Sartain Presents to University of Georgia Law Students

SM&P attorney Judy Sartain was the guest speaker at a recent monthly meeting of the Family Law Society at the University of Georgia School of Law. She offered insight into the practice of family law that they won’t find in textbooks to the approximately 35 attending law students.

During her presentation, “Issues in Family Law,” Judy offered advice and shared wisdom that comes from almost a quarter-century practicing in the trenches of family law. She didn’t pull punches. “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that the practice of law is glamorous. It’s not what you see on television and in the movies. You will work hard. Very hard. But there is a feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve done a job well, that you’ve done your best for your client and have helped them.”

She encouraged the students to appreciate their clients as human beings, not just court cases. For example, “Let your divorce clients know that divorce doesn’t make or break their value as a person.”

“Family law is always about helping those who come to you for assistance. It is helping people through their darkest emotional hour with skill, compassion, and tact, guiding them through territory that they never thought they would have to travel. People will come to you who are angry, seeking revenge, and blinded by hate. Love and hate are two emotions that are very close together, and it’s possible to swing from one to the other quickly.”

Compassion must be fortified with competence. “Your job is not to be their therapist but to counsel them into making the wisest decisions they can at a time when they would much prefer to be guided by their emotions. So always ask questions and be sure to listen to the answers.”

A good attorney will come well prepared to use their intellectual abilities to fight for the client. “Always try to think outside the box in advocating for your client. Always keep a learning mindset — keep good notes and follow them. Your expertise in your field will enable you to guide your clients into making the best decisions possible.”

Sartain urged the students to practice self-care as well. “Remember that you can’t save everyone. Be sure to set up boundaries to protect your work/life balance.”

The students were inspired by Sartain’s heartfelt message and were in agreement that they chose family law because they, too, want to help people. When they’re studying late into the night, it can feel overwhelming sometimes. But Sartain’s support and willingness to share what work is really like in the field reminded them that it will all be worth it. What they do after graduation will matter.