July 16, 2011 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
“Your articles on what law school can do to married couples were sent to me by my parents who live in the Central San Joaquin Valley. I am at university in Boston dating a third-year Harvard law student, and we have been talking about getting married,” Kim wrote.
“He is brilliant and has been offered a great-paying job with a Los Angeles law firm in their litigation department, so it would seem that his professional and financial future is secure.
“Your articles really made me think. I want a husband who will be there for the family, home for dinner, conversation with the kids, spending time with us all on weekends. I am not looking for a palace to live in, but a life much as I had growing up, where dad was not some phantom figure we saw once in a while.
“Is it wrong to let my decision to marry him be influenced by his occupation, or the time demands that I know he will face? Is this being selfish? I know you are not a marriage counselor, but I’ll bet you know someone who has been in my situation.”
Up at 7, home by 8:30 in the evening
We put our reader’s question to Victoria Peterson of La Canada, Calif., who “faced some of these very same questions and decided that, even with what I knew would be significant demands on my husband’s time, he was still the man I loved and wanted to marry,” she told us.
That was 38 years ago, we would learn during our discussion with a woman who radiated a deep respect, friendship and love for her husband, George Peterson. Peterson is a graduate of Loyola University School of Law at Los Angeles and is considered one of our nation’s finest medical malpractice defense attorneys.
While eager to share her experiences, she provided a warning to anyone who thinks, “there is something glamorous about being married to a lawyer.”
“As my husband represents doctors in medical malpractice cases, I see the very real similarities between time demands of these two occupations, and what this means for families,” she observes.
“Don’t ever think that being a lawyer or a physician is an easy job. Yes, if you are good at it, there will be financial rewards, but often at a deep emotional cost. Clients or patients look to you for help; you have their futures in your hands. Add to that your own family – you are away in trial, or called to the hospital, missing a child’s birthday party – this can easily create guilt feelings which must be dealt with,” she added.
“Private practice is not a 9-to-5 job. Much like law enforcement, it can unexpectedly require a great deal of time away from home. This is why you need to look into your future as a couple, and especially to time issues, well before deciding to be married.
“If you want children, it is critical to reach a clear decision as to who will raise the kids. When George and I got married, we had that discussion and agreed that would primarily be my role. I knew it was important for him to succeed, and as a trial lawyer, this required enormous amounts of time.
“George gets up by seven and comes home around 8 to 8:30 on a routine basis. He has had much less time with our three children than many fathers. That is a reality – limited time with family. I always kept the kids up, so they could see dad,” she explained.
“But he would come to their soccer games, and when I needed him to be home, he would always be there for me and for the kids.
“I would tell Kim that, if she and her Harvard boyfriend do get married, when she needs him to be there, speak up! Be insistent! Remember, if you marry a trial lawyer, make sure that he knows who is judge and jury at home,” she said with a broad smile.
Having coffee with the jury
“One of the really great things about our marriage is that George has involved me in his cases as if I were a member of the jury. I am interested in what he does, and in medicine, which is also a large part of my life,” she told us.
While not a doctor, medicine is indeed a large part of her working life, as a chaplain at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“In any marriage, you need to remain interesting to each other. That has been one of the greatest gifts my husband gave to me. He has always been delighted to see me spread my wings.”
Victoria Peterson is proof that it is indeed possible to actually love a lawyer!
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.