BY: Jason A. Shapiro
Last month, I went on my very first European vacation, specifically to Italy. I spent 11 days touring the country, seeing its beauty and learning a bit of its history. I particularly enjoyed learning about the Italian Renaissance, and gazed in amazement at the masterpieces of Rafael, Carravaggio, Leonardo Da Vinci and especially the works of Michelangelo. These artists and their works, as well as the impetus behind the Renaissance, made me reflect on my clients, my role as their attorney, and how to best serve them.
The word “Renaissance” (Rinascimento in Italian) means “rebirth.” The Renaissance came and the conclusion of the Dark Ages, and it was an era in which Italians/Europeans were re-born. The Dark Ages were a time of intellectual and cultural stagnation. This gave way to the Renaissance period whereby people could and were encouraged to think freely, to write their thoughts and philosophize. People were encouraged to be creative and to express their creativity through architecture, crafts and art. Perhaps if not for people’s thoughts to be stymied in the Dark Ages, could the creativity of the geniuses of the Renaissance be fully expressed?
So what does all of this have to do with criminal law?
A large percentage of our clients need to see us because they were arrested for an offense involving alcohol or drugs. Some see us because of mental health issues that are not properly treated or that are not treated for at all. For many of our clients, issues with alcohol and drugs (and mental health issues) are the norm; they do not know or remember what life is like without them. For all intents and purposes, these clients are living in their own Dark Age. Their maximum level of creativity, achievement, and standard of life is not reached because they are weighed down by such issues. Then they are arrested or charged with a crime.
When our clients come to see us, we not only try to win their case and get them the best result possible, but we also try to get them to rise above their own Dark Age and seek their own Renaissance. We try to get them to view their life from above, to re-think certain decisions that they made that led to their arrest, and how to make more productive and responsible choices in the future. Our list of contacts of drug and alcohol counselors and mental health professionals is quite extensive. Thus, should our clients need an extra helping hand, we can assist them with a referral to such counselors and professionals. All in all, we try to have our clients, not just look at their arrest as the worst thing that ever happened to them. We ask them to view their arrest as a chance to have a fresh start at life. Just like the Renaissance period could not have happened without the Dark Ages, so too could some of our clients not reach their maximum potential without a setback set as their arrest. It is up to us to make sure that the arrest is just a setback and a chance to be re-born, and not a permanent blot upon our clients’ records, or worse.
Thus, we all can improve. We all can strive for re-birth and to walk the continuum to our own Renaissance period and away from our own Dark Ages. Here at Shapiro Zwanetz & Associates (SZA), we are constantly trying to better ourselves to better serve our clients. Hopefully, our clients will also keep trying to walk away from their own Dark Ages and to improve as people, thus allowing them to better enjoying life’s bounties.