There's more to family law than merely winning a child custody battle or securing property in a divorce; there's a healing process for both parties so they can move on with their lives, says attorney Brooke Barnes.
Barnes, 32, calls it "finding their new normal."
"My clients come to me and they're not in the greatest position - which is the reason why they came to me - and my goal is to help put them back together, help them find their new normal," she said.
And that means helping opposing parties get along and possibly remain friends in the future, especially if there are children involved, she said.
Barnes took the plunge into family law last spring after being offered a position at Ashby Law in downtown Yakima, where her colleagues regard her as a caring attorney who is setting a new standard in family law. Previously, she worked a few years as a public defender in Yakima County's Office of Assigned Counsel.
"She continues to demonstrate an understanding that family law cases are about so much more than just a set of pleading," said fellow attorney Matthew Kaminski. "It's about families that need guidance and support; it's about finding a solution to a problem rather than casting blame against each other."
Barnes also is a member of the Washington Women Lawyers and the Junior League of Yakima.
"She is not only leading, but also lighting the way for others to follow," Kaminski said.
Barnes said she wasn't the best student in high school, but was inspired when her sister, Quinn Dalan, went to law school.
"I figured if she could do it, I could do it," Barnes said.
Dalan is the executive director of Yakima County Volunteer Attorney Services.
Family law hits home for Barnes. Her parents divorced when she was young. Her dad had a girlfriend, and when Barnes and her sister visited him, it could be emotionally challenging for their mom.
"Maybe we had a good time with our dad and his girlfriend and it was tough on my mom," she said.
Eventually her mom remarried and her parents were able to be friends. Barnes recalled a barbecue where her mom and stepfather and her dad and his girlfriend all attended - a peaceful event.
"And that was really cool," she said.
That example is what inspires her efforts in family law.
"I think it plays a primary backdrop," she said.
The first 30 days after a divorce filing is usually the toughest period for both parties - the emotional stress of losing a relationship, deciding property and possibly child custody all could be factors, Barnes said.
"Then it starts to calm down and they start to find their new normal," she said.
At times she even counsels clients on coping skills.
"I've definitely felt I'm a social worker many times, but that's not a bad thing," she said.
Now her firm plans to start taking cases pro bono, a move she's excited about.
"I'm really looking forward to that, to be able to help people who can't afford it but still need assistance," she said.