So too for my clients going through divorce… think of this as the worst — a trial, a tribulation, after which it only gets better. Whenever I run into clients months, years, after the divorce, they all invariably have happier stories to tell! Life is ever-changing, nothing stays the same.
Uswah Khan is always reflecting about her days in and out of divorce court. Needing a place to share her experiences, and drawing on her love of writing, she decided to launch a blog, “Divorce Diaries” (www.diaryofadivorcelawyer.com). And while there is seldom anything happy about a divorce, the Shelton family law attorney at least works to find silver linings.
“Whenever I see something, or I hear something, a chain reaction goes off in my brain and I’m prompted to write,” Khan, 34, said, describing her year-old blog. “In my practice, at first glance, people assume the worst when they hear the word divorce, but I come across some interesting things and I wanted to share my experiences in a way that would show the positive that can come out of a divorce.”
Recent posts have informed would-be clients about fee schedules for divorce lawyers and described a gathering of lawyers and judges who were brainstorming ways to improve custody proceedings involving children whose parents were never married to each other. But others are of a more philosophical bent, offering insights into the lawyers’ lifestyle, clients’ anxieties and non-monetary professional rewards.
In one entry, Khan speaks of how happy she is when clients thank her.
“I understand, divorce, litigation, the court system is nerve-wracking — top that with a battle waging-ex and spiked adrenaline and it makes for a killer cocktail, she writes. But “once the issue is at rest, the client is either happy, ambivalent, or relieved that the matter is resolved. Hearing a thank you at the end wraps the case up in a nice little package (or file folder or box) and ready to be put away in storage.”
Khan’s father was a lawyer in his native Pakistan before moving to the United States. Even before he encouranged his daughter to be a lawyer, he pushed her to become an excellent communicator. While growing up, she took part in public speaking competitions. With her father’s coaching, “I practiced a lot,” said Khan, and almost always won.
These days, Khan, who got her law degree from Pace Univeristy in New York, now practices with Bai, Pollock, Blueweiss & Mulcahe. She says she knows of no other divorce lawyers in the state who blog directly about their experiences. The mother of four says she’s developing fans both inside and outside the legal community. “I follow my stats to see if people are reading it,” said Khan, “but when I run into the people who have read it and give me positive feedback, it really drives me to write more… Whenever I run into friends, they tell me, we love your posts, we love it when you write.”
Many posts have inspirational titles, like “Perserverance” or “Innovation.” In the latter entry, Khan writes about the creativity used by a 7-year-old boy designing a paper boat and then transitions into how attorneys need to be equally creative in forging divorce settlements. “The best settlements I’ve had are the ones where I’ve thought out of the box,” she writes. “It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s split the difference in half,” or, ‘Let’s meet each other half way,’ but it doesn’t resolve anything. We can’t always exchange apples for apples in divorce, so I try to find an apple for three tangerines. “
The blog is only part of what fills Khan’s time outside her practice. She and her husband, Dr. Ayub Khan, are co-founders of the Young Bright Scholars Foundation, a program in which they mentor students who are first-generation immigrants and try to guide them toward college.
“Our personal experiences with higher education in the U.S. are what drove us to start this program,” Khan said. “Both our parents were immigrants and had no experience in the U.S. educational system. We did everything on our own — from SATs to college applications to participating in extra-curricular activities and volunteering — in order to become competitive applicants for college. We wanted to make a difference.”
She said that they have helped middle schoolers with private school applications and essays. “Through community service projects and extra-curricular activities, our program teaches them to be involved in their school community,” she said. “Most of all, the program encourages parental involvement” in their child’s education.
Both the program and the blog help Kahn focus on helping people rather than just practicing law.
“By looking at people’s responses or comments on my blog, I get to see …I’m representing humans and their lives,” she said. “The blog keeps me connected to the personal aspect of law that sometimes gets lost in the ‘black letter law.’”•