If you were in serious legal trouble, you’d want to know my friend Diane Helphrey. Diane is a skilled lawyer with significant experience in taking on difficult criminal cases. In addition to legal acumen, she has a magnanimous spirit—she’s loaded with empathy for those who have made costly mistakes.

The odds that readers of this magazine could access her legal services are remote. Diane is a public defense attorney who rises to her calling whenever someone from the public defender’s office stands before a judge and says, “Your honor, we do not have a lawyer for this person at this time.” Unless you’re wearing an orange jumpsuit as you read this column, or are unable to afford legal representation in your struggle with the law, Diane is beyond your reach.

Not surprisingly, she fields one question more frequently than all others: “How do you defend those people?” Her response is straightforward. “Those people are real people whose stories need to be taken seriously. I have a lot of empathy for people on the other side,” she says. “Most of the individuals I work with have lived through horrific experiences that I will never have to encounter. Chaotic and dysfunctional families. Generational addiction. Untreated mental illness. You name it. I rarely see a client from a stable, intact environment.”