Lawyers on edge after divorce attorney allegedly killed by client’s ex

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After a nine-hour mediation final week, legal professional Candace M. Williams returned to her workplace and began to scroll by dozens of unread emails. One in every of them — a information alert a few man police say fatally shot his ex-wife’s divorce lawyer — despatched her right into a panic.

Questions swirled in her thoughts in her Gainesville, Ga., workplace: May one thing like that occur to her? Had been her will and life insurance coverage ready if it did? Ought to she purchase a gun for defense?

“It was a very stop-in-your-shoes type of second,” Williams, 48, informed The Washington Submit, “the place you had been actually rethinking life.”

Final week, police charged suspect Allen Tayeh, 65 with fatally taking pictures legal professional Douglas Lewis at his Lawrenceville, Ga., regulation workplace after which setting the constructing on hearth. Court docket information present Lewis represented Tayeh’s ex-wife in a divorce case this yr. Emily Gilbert, Tayeh’s legal professional, declined to remark when reached by e-mail Thursday.

Lewis was alone in his workplace on Dec. 7, police say. The case has some attorneys — particularly those that work contentious divorce and baby custody circumstances — as soon as once more worrying for his or her security in a discipline the place losses in court docket can generally result in real-life threats or violence. When Utah legal professional Stephen D. Kelson surveyed lawyers between 2006 and 2018, not less than 32.5 % of respondents from 28 states reported they’d skilled violence or threats of violence.

“No person’s protected,” stated Williams, who practices household regulation. “That’s the underside line.”

Court docket paperwork present a jury accepted the Tayehs’ divorce in August, and the court docket ordered Tayeh in October to pay his ex-wife greater than $28,000 in legal professional’s charges. On Dec. 1, Lewis wrote in a movement to the court docket that Tayeh had not paid the charges. Lewis was killed six days later.

Kathryn M. Schrader, an legal professional and choose from Duluth, Ga., labored a number of circumstances with Lewis. The 60-year-old stated Lewis was an instance of the best lawyer: real, affected person and devoted to smoothing over battle. Lewis, who raised three children, additionally coached native youth sports activities.

Within the final week, Schrader has change into vigilant about locking doorways and monitoring her workplace’s digicam.

“We’re all coming to grips with the truth that that is what the world has come to,” Schrader stated, “the place individuals suppose it’s okay to shoot any person when you get mad at them.”

After studying about Lewis’s demise some 30 miles away, Williams enforced new precautions. Her regulation agency’s workers now departs the workplace hours earlier as an alternative of working previous midnight. She parks close to lights and is extra cautious about internet hosting in-person conferences.

Williams stated she purchased 15 stun weapons and pepper-spray cans for her workers and scheduled self-defense coaching subsequent week. That’s not how Williams envisioned the job as a teen, when she vowed to help kids after her dad and mom underwent a messy divorce. She stated she doesn’t need her teenage daughter to pursue regulation.

Related considerations prompted Nicole Hunt Jackson to shift from practising household regulation to private damage regulation 9 years in the past. On a number of events, police needed to escort the West Palm Seashore, Fla., legal professional from the courthouse after tough divorce hearings, during which opposing events berated her.

“These circumstances are heightened by way of feelings,” stated Jackson, 53. “Folks, they simply appear to suppose and behave [toward lawyers] as if it’s private.”

Williams additionally has observed a necessity for elevated safety previously decade. She started to acknowledge her job’s risks roughly 11 years in the past, when she stated an opposing get together tried to strike her with a Ford Bronco in a courthouse parking zone.

Whereas Williams stated she and colleagues have obtained violent threats, it’s tough for her to think about what may occur if somebody adopted by.

“You’re centered in your profession and serving to households and youngsters … to have your life on the road,” Williams stated, “and to take a look at your daughter and say, ‘I is probably not right here tomorrow.’”

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