Attorneys must wear many hats, especially when representing people with disabilities and their families. Imagine a display of three hats on the conference room table: A black stovepipe hat, rimmed with a satin ribbon; the rumbled and worn, brown, slouchy, cloth Sorter Hat straight from Hogwarts in Harry Potter; and the most extravagant, eye-catching Kentucky Derby creation you’ve ever seen.
First and foremost, we wear the stovepipe hat – think Abe Lincoln. Topped with our tall hat, we are the legal experts that our clients rely upon to know this highly specialized area of the law. We may bore you with code sections, legal citations, and far too many prepositions in our writing style (therefore, hereto, including but not limited to…), but we know the key laws and we know how to research the unique questions of law. If that’s the only hat we wore, our clients would suffer, because they need much more from us.
We also need to don our slouchy, tattered Sorter Hat to provide counsel and direction. By the time our clients get to us, they are so frustrated and emotionally drained. They have been fighting for so long, often feeling defeated and alone in this unfamiliar world of disabilities. They need us to take the time to hear what they’ve been through, understand their concerns, and, above all, they need to know that we get it! We get how hard it is. We understand all of the added responsibilities, the need for medical or disability-related knowledge, the worry, the seclusion, the planning, the research, the tears, and the fight for inclusion. We use our knowledge of the special ed world to put our clients’ needs in perspective and provide direction to accomplish the most important goals first. It’s very difficult for a client to see beyond the current storm in which he is immersed, so it’s our job to help our clients see the big picture, acknowledge long-term goals, and establish a plan. But that’s not all.
The final hat we wear serves the disability community and society as a whole–the Kentucky Derby hat. With feathers and bright colors and a surface area large enough to land a small plane, this hat captures the attention of all. We wear this hat to get society to pay attention to the disability community, to fight for inclusion, acceptance over tolerance, job access, higher expectations, anti-discrimination, and favorable legislation. Because, not only do we work to help each particular client overcome their individual hurdles, we advocate for all of the other families out there that are going through, or may one day go through, the same thing. What we gain for one client paves the way to an easier climb for the next. We advocate to make our world a little more informed, a little more tolerant, and a little easier to navigate as a person with a disability. We are their voice.
The stovepipe hat is our traditional attire, as it coordinates best with the degrees on our wall. We don’t get formal fashion advice on how to wear the other two. That style comes from the compassion and commitment to the cause that lies within us and was shaped by our own personal stories. I’m so proud to be a member of this fashionable firm that wears all three hats so well!