I often reflect on my role as a family law attorney and how I, along with my team, fulfill that role in representing clients.
I confess that as a young attorney I reveled in the metaphor of the attorney qua shark. Sharks are powerful predators who have survived in harsh conditions for eons. As I matured in my career, I became less and less enamored with that metaphor. It was not until recently that it dawned on me why that metaphor isn’t a correct representation.
Sharks are apex predators in their ecosystem. They are normally depicted doing one of two things—hunting or eating. In short, they are usually considered nothing more than voracious resource consumers. That image doesn’t comport with my role as either counselor or advocate. So, what is the appropriate zoological metaphor for what it is we do for our clients? I recently pondered.
There are many variations on parables concerning the sheep, shepherd, (or sheepdog in some iterations) and the wolf. Aesop fables about them as well as many others who came after him. This, I think, is the metaphor that fits what we at DiPiano Family Law Group, P.C. do from day-to-day. To expound, let’s start with sheep and wolves.
The sheep are our clients in our story. No, they are not a bleating, dependent collective. When you really think about it, the sheep is the actual hero of the story. The sheep has a family unit, and that family unit has to function properly and be safe in order to sustain itself. When the sheep is preyed upon by wolves—which can come in several forms of dysfunction including, but not limited to, an impaired or vindictive spouse, an overzealous opposing counsel, or an overworked judicial system—the sheep is placed in peril by such problems. The sheep’s resources can be strained or drained. These include financial resources—which is what most people’s minds jump to in the first instance—but just as, if not more importantly, are the sheep’s emotional reserves. A sheep reacting to fear and anxiety isn’t often a sheep in a good place to make decisions that are in its, or its dependent’s best interests. Enter the shepherd.
As I stated, the sheep (the client) is the hero of his or her own story. The sheep has a problem (the wolf or wolves, as the case may be) that has to be solved in order for the sheep to reach its goal of a stable and secure life for itself and its lambs. If those problems aren’t solved satisfactorily, the sheep and the lambs may survive but not thrive. The role that my team and I fulfill is as advisor and advocate. We help guide the client using a staff (or a long stick that shepherds use to steer the sheep from making a misstep off of the prescribed path) toward the proper direction, tailored to his or her own individual set of circumstances. We identify perils that may not be within the client’s perspective. We provide a strategy and apply tactics to develop a safe and fruitful path forward through the period of risk. And that is the appropriate metaphor for our philosophy at my law firm.
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