Contributed by: Erin A. Dukes, Estate Planning & Administration Coordinator. Written in 2016 and still true today.
Dedicating several years of your career to one company is quite the feat in today’s society. I’ve been with Procino-Wells & Woodland, LLC for ten years now, and as I celebrate this milestone, I find myself reflecting back on how different things look here today than they did all those years ago. Michele hired me straight out of college. I wore a suit to my interview and anticipated being greeted by a stuffy attorney who would likely be condescending towards someone so young and inexperienced. I quickly realized I had it all wrong and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve worn a suit since.
Our practice isn’t one you’d call conventional. We even brag about how unique we are in comparison to most law offices. These people around me are very much like family, having walked beside me through those trying newlywed years, the births of my three sons, innumerable professional successes, and yes, failures. Both the firm and I have had lots of fine-tuning and we aren’t anywhere near where we hope to be someday.
Just before my PWW anniversary, my husband and I took our oldest son to the movies. And like many families, we found ourselves watching a Disney film. “Finding Dory” is the tale of a blue tang fish and her friendship with a clown fish father and son (a sequel to the enormously popular “Finding Nemo”). Dory is hilariously forgetful, though lovable and adventurous. As I watched the movie, my thoughts wandered to work as they often do, and I thought of how often our philosophy at the firm has been aligned with Dory’s famous words: “Just keep swimming.” In fact, throughout the movie, I realized that there are many “Dory-isms” we’ve worked at perfecting. If only our real life adventures were as cute and comedic.
“When something is too hard, there is always another way.” When our clients come to us, they are often panicked by information that’s been fed to them by someone who does not have the same experience or knowledge that we do. They are often left lost, confused, and helpless. We pride ourselves on educating our clients, and guiding them through a plan we design for their specific needs. Educating ourselves is a continuous process as well, so that we can truly deliver current, accurate information and instruction to our clients and our community. I am so much smarter and stronger than I was a decade ago, and I know our team is, too!
“We see the undertow and we say…” “LET’S GO!” Our firm has encountered many crossroads in the past decade, some of which have caused us to pause and ask, “Do we do what is safe and comfy, or do we try something new?” Adventure is necessary. Building the team and practice we have now has been just that. I am proud to work with people who welcome dynamicity and tackle adversity.
“This is the ocean, silly! We’re not the only two in here.” Our team is so cohesive compared to all those years ago. Everyone is guilty of being self-centered and aloof at times (attorneys especially). But as our practice has grown, so has our teamwork mentality. The firm obviously wouldn’t be in existence without our leading ladies, the attorneys. And, though you may find me bold in saying so, our attorneys know that they could not reach the lofty goals they set without the staff around them.
As our team has grown together, so has our love for and outreach in the community around us. Some of my best memories of this past decade have been participating in charitable 5Ks, playing “Secret Santa” for residents of a local assisted living facility, and Seaford’s annual “Live for Chocolate” event for women’s health. Our world would be so different if everyone lived by Dory’s simple philosophy.
“Hey there, Mr. Grumpy Gills.” What we do involves so many emotions, but often the worst kinds: Grief and feelings of loss in a loved one’s death; dread and anxiety in creating a plan for your demise; weariness and worry in caring for an elderly parent. I feel so privileged and fulfilled to have walked through some of the most difficult times with our clients, who have so often become friends.
“Es-ca-pe. I wonder what that means. It’s funny; it’s spelled just like the word escape.” There is usually more than one way to see things and there are always two sides to every story. Our clients, caregivers, and their advisors all have stories to tell. One of the most rewarding things I’ve learned over the years is to listen.
“Just keep swimming.” Although we started out with a varied law practice, we’ve continued to narrow our scope so that we can truly develop areas of expertise. Even when that meant cutting out a seemingly lucrative range of practice like real estate. We decided to be driven by what we’re passionate about, and that passion pushes us to keep going, to do better, to swim farther.
The past decade at Procino-Wells & Woodland, LLC has been one that I believe Walt Disney himself would applaud. Disney believed that “all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”. And we certainly have. I’ve transitioned through many different roles in the firm, and have grown in tremendous ways, both personally and professionally. Our team as a whole has, too. I won’t close this article by divulging which of our Partners most closely resemble Dory or her trusty companion, Marlin… But I will say that, just like Dory, you can never really predict where we’ll go next.