Happy 4th of July to everyone that reads our blog. As someone who came to this country from the United Kingdom just over thirty (30) years ago, it truly is an honor to share this national holiday with my fellow Americans. It was my father’s dream to live in America, raise his children here, and give us a better life.
On January 15, 2017, one (1) week to the day after my fiftieth birthday, we lost my father. For the previous two (2) years he had been sick, suffering from repeated strokes and having to endure multiple surgeries. Wherever one goes after death, I truly believe that my father was ready to go to that place.
During his time of sickness, when we thought he’d get better, I lost count of how many times we either dialed 911 or rushed him to the emergency room. I began to realize that as my father was lying in one of his many different hospital beds that we, as a family, were in emotional crisis. I cannot speak for my siblings or mother, but I know that I couldn’t sleep, I was having trouble focusing at work, I was depressed, and I am certain that my clients did not get 100% of my attention. My father’s illness was very much a personal problem for me, permeating my entire life.
When a client comes to see us, very often their life is in turmoil, they cannot sleep at night, they cannot focus at work, their relationships are in shambles, and they may well be suffering from depression, too. As lawyers, we view the client as someone with a “legal problem” and we have the “legal solution” based on the number of issues we are able to spot and potentially solve. I am here to tell you that this is not just a legal problem. It’s a personal problem, too.
One of the things I’ve learned since turning the focus of our practice to helping families and individuals dealing with addiction is that they, like my family was, are in emotional crisis. One of the cases I handled involved a young man who found himself in the criminal justice system because he had an “impulse control” issue. For over twenty (20) years he had suffered from a mental health disease that was poorly managed and misdiagnosed. As a result, he used, abused, and became addicted to anything he could either put in his mouth, in his veins, or up his nose. He did everything and anything he could to make himself “feel better”.
While he fought to stay out of trouble, his family, in particular his mother and father, suffered terribly as they watched their son’s life going from bad to worse. The emotional toll his troubles took on his parents was there for all to see. The first time I met them, the look in their eyes was identical to the look I had seen in my own mother and sisters’ eyes as we sat in one of my father’s many hospital rooms. His parents were financially, spiritually, physically and emotionally spent. They needed options and answers, not a tour of the factory. They needed help with their personal problem.
Addressing a client’s personal problem is not unique to the work our firm does. Just ask any lawyer that handles cases in the criminal arena, or a family practitioner who handles divorce and/or child custody issues, or an attorney who handles bankruptcy defense cases. Tell me these clients are not dealing with a personal problem! Having gone through my own divorce fifteen (15) years ago, I can promise you, I was in emotional crisis dealing with a personal problem, and most clients are, too.
So, as we enjoy this 4th of July, please give a thought to your clients, many of whom, along with their families, are in emotional crisis dealing with this personal problem they have asked you to help fix. Please come back to work on July 5th with a renewed vigor to make their lives just a little better.