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Legal vs. Right: Which side are you on?

One of the things that I am deeply passionate about when it comes to Lawyering is doing what is Right

It affects us at the highest levels...

Right is something that a lot of us seem to lose sight of.  Right is not about power, or control, or what is even necessarily statutorily ours by “right” as the legislature has seen fit to make it.  Right is that place where you have done to another as you would want to have done to you.  It’s where you’re honest with yourself and others as to what’s best for your kids, and what’s fair to the other party in your legal action (and I do mean ACTUALLY FAIR, not “statutorily allowed for” or “endorsed by caselaw”), be that a divorce or any other manner of civil litigation.

We seem to confuse the legal, statutory aspects of our cases, however, with doing the Right thing quite a lot.  To quote one of my favorite movies, Raising Arizona, “There’s Right and there’s Right, and never the twain shall meet.”  I really first got an up close and personal look at this dichotomy in my own divorce.  Many of the things my ex wanted, and got, that were signed by a judge and therefore became his legal “right” were NOT Right at all.  I’ve been held at the figurative knife-point of his legal “right” for years now because of it.

And there are plenty who know the difference and really don't care.

I further delved into this issue of what is Right in law school in my legal writing (if you can believe it) and Professional Responsibility classes.  There is a whole body of law that speaks to what is “ethical” for lawyers to do, and a lot of what is “ethical” would not qualify as Right by even the most liberal of definitions.

I came upon a quote a couple of years back that addresses this really quite beautifully.  James E. Faust, a lawyer, and a leader of some significance in the LDS Church, spoke to a group of lawyers regarding their role as healers and peacemakers.  He said of this distinction between Legal and Right:

“There is a great risk in justifying what we do individually and professionally on the basis of what is ‘legal’ rather than what is ‘right.’ In so doing, we put our very souls at risk.  The philosophy that what is legal is also right will rob us of what is highest and best in our nature.  What conduct is actually legal is, in many instances, way below the standards of civilized society and light years below the teachings of Christ.  If you accept what is legal as your standard of personal or professional conduct, you will deny yourself of that which is truly noble in your personal dignity and worth…” (as quoted in Clark Memorandum, Spring 2003, 3).

Regardless of your religious leanings, and whether you are Christian or not, Right is a necessary and often missing element of any legal action, but really particularly in domestic cases.  It is not always popular; many an attorney has specifically advised a client to do what is Legal as opposed to what is Right.  You have the power to be Right in your case. You can bring peace and civility to your own life, and protect your children from serious damage and misery as a result of whatever family action you find yourself in.  I cannot over-emphasize how important this is.

And as for me, I’d rather be Right.

And it sure is easier to sleep at night...

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