She was living in a war zone. No one expected love to happen.
As a JAG Corps lawyer working in Iraq, she had a busy life. She spent her days—long days—doing her job. However, her nights were her own.
Just because there’s a war on doesn’t mean soldiers don’t have a social life. After all, people are people.
She spent her down time hanging out with her co-workers. She got close to the people she worked with. She got to know one of the guys in her security detail pretty well. There was no denying that there was a romantic spark.
Time passed, and they got closer and closer. Eventually, they both realized they were in love.
They talked about sharing their lives after the war and came up with a plan. She would return to America. She’d do the legal work to help him move to the United States. After all, she’s a lawyer, so there’s no reason she couldn’t make it happen. Perfect.
She went to work figuring out the immigration system. Of course, it took some time. In the interim, they communicated via e-mail and Skype. Everything was on track. Neither of them saw the dark cloud looming on the horizon.
She’s good at what she does. She researched the law. She prepared the forms. She got the paperwork through the system. She navigated the bureaucracy, and everything looked good for them.
The documents were in order. The required approvals were obtained. She was on the verge of greeting her beloved at the airport. Everything was going exactly as planned.
That’s when things fell apart.
While the U.S. government approved of her boyfriend coming here, the Iraqi government wouldn’t let him leave. It quickly became apparent that no amount of lawyering was going to solve the problem. They had hit a wall. This was a problem that truly could not be solved.
Now more than ever, she understands that immigration law is about more than paperwork and court appearances. Immigration law is about love and loss. It’s about experiencing a full heart and later experiencing that empty feeling in the pit of your stomach.
She knows the ache of loss that is cured only by the passage of time.
She knows more than most what it means to have laws and governments and distance stand between you and someone you love.
When she represents an immigration client, she’s doing more than jumping through the hoops. When she stands up in court, she’s fueled by the understanding of what her client is feeling.
Her story is in perfect sync with the story of her client. They each feel the pain of the other.
The Lawyer Behind the Story
Wendy Whitt is the attorney. I know her story because she shares it on her website. She’s willing to be open and vulnerable. She’s willing to share her experience so her clients can better understand her perspective. It’s a powerful story, and it’s a big part of how she has grown a successful immigration practice in Plano, Texas.
Wendy was hesitant to tell the story herself, but she knew it needed to be told. She asked a friend, a professional writer, to tell it for her. They collaborated to come up with the text on Wendy’s website. It’s awesome.
Wendy is doing what we all need to do. We need to get away from the boring, professional biography that explains that we went to college and law school. We need to get away from the website copy that says “we strive for excellence and we’re committed to our clients.”
That boring copy doesn’t create a connection. More importantly, it doesn’t build trust.
Wendy’s story builds trust. It tells us that she understands what it feels like to face a difficult legal challenge. It tells us that she understands the frustration and disappointment presented by the process. Wendy conveys in very few words that, like us, she’s a human being and that she will take care of us when we need her.
We can all learn from Wendy. We all have a story. We all do what we do for a reason. It’s time to dig deep and figure out which of your stories you can tell.
How to Set Yourself Apart
Telling your story is what distinguishes you from the crowd. It’s why we hire you instead of the other lawyer. It’s why we feel a connection and why we’re willing to trust you with our deepest secrets and our biggest problems. We’ve got to know you before we can trust you.
Tell us your story. It’s essential.
You’ve got to be good at telling your story wherever you go and in whatever context is required. You’ve got to tell it on your website, on your Facebook page, in your Rotary club speeches, at your CLE lectures, in your networking meetings, and on Twitter. Your story is what we all want to hear.
- You’ve got to be willing to talk about things that didn’t go as planned.
- You’ve got to be willing to let it be known that your life isn’t always exactly what you dreamed it would be.
- You’ve got to be willing to crack the facade of perfect and reveal the inner pieces that show us you’re real.
When you tell us the truth, the real story of you including the parts that didn’t go as planned, we’ll like you more. We don’t like perfect people. We like real people. We’ll like you if you’ll let us know what you’re really all about.
Tell us the stuff that didn’t go as planned. Tell us when things went off the rails. Tell us when you were afraid or hurt or foolish.
It’s in those disappointments, those challenges, and those failures, that we reveal our humanity. It’s in telling those stories that we build trust.
Don’t be afraid to tell us your story.