No one dreams of needing a trial lawyer. No one wakes up thinking an injury will change life forever, just like we do not expect to bury a child, because of someone else’s neglect.

Odds are, if we meet, I am very sorry we had to. I wish we never had to meet. Most all of my battles representing injured families start with this regret.

I meet people struggling through some of the most trying times of their lives. Nobody is happy to be in this position — but I am glad to meet them — across my desk or at the coffee shop or by their hospital bed. There is something redemptive seen as I walk alongside them, often for many years, as lives are redirected in a direction they never wanted or planned. There is something heroic in every one of them, beyond the pain it takes to tell the story of what happened.

Pain and grief are complicated, they rob us of pleasure as they set in. Yet I have been down this road with many others before, and I know a few things about what comes next.

I also know these tragedies are part of a larger narrative.

No matter who they are, and although we’ve only met, I know a few things about these people (as I suspect I do about you). For one, I know there is hope. Even in the worst days of our lives, people find their hope. And I know things will get better. Not better in the sense that we return to who we were before, and sometimes things get worse before they get better, but we do recover and we do rebuild.

I know that during the struggle to move forward without a loved one, or in the face of new limitations, people want to reconcile injustice. They want to right the wrongs. They want to do this, not just for themselves, but to know the system of accountability is working to prevent it from happening to someone else again. They resolve themselves to stand up against injustice despite feeling small, overwhelmed, guilt-ridden and unsure. And I am proud to stand with them.

In the first moments hearing these stories, I find myself grieving too, and I often get angered by what I hear. As a counselor of the law, and their first contact with the legal system, I get to tell people it is my mission to ensure that, as time goes by, we look back on our first meeting as the absolute worst time together because, I hope, it will mark a turning point where things began to get even a fraction better. I tell them that I’ve sat right here where we are too many times before but that I’ve seen what comes next, and it does — it will — get better. Not every day is better than the one before, and acceptance never gets easy, but there is hope and they are not alone.

If you are in the aftermath of a tragedy, you have my debts and my respect. I hope you’ll take some of my hope with you as well.

When I first meet the family they are often entirely and understandably overwhelmed. They don’t know how to go forward. They don’t know what they should do or how to do it. Usually, in addition to the practical and emotional upheaval they’re facing, serious financial worries threaten them. They’re struggling with ethical questions: How could this have happened? Who holds them responsible? What can I or should I do about it?

My advice is always the same: your first and most important job is to take care of yourself and your family. To stand up to those responsible, you don’t have to do anything right now. That’s what we are here for. We have a team of investigators, experts, specialists, and lawyers that will turn over every stone, obtain the evidence, and get to the answers. We take care of all that while you focus your remaining energy on taking care of yourself and your family. We promise thorough and more importantly honest representation. There are times you may not like what we find, but we’ll tell you the truth. And when we find out exactly who is responsible, we promise to take care of them too.

Then, I tell them a story of someone I’ve worked with before who faced something similar. I do this because I’ve seen how people hold onto authentic inspiration and hope from others’ stories, even when they cannot yet find it in themselves, knowing they are not alone and someone who faced something equally unthinkable has come out on the other side. I also do this because, from the distance of time or thinking about others who have walked before them, it starts to show there is, in fact, a battle to make the world a better place they are inescapably now a part of. They are living a story unique to them but also universal to everyone who’s survived tragedy. They are at the beginning of a journey no one ever wanted to take. People have unnecessarily suffered, preventably suffered, and they survived, recovered, found meaning, and built new lives. There is a roadmap for this journey you’ve been forced into. And there is also a broader picture of how our justice system handles this type of devastation, and why it matters that we get this right.

I think that’s why my father instilled in me the old-fashioned name for lawyer which is “counselor of the law.” He always said they put “counselor” before the word “law” for a reason. He told me to never forget that. Because that’s what we do. We listen, and we counsel people about the law. Rarely in life are there any do overs, we cannot change what has happened, but we can provide some measure of justice, accountability, and hope. We get to explain how each of these remarkable modern-day stories of David-and-Goliath are part of a larger story, developing and moving through our society and legal system, and what these stories mean for our shared democracy, individual rights and safety.

For me, law school was an education in many things, and one of those things was my dad. It was there that I came to fully understand why he was so focused on studying the tools of the law, why he loved what he did and why he had always thought I should be a lawyer too. For me — for us — there is no more worthwhile life’s work than to work with people righteously in pursuit of justice. Running a law firm that stands up for ordinary people against the powerful is different from a typical business. In business, you justify what you do with money. In law, you justify what you do with ideas — ideas like justice and deterrence and protecting the little guy — and if you do that the money tends to take care of itself.

There is nothing exciting about needing a lawyer like me. The people I meet never wanted or expected to be partners in justice, until the unthinkable happened. But I hope that by the time we finish working together, they’re glad we met. If your life has been upended by a death or injury, whether I represent you or not, I hope that you have found some hope for an eventual positive outcome. I hope you know there is a justice system designed to help bring that about.

There is a reason the jury has been called our “guardian” since the founding.  The jury is the soul of our democracy, and when jurors put people first, they’re also its beating heart. The rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are at the core of those rights our country was established to provide. No one can interfere with or rob someone of their enjoyment of life without consequences. It is not okay, as many defendants suggest, to take away another human being’s ability to pursue happiness. Even if they can and will be happy again, it is not okay that their American right to the pursuit of happiness was badly interfered with.

Every case is bigger than the individual people standing before the jury. It’s also about the Constitution of our country, and upholding the values and principles that our nation staked its independence upon as a promise to its people.

To honor that promise protects our most deeply held rights. It is in that spirit we endeavor to ensure what comes out of the darkest times is not all for naught. Our system is designed to turn pain into purpose, to take tragedy and use it for good, to prevent future catastrophe, and to make the world a safer, better place. It is far from perfect but its very existence is to provide you strength and courage, and eventual closure and peace.

I hope we never meet.


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