Bianchi Webinar: How Brene Brown’s Book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Changed The Way We Practice Law

By: Robert (Bob) Bianchi, Esq.:

Former head NJ County Prosecutor

Certified Criminal Trial Attorney, NJ Supreme Court

I was recently honored by author and psychology researcher, Brene Brown’s staff to present a webinar on how our NJ Criminal defense lawyers at The Bianchi Law Group have used her work in our law practice. The Link can be found at:

I was even more honored when the moderator of the Webinar stated (when hearing what we are doing with Brene Brown’s book and work) that it was “amazing” and “blew her away.”

I became aware of Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, during a difficult time in my life in 2013. The title alone captured my interest. I have always believed that there is great meaning to the “imperfections” and sufferings we all endure in our lifetime(s).

But, it takes work to be mindful of how much we so easily default to toxic thinking and patterns of behavior learned in our youth where critique, scarcity, ego, and the like, are often tools of learning. While in truth there may be some limited “success” in the short term as we “muscle” our way through life, it is also true that these qualities ultimately undermine our joy and peacefulness later in life. It all starts with knowing there is a better, more productive, more joyful way to live and be as productive, even more productive, than the ways we were taught as children.

To me, it is true that most adults are still stuck with a child’s way of thinking and dealing with life’s adult problems. It is amazing to me that we grow and succeed in so many ways, but we do not grow and learn new coping skills as we mature, and handle life’s problems with the very same coping skills of a child.

Brene Brown’s book was amazing as challenges us to be mindful of the negative tapes (toxic self-talk) that runs in our minds that so often sabotage us. We were so impressed with Brene Brown’s book that that my partner, Dave Bruno, and I travelled to San Antonio, Texas to be trained by Brene and her staff. It was a life-altering experience.

Dave and myself still laugh at how we were perceived by the so many other mental health and counseling professionals during the training. We were the only 2 attorneys there and there seemed to be a puzzled look on peoples’ faces when we told them we were NJ criminal defense lawyers. They could not understand why we were there. I mean attorneys are daunting, aggressive, and impersonal figures- – right? And, at The Bianchi Law Group we handle many high profile criminal cases and are often in the national media spotlight as legal analysts. So, we understood their puzzlement when they checked out who we were online.

I explained to the group that many times (especially as criminal defense lawyers) that our clients come to us broken, ashamed, suffering, afraid, and with many regrets. Often times, the criminal charges are really the result of unaddressed mental health and/or addiction issues. You cannot help but feel compassion for a person whose life is disintegrating and where the burden of remorse and shame are visibly weighing them down.

And, when dealing as we do with many high profile criminal cases clients that are well-known and have a visible public profile, the media scrutiny, embarrassment, and loss of control are even more daunting. These high profile criminal defense clients are berated in the “court of public opinion” in an unmerciful way.

Eventually, the participants in Brene’s training program realized that it is true that many times criminal defense lawyers are the first point of contact for such persons who are in desperate circumstances. So, to us it is imperative to understand what our clients are going through and have the tools to refer them to the proper setting for recovery and/or support.

I see great opportunity in this setting to suggest change, recovery, treatment- – to use the fear and suffering brought on by their legal case, to make dramatic, positive changes in their lives. Brene Brown’s book and training have not only helped The Bianchi Law Group partners in their own lives, but the so many clients that we are so honored and blessed to represent.

To not take advantage of this time in a person’s life is a tremendous wasted opportunity for a client. We feel strongly that as NJ criminal defense lawyers that we have a great opportunity at this time to get the client to agree to change, resurrection- – in a way that allows them to heal, and thereby, if done properly, improve the chances for an even better legal result, in addition to great personal growth and achievement.

So, how has Brene Brown’s book and training changed the way we “lawyer” with our clients?

Well, first we realize we are not mental health and/or addiction professionals. But, with that said, we make it clear to the client that we need to address those issues with the professionals in those areas. Our work with Brene and our mental health and addiction network(s) have made us even more mindful that there is so much more a client needs than just to achieve an antiseptic legal result- –even a very favorable one. They oftentimes need help addressing the underlying issues that got them into legal trouble in the first place.

Getting a client into recovery, or a proper support setting, and them being successful is great for the client, and gives us great satisfaction as criminal defense lawyers. And, this allows prosecutors to have a better picture of the whole person, not just information about the crime. This invariably leads to better resolutions for the client as most prosecutors want to help people who are committed to bettering themselves and clients who demonstrate that in a meaningful way.

But, just getting a report from a treatment provider is not enough in the legal world. Giving Brene Brown’s book to our clients is standard. And, by training with Brene, we have learned a new language that better assists us when speaking with the treatment providers and making sure our clients are getting the best opportunities for recovery.

And, it also ensures the treatment providers know the language of the court and prosecution, so excellent recovery results are spoken in a language meaningful to judges and prosecutors. This allows our criminal defense lawyers at our Firm to shine a bright light on the treatment progress of a client which invariably leverages a better legal result for the client.

Over the many years that I have practiced criminal law as a NJ prosecutor and/or NJ criminal defense lawyer, I have seen countless times the 2 professions (legal versus mental health and addiction)not really communicating well.

At the training, I was able to dispel many myths that the treatment providers have about the criminal justice system, and they dispelled many myths I had about their profession. In other words, it allowed us to meaningfully dialogue in a way that made our common objectives (providing services to a person in need of treatment, support, and/or recovery) better integrated, better understood, and communicated in the legal case in a much more meaningful way.

With virtually every client we have, we provide Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection to them. We ask them to read it and report back to us their insights. Since the book deals with shame, regret, fear, and so many topics relevant to one charged with a crime, it is a perfect fit for our clients. It speaks in a language that is practical, and not esoteric. Many clients have stated that reading the book positively changed their lives forever.

As importantly, it communicates to the client that we care about them in a way that is not only in the legal sense, but in an intimate personal sense- – although all of this in reality helps their criminal defense case. And, it opens the discussion about treatment and recovery in a far more meaningful way. From there, we make our referrals to the appropriate mental health, support, and/or addiction professional.

Brene Brown’s book and life’s work have been a “force multiplier” to The Bianchi Law Group criminal defense practice in that we can take the great legal work we do for clients as criminal defense lawyers each day and make it even more profound by putting into place meaningful changes to help our clients for a lifetime.

Criminal defense attorneys reading Brene Brown’s book and attending her training program will find that it not only benefits the client, but I am certain that it will better the lawyer personally, as well! It did for us at The Bianchi Law Group.

And, this is why I am proud to announce that we have been invited by the New Jersey State Bar Association and Maine State Bar Association to discuss how we are using Brene Brown’s book and training to improve the lives of our criminal defense clients!

Here is a link to the webinar and we would be honored if you would listen and give us your feedback:

© 2016 Robert (Bob) Bianchi

Certified Criminal Trial Attorney NJ Supreme Court

Former head NJ County Prosecutor

Founding Partner The Bianchi Law Group

Twitter: @bianchilawgroup


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