MEANING AND IDENTITY IN THE
PRACTICE OF DIVORCE LAW
The sad part about divorce practice is, your clients aren't happy. There's really no way you can make them happy. This is such a horrible ordeal. Regardless of who gets the house, they are not going to leave beaming and blissfully happy. It just doesn't happen.
—a Maine divorce lawyer
Divorce law practice does not offer up easily the idealized rewards of professional work. Indeed, some lawyers never find them at all. The ideology of professionalism promoted by the organized bar provides a framework and reference point for lawyers to imagine and interpret their own careers (Nelson and Trubek 1992b: 22). It sets out a series of tacit promises about the rewards of a career in law. These rewards include the intrinsic satisfaction to be derived from autonomy, from mastering and applying a complex body of knowledge, and from serving the public, as well as the extrinsic rewards of public esteem, comfortable income, and collegial respect. 1 These promises of professional rewards—implicitly supported by much of the scholarly writing on professions 2—collide,