Sarah J. Gabinet became a lawyer after teaching English as a foreign language. Gabinet is a family law and domestic relations attorney with Kohrman Jackson & Krantz in Cleveland. She discussed the reason she switched careers, the way she determines how to proceed with clients, and a client who made a profound impact on her life.
Q. Often your services are required for deeply traumatic transitions in the lives of children. How do you find information about the children?
A. The lawyers are actually not to meet with or interact with the children of the divorcing couple. I try to learn as much as I can about the children, though, from my client, teachers, pediatricians and any mental health professional who might be evaluating or treating the children. Sometimes a guardian ad litem is also appointed to determine what is in the children’s best interest and that person can also provide good insight.
Q. Tell me about your majors in Judaic studies and English lead to law school? Did you ever have a separate plan?
A. My undergraduate majors didn’t lead me to law school. They led me to get a master’s in linguistics and to teaching English as a foreign language. While I was working, a friend asked me to be a witness in a mock trial he was doing for a law school class. I saw what the law students were doing and decided I wanted to go to law school.
I taught English to foreign students at the English Language Service on the CWRU campus – some students were Iranian and other Middle Easterners, some were South American and others were Asian. I taught and then became an administrator at the program until I went to law school. Believe it or not, I am actually now representing one of my former students who decided to stay in the United States and make their life here.
Q. At what point do you know that litigation is the best route to go with a client? How do you attempt to avoid going in that direction?
A. Sometimes it is clear from the outset that litigation is the better route – when there has already been financial misconduct or domestic violence; when my client describes a complete lack of communication or trust between the client and his or her spouse. Sometimes, these qualities only become obstacles in the middle of a non-litigation process and we have to move to litigation.
It is a matter of judgment, but I almost always discuss nonlitigation options with clients. That includes divorce mediation and collaborative and cooperative processes. Some of these processes have “built-in” mechanisms for overcoming obstacles to resolution without going to court. I spend a great deal of time with my clients to explore options and to be a creative in coming up with possible scenarios for resolution before resorting to litigation.
Q. Has there been a specific client or case that has stuck with you over the years?
A. Over 34 years, there has been quite a few. A few years ago I represented a woman who had been married about 30 years with two children. She was college-educated, but hadn’t worked in 20 years or more. She was devastated when her husband wanted to end the marriage. She decided to become a physician’s assistant and moved out of state for two years to go to a really outstanding program. She came back to Cleveland, got a great job and tells me how satisfied she and her children are now. I am impressed by the transition she made from grief to happiness. We stay in touch and have dinner together once a year.
Reagan Anthony is the Yoda Newton Editorial Intern.