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When the lawyer acts as a judge

Practice of the law itself is not enough. Knowledge of the law (as much as one has) is not enough. Good sense is not enough either.

What makes a lawyer a good lawyer, an outstanding professional, is a combination of all the above in addition to an endless passion for his (or her) work and mutual trust with the clients – nothing less will be enough to make a lawyer a good professional.

We lawyers should never judge our clients, we must give them the benefit of the doubt when we are not sure they are telling us all the truth, we must have sympathy towards the client and a large amount of empathy.

Empathy does not mean we need to be emotional and act incoherently as some clients do when under stress – and any court case is necessarily stressful.

A good professional should be careful before becoming a judge towards his clients.

Slander and family law

Family law is not only divorce, but family law is also a very large body of law including trusts, wills, domestic violence, and disputes of a different nature among family members.

Sad, but true, different people will act in abnormal ways when they want to achieve their goals, including the use of force or the use of indiscriminate slander.

I heard more than once stories about lawyers telling their clients that they can “find someone else to represent them” because he as the lawyer is convinced that he knows better what is happening in the family or in the case.

Lawyers don’t have (and shouldn’t try) to be in control of the client but instead should work with the client even when the client is not entirely honest or when the client behaves irrationally or strangely. People react differently under different situations and as I said, a family case is always a very stressful time for anyone involved.

Child abuse

I remember one specific case I made a mistake on when I almost refused to continue representing a case where the wife insisted that, despite the lack of any real evidence, her spouse was sexually molesting the children.

I spoke with the wife for hours on different occasions during the case, I spoke with the spouse’s lawyer, with the social worker involved (as much as it was permitted by law) and even with the spouse and could not believe the story. The scenario presented by the wife was irrational, the spouse sounded like a very reasonable person, his lawyer was very firm against the accusations and the social worker could not agree with the picture presented by my client.


Something inside me told me to trust the client. I decided together with my partner to trust our client and therefore we proceeded with the case asking the judge for an evaluation of the spouse by a psychiatrist.

Our request was not granted despite the good fight we gave in court. Instead, the judge, ruled in favor of an extended evaluation by the social worker acting as a special appointed social worker by the court to handle an opinion/evaluation (“פקידת סעד לסדרי דין“) called: Social Work Social Survey (תסקיר עו”ס לסדרי דין).

This case was supposed to end with some agreement between the parties, where the spouse would continue to see the children regularly after the divorce and extended visitation rights would be given to him.

There is no good ending

Unfortunately, this case as many others became a total surprise for all the parts involved including the honorable judge, the spouse’s lawyer and even me. My client’s claims were found to be the sad truth – the father was abusing the children.

A few years have passed, and the father cannot get near the children, not even under supervision because he is in total denial and refuses any type of treatment.

The real victims in this case are the children who have suffered because they know what happened, they feel betrayed, they miss a father figure in their home. The mother is unable to trust again and refuses to consider entering a relationship that would involve another man living in her home, and potentially putting her children at risk of more pain.

Slander and truth can be remarkably similar, and we lawyers must learn to trust our clients as they put their trust in us.


Tzvi Szajnbrum was born in Brazil in 1957 and made Aliya (immigrated) to Israel in 1977. He is a licensed Attorney & Notary and professional mediator.

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