Faith-based Support Services for Legal Clients
Drawing upon faith’s power in the face of fear amid challenging times
I coach legal clients in the exercise of faith-based principles and practices so that they feel empowered to face their fears and tackle their legal challenges with increased confidence and competence as well as with a more deeply rooted sense of personal value, dignity, integrity — and ultimately heartfelt satisfaction. Even a client who believes he or she has no functional faith in a Higher Power – or whose faith has grown weak or dormant – may want to consider how my services may reduce fears and bring greater peace of mind. Faith in oneself as a valuable person or in a universal principle like the Golden Rule can also be empowering.
What is a Faith Consultant-Coach in the Context of the Law?
As a faith-based consultant with a legal background, I serve at the intersection of faith and the law to help attorneys and clients understand how faith relates to the challenges of a legal proceeding of any kind. I am especially helpful in legal actions involving personal or longstanding relationships or emotional distress when a client feels that trust is violated, fundamental expectations are trampled under foot or powerful fears arise. I’m also helpful when a lawsuit shakes up a client’s basic assumptions about life, calls into question core values and priorities, stirs up intense guilt or shame and/or threatens to reduce personal autonomy or freedom. As a coach, I’m in the client’s corner to help him or her draw upon personal faith beliefs, principles and practices to restore emotional stability, recover a well-reasoned perspective and gain strength to handle demands and constraints that the law may impose and adjust to conditions that the client may at first feel are beyond his or her capacity to accept. In many instances, faith provides the suspension system and shock absorbers that enable a client to traverse rough terrain and navigate unfamiliar paths while facing distressing risks and haunted by fears of failure.
Like a personal trainer who helps people make better use of workout equipment and develop routines to improve physical fitness (stamina and strength), I help clients identify, clarify, develop and use faith principles and practices in the context of a legal proceeding to their best advantage to enhance fitness as a client and as a person. Personal fitness for faith’s purpose means stamina and strength of heart, mind, spirit, will and integrity – putting it all together to draw upon surprising inner strengths to apply day by day as the demands of legal proceedings pile atop normal life responsibilities. In this metaphor, the need to carry greater burdens is already present. The legal action combined with life itself is the workout. My role is to help the client learn to lift and carry the burdens more gracefully and confidently as his or her faith muscles grow. I can also serve as a spotter when loads tax the client’s current carrying capacity.
Practical Benefits of Faith Coaching for Clients May Include:
- Enhanced peace of mind and patience coping with the challenges of the legal process
- Greater self-confidence, personal poise, self-control and credibility while present and testifying at depositions and in the courtroom
- Increased inner strength to carry on with life responsibilities during legal proceedings
- More satisfaction in addressing life questions such as “Why did this happen to me?” and “What about my future?” so as to allow the client to focus on legal matters more helpfully
- Opportunity for personal growth through learning more about oneself under pressure
- Expanded capacity to collaborate with the client’s legal team in his or her best interests
- De-escalated anger and greater listening and communication capacities
- Reduced impact of fears of loss, failure, humiliation and other core fears.
When clients seek the services of an attorney while under emotional distress — perhaps while in the middle of an emotionally overloaded dilemma or crisis — their normal coping mechanisms may feel overwhelmed. Clients generally hope that an attorney will solve problems the clients don’t know how to solve on their own — even rescue them from a crisis that frightens them with a fate they find hard to imagine. Clients accustomed to being self-reliant and in charge of their own lives may resent having to rely upon an attorney as if such reliance is a sign of weakness. Emotions can run high and burst loose from their normal hiding places where mental defenses have kept them under control. Emotions may even threaten to rise up out of control to influence a client’s thinking irrationally just when his or her attorney most needs the client to be rational and exercise self-control.
Under such circumstances, it can be helpful to both the client and the attorney for the client to resort to supplemental coping mechanisms offered by faith in a Higher Power (by whatever name identified) and exercise faith to put issues into perspective and modulate emotions within socially acceptable limits. At the least, it is helpful to find ways to regain faith in oneself and in the aid and trustworthiness of others who are on the client’s side. At the intersection of faith and the law, my expertise in relating faith to legal disputes in practical ways may prove helpful as I coach a client in the use of his or her own faith principles and practices and help him or her stabilize his or her sense of trust and balance amid turbulent times. If a legal case nudges a client towards exploring faith-based options such as 12-step programs and addictions-related services, my availability as a faith coach may be especially useful in helping the client to engage in this exploration fruitfully and choose meaningfully among his or her options.
Faith as a Healthy, Practical Response to Fear
Fear is a powerful emotion that is naturally aroused when a person faces situations that appear unsafe or within which a favorable outcome seems uncertain – perhaps at first even impossible. Clients who are accustomed to being in control of their lives and having things go their way may feel catapulted beyond their comfort zones when they become participants in legal actions. As a result, a client may become overly passive and resigned to defeat or overly zealous about “winning” on his or her terms so that the client’s capacity to think clearly is impaired. Whether the client initiated the legal action or feels dragged into it by others, it can become an arena of extreme unease and lack of control, not at all a comfort zone. Side-effects of lawsuits can be confusion and emotional pain when the role of client feels like a poor fit as it rubs the client wrong to be no longer as comfortably in control of his or her life. To counteract the disheartening, dispiriting effects of struggling to cope while confused and in pain, faith can soothe and steady raw nerves as well as strengthen resolve and extend patience.
The more a legal action focuses on issues close to a client’s heart, the more emotionally disturbing the lack of certainty about outcomes and feelings of powerlessness may become. Cases concerning child custody, visitation or other disputed family matters, broken business relations, criminal charges, and personal injury or other traumatic, painful experiences are especially likely to trigger heavy-duty emotions. The mere thought of having private matters revealed in a public forum may itself be a source of discomfort and anxiety. Pride that has succeeded in projecting an acceptable public image may now feel under attack by shame as public revelations about private matters erode the once carefully cultivated image in which so much emotional energy has been invested. Reactions to feeling coerced and at the mercy of others can exacerbate the client’s emotional turmoil.
As the adversarial process of legal actions probes to reveal the truth and resolve disputes based on it, clients may panic in the face of legal proceedings. In such circumstances, the Spirit is a powerful ally to be called upon by the exercise of faith so as to strengthen the client’s capacity to face his or her own fears and remain stable enough to participate helpfully on his or her own legal team. Recent traumatic experiences and the shock of unexpected, unwanted, perhaps even regretted aspects of legal involvement coupled with buried emotions stirred up by current events are less likely to hinder the success of a lawyer’s services when my supplemental services support the client.
How My Services Work
My services empower clients to exercise their faith as a source of strength by which to master their emotions and steady themselves while sailing on the unfamiliar sea of the law. As a client’s faith coach, I help the client apply his or her faith principles and practices to acquire his or her sea legs to be the steadier and yet also more flexible and balanced client an attorney needs on board a legal team. While not able to guarantee perfectly controlled outcomes myself, my services reduce the likelihood of a client’s collapse into becoming his or her own worst enemy to the extent that the client’s use of faith practices and principles provides a stronger, more resilient foundation and structure for coping. Since out-of-control anger, fear and sorrow (as-yet-unresolved grief) may cause a client to think, say and do things that sabotage his or her own case, it’s vital to bring resources of faith to the client’s aid so that the probability of such self-sabotage diminishes.
Faith draws strength from inside even as a client feels under attack from outside. With my aid, a client need no longer feel as isolated and alone, bewildered by overwhelming emotions and frustrated by not understanding why the legal process works the way it works. Instead he or she can listen with greater focus, think more clearly and communicate more effectively. Having a faith coach who is familiar with the law helps a client to achieve emotional stability more readily, process and learn new information more efficiently and participate on his or her legal team with greater confidence and competence rather than allow anger, fear and sorrow — or pride and shame or a tendency towards excessive guilt or blaming — to undermine his or her participation. A client can learn to use his or her own personal faith beliefs to tap into reserves of spiritually grounded resilience, courage, determination and confidence in order to serve his or her own best interests. As a result, it becomes more likely that a client will find the strength to cooperate with his or her attorney more reliably in preparing and presenting his or her case and appear at legal proceedings more favorably no matter what emotions threaten to erode his or her confidence and resolve.
My services include meeting in person with a client as often as the client feels benefited by such meetings and remaining available by phone for consultation and coaching between meetings. Once the client experiences the reality that his or her most heartfelt concerns are being heard and knows someone is listening with empathy and compassion from a perspective of faith, the client is more likely to feel less distress simply because he or she feels more connected again with inner reserves and resources and with those upon whom he or she is relying for support and guidance – including his or her attorney(s). As faith-based principles and practices produce beneficial effects through established routines, the adverse effects of fear become less prevalent and the client’s sense of personal security rooted in faith increases. When faith is given a helpful role and room to grow, faith and law become collaborators in the pursuit of satisfactory outcomes even when neither faith nor law can guarantee a particular outcome.
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© Art Nicol 2014