made a mistake in the work you’ve done for a customer, and now you are faced with a lawsuit claiming damages far in excess of the value of the work you did?
  • Your tenants are no end of frustration, and now you are facing criminal charges because maybe you (or they) did not handle the frustration well?
  • You’ve been trying your hardest to be a good parent, but now your children have been apprehended by Child and Family Services
  • You have been the victim of ... (and here we can list all manner of physical, emotional, and financial injuries that humans seem to have little trouble causing one another from time to time as a result of mere negligence or even evil intent)

(By the way, welcome to a snapshot of my law practice. All of these situations are the kind of messy, difficult cases that I take on, probably because most lawyers can’t or won’t take such cases.)

Happiness might be an outcome in these messy cases, but this is rather unlikely. Sadly, especially in family law, lawyers have come to believe that if both parties end up unhappy with the result, it was probably the “right” or “fair” outcome. After all, if no one gets the outcome they were hoping for, that seems fair, right? And if each party paid a lot of money to NOT get the result they were hoping for, well that is just too bad for the client because lawyers can’t (and won’t) guarantee outcomes.

Clearly, this is a tough business, and a tough sell.

But after almost thirty years in this business, I think I have finally discovered why people keep telling me that I am not like other lawyers and Fair Legal is not like most other law firms. And, hopefully, this will give you a better idea of how to refer to Fair Legal.

The explanation is that I take a fundamentally different approach to TRAUMA. Many of my clients are dealing with very traumatic situations. But stop and think for a moment on the effect on lawyers and their staff, experiencing vicariously the trauma our clients are going through – magnified in some ways because we are not just dealing with one client’s trauma, but the trauma from many clients. Is it any wonder that lawyers end up with high rates of depression, substance abuse, marriage breakdown and career burn-out? We start dishing out the trauma as quick as it comes in, viewing clients, lawyers and other parties with hostility and worse. Is it any wonder that lawyers and legal assistants often find themselves in toxic work environments and burn out? 

So, how do I deal with all this Trauma?

  1. I have an almost unshakeable belief that the basic purpose of the legal system is to make the world a better place, or at least a more orderly, peaceful place. We are complicated, social creatures, and the legal system helps us define, regulate, and improve our relationships with those around us. Of course, I recognize that there are many views of what the legal system actually accomplishes, especially when it comes to historical and societal injustices, but I believe we can all agree that this is fundamentally what we expect the legal system to do.
  2. Trauma, therefore, triggers in me an intense curiosity. I do not deny the trauma, I do not internalize the trauma. Instead, I seek instead to understand, and in understanding, to rise above the trauma, to explore and create opportunities to resolve conflict using traditional legal approaches as well as by drawing on ideas from psychology, philosophy, sociology and on occasion, religion.
  3. Indeed, I ACCEPT clients as they are, trauma and all – regardless of how much or how little my clients have contributed to the mess they find themselves in.  I accept that my clients are often less than perfect, and even sometimes quite a bit less than perfect – after all, who am I to judge? 
  4. I adhere to a core set of VALUES and do not compromise those values for the sake of pleasing clients or anyone else. These values include:
  • Integrity – ensuring that my actions on behalf of clients are consistent with my personal values and moral compass
  • Honesty – life is much simpler and happier when you have nothing to hide
  • Honour – treating clients and all participants in the legal system with dignity, respect and, where appropriate, loyalty
  • Courage – I am not afraid to take on any case, no matter how ugly or unpopular
  • Compassion – there, but for the grace of God, go I
  • Competent – practicing law is fun, and I am constantly learning and improving my skills

The FAIR LEGAL APPROACH to clients facing life-changing legal conflict: 

  • Provide competent and effective legal counsel using a multi-disciplinary, holistic perspective
  • Work collaboratively and professionally with opposing counsel and litigants (to achieve out-of-court resolution, if possible)
  • When negotiated resolution not possible, advocate zealously in the courts with integrity, honour and courage

Calgary Civil Litigation Lawyer Charles Fair

Litigation cases are about disputes that usually arise because of broken contracts, negligence, or other failures to respect personal rights and obligations. Litigation is a process of resolving disputes in a court of law, usually with a judge. 

Calgary civil litigation lawyer Charles Fair is prepared to defend your rights and provide representation to individuals or businesses to right a wrong, honour an agreement or obtain compensation for a personal injury. Contact us at 1 (403) 239-2249 to schedule a confidential meeting with a member of our legal team.