When he lost a custody fight for his three children, accountant Nicholas A. Lucarella hired two hit men to get revenge — against his own lawyer, Peter Paras of Red Bank, N.J. Shortly after meeting with Paras about a phony custody case, the men ran him down with a Jeep in his office parking lot.

Divorce lawyers are more often the objects of violence and threats of violence than any other group of attorneys. A 1997 survey of ABA Family Law Section members found that 60 percent of respondents had been threatened by adverse parties; 17 percent by their own clients. Twelve percent had actually been assaulted by a client or an opposing party. Remarkably, only a quarter of these respondents took steps to protect their safety. There is a natural reluctance to recognize danger, and this is partly because most of us have no realistic idea how to protect ourselves.