The History of Pacem Tempestate - Q&A with Attorney Angelina Ray
A look into our humble origins and our future goals
Question: Where/how did Pacem start out?
Answer: I was working at a small firm in Sacramento, and that firm decided to downsize. Me being one of the brand new attorney’s they decided to let me go, but let me keep my clients and cases. I am a mom and I was aware that taking my clients to a new firm would inevitably impact my time with my kids. When you have children, they are the most important aspect of your life, and I knew my number one priority was to care for them. So me and my best friend, who at the time had a Masters in Law, decided to open up a small office in the building that we are still in to this day.
Q: How did you get into family law?
A: I got an opportunity to work a family law case with my prior boss and I quickly found out that I loved it. I love working with people, as a mom I understand where the parents are coming from, and my view of children and families is such that I was really able to be effective with clients. In family law there is no winning, because a family is breaking down; the question is, how do you manage the loss so that it doesn’t damage the rest of your life? Insofar as I can support people in maintaining family bonds, I want to ensure that the breakdown of a marriage does not affect the psyche of the child.
Q: What did the early days of Pacem Tempestate look like?
A: We were in one small room; I sat in one corner and Olivia sat in the other corner and we had one file cabinet. I remember when we got our first copy machine, and I remember wondering how we’d afford to put ink in the thing. There was no privacy, no space, but still the thing we always cared about was doing good work. We always made sure our clients felt welcomed, because going to see an attorney is never fun. We put a lot of thought into naming the firm; at first I was considering naming the firm after myself, but realized that I wanted it to be so much bigger than me. The reason we named the firm Pacem Tempestate, which means Peace in the Midst of the Storm, is because I wanted the name to be less about me and more about the energy we put into the atmosphere. The things our clients are going through when they walk through our doors are so stormy, and we just want to support them to achieve peace in the midst of that.
Q: To what do you attribute the firm’s success over the past four years?
A: I attribute it to the way we do our job. We genuinely care about our clients; we care about what we do, how we do it, and the way we are perceived by not only clients, but also opposing parties. I often tell clients that their divorce should not form a roadmap for the way they live the rest of their lives, and the way I do my job can determine that outcome. If a person has children, their divorce does not denote the end of their relationship with their co-parent -- there will be birthdays, marriages and celebrations that must be celebrated together. If you make the divorce process so difficult that you can’t sit in a room with your ex, the rest of your life will be difficult too. I make a point to ensure my client’s long-term emotional and familial success, before pining after unnecessary material possessions. If one’s endgame is to piss off the opposing party, I try to guide them in the direction of sustainable personal success -- at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself when it's all over.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: I’m the most proud of the fact that I have an amazing staff. From the interns all the way to the law clerks, I love every single person on this team, even when they screw up. Getting to see people grow from where they began is so rewarding. Our staff is so diverse, we have young people, people of color, and lots of women. I am also really proud that I hire moms who have never stepped foot into the workforce; all the moms that I have hired are incredibly hard-working and talented, and I am so proud to see how far they have come. Having been so intentional with hiring and building my team has really paid off and I am just so lucky to have such an incredible staff. Before I went to law school I did not really know any attorneys, let alone any Black or female ones, so knowing that I have the opportunity to speak with people and give them guidance makes me realize how much knowing someone in my position could have helped me on my path.
Q: How has being a mom shaped how you interact with clients?
A: I feel I can relate to clients more because I am a mom, and because I hire moms. I talk to many clients who have older children and are going through divorce, who feel that they have lost their identities both as wives and mothers. I feel I can be inspiring to these women because I can remind them that it’s totally okay to want to be a mom and a wife, but it’s also totally okay to be themselves, because they are badass. Women can do whatever they want -- whatever is in their heart space, whomever they intend to be, they can do that. I can help guide them towards beginning to figure that all out.
Q: How has working towards your Masters in Family Therapy (MFT) contextualized the work you do at Pacem Tempestate?
A: What my study in the MFT has really done is genuinely help me to be a counselor to my clients. It allows me to identify a client’s motivation and drive, and allows me to assess whether or not their issue is one that should be solved in court. When I have a client who is really hurt, I can walk them through the feelings they are having, and make strong suggestions about long term things they can do to support themselves. Many of my colleagues are solution oriented, because that is what you are taught to do as a lawyer, but that is not what you are taught to do as a therapist. As a therapist I am taught to help give clients the tools to solve problems on their own. It helps me ask myself: how can I help the client to be their own best advocate?
Q: What does the future look like for Pacem Tempestate?
A: I have had some interesting conversations with colleagues in other states, and I’ve realized the way we do things at Pacem Tempestate are wildly different from how other family law firms conduct business. Here we really concentrate on keeping people intact and prioritizing child welfare, whereas most family law firms utilize viscous litigation where it does not belong. If we were able to open up offices in other places it would help us get our way of doing things out into our wider community, and into society. Changing the narrative surrounding family law on a national level, that would mean the world to me. What we would see happen with this approach is a shift in how people deal with and communicate with one another. Punitive methodology does not incentivize pure change; clients that listen to me and trust my process find themselves much less frustrated over time, and I want that to be the experience for all people going through this process.
Another big goal I have is to effectuate legislation which changes the way that child support is calculated. What we find with the current system is that parents who don’t really want their kid, fight over time, because they know that time is what affects child support. This system does not help children, but rather puts them at risk of being in the hands of a neglectful parent who is only seeking financial gain. I want to explore how we can disentangle time from money, because they are two wildly different things.