For me, being an injury lawyer all started with a batch of homemade cookies.
Well, maybe it started a little bit earlier…
The other day my mother pulled something out of the basement, framed it and put it on my desk.
While it wasn’t a box of old cookies (which I will get to in a moment) it was my political platform for running for third-grade class president.
Like the Constitution, it set out a framework based on equality and justice for all.
I laugh at it now, because, in this day and age, what kind of equality and justice would I have needed to get my constituents in the third grade?
But, it turned out I was really focused – from a very young age – on helping people combat unjust situations.
I didn’t set out to practice law right out of school though I was in the trenches helping people in need.
My first job was on the nursing staff at a psychiatric hospital near Boston, helping patients meet their basic day-to-day needs.
I was fascinated by the mind and how it worked. And as I learned the unique stories of so many people, I wondered how we might help people avoid hospitalization, rather than just treating them when they arrived (usually against their will).
From social work to legal work
I left the hospital to earn a Masters’ degree in Social Work, where I focused my studies on community organizing and non-profit management, with the goal of helping social systems adapt to the needs of those they served.
In time, I found that I needed to work with people, not policies. And I realized that while the social work education was invaluable, the power to do good lay in the hands of lawyers. So my next stop was Northeastern University School of Law, from which I graduated in 1998.
I moved to Vermont in June of 1998 and spent the better part of ten years in civil legal services, keeping roofs over the heads of low-income families and protecting children and families from domestic abuse throughout Vermont. Along the way, I learned a few things about telling stories in the courtroom.
Those years of experience gave me the confidence that I could work in any courtroom, anywhere, and get 12 people, who I didn’t know, to like me and my client enough to give my clients much deserved justice.
The woman who changed my life...
Truthfully though, it wasn’t until I met an amazing woman who had a knack for baking cookies that set me on the path of injury law.
I had decided it was time to move on from legal services work and explore other paths.
Before long, I was working in a small-town law practice and one day met a nice woman who injured herself at a grocery store.
She was a hardworking and charming person – and she could no longer do the job she had before because of her new injury.
As it happened, she had always wanted to start a bakery with her sister. That was her longtime dream.
When the insurance company wouldn’t settle her claim fairly, we found ourselves in court, By the time they got to taking her deposition, she had started on this quest to pursue her dream. I’ll never forget the moment she asked me if she should bake cookies to bring to the meeting.
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Finding my niche
Now, a deposition is not generally a friendly environment – it’s a place where defense lawyers like to intimidate injured people.
The defense lawyers from the biggest defense firms in Vermont had not seen anything like it before, but that didn’t stop them from shoving their faces full of scrumptious, homemade cookies.
At that moment, I thought to myself, I’m glad to be on this side of the table.
I get to help this awesome woman, who was kind enough to bake cookies for the very people trying to deny her justice, while helping to bring justice for someone who absolutely, without a question in my mind deserves it.
I thought, where do I sign up for this kind of work full time?
The stars aligned
An old colleague from my legal aid days called. It turned out he needed some help with some injury cases. Was I interested?
I haven’t looked back since.
Real justice for real people.
Justice can take many forms. It can be working in the trenches ensuring low-income folks have a place to live tomorrow or the right to work safely.
But, as I have learned, it can also be helping hardworking people, just like you, who have been injured in car, bike or motorcycle wrecks, get the medical treatment they deserve while fighting the insurance companies that want to deny them that basic right.
For me, justice now means getting to help injured people physically and emotionally recover in order for them to live fulfilling and amazing lives.
And to think it all started with a third-grade electoral run for president and a batch of the best homemade cookies on the planet!