Tonight, I read Nicole Black’s piece on who she is. There are other similar stories out there like Brian Tannebaum’s celebration of 15 years of practice and Mirriam Seddiq’s letter to a young lawyer. As I have read these post and the general discussion of “online presence” I realize that there is always something aloof in our perception of people, our assumptions of who they are and what they have done or what they continue to do. Update (Check out Scott Greenfield’s latest post). So in the spirit of full disclosure I draft this up. Please take note that comments of criticism and general angst will not be responded to and probably deleted I am a full grown man and I accept responsibility for my action, including the mistakes, the moment of wallow, and the poor judgments. I have a father, so no need to take on any additional responsibility on your part. I have given due respect to similar posts, and I only ask for the same.
I grew up in the mountains of West Virginia on a small farm that my parent homesteaded, a place that, in my heart will always be home. When I graduated high school, I headed off to a small liberal arts college in Greensboro, NC, Guilford College. I was intending to be a double major Mathematics/English. I scoffed at the computer science math guys as I wanted to be a well read theoretical mathematician and a professor. (Ooops). However, after 3 semesters, I found myself bored with collegiate life generally and decided to put school on a hiatus. For the next 5 years I traveled around, snowboarding in Colorado, living the beach life in NC, working my tail off in the mountains of WV. I was a janitor, a bartender, a waiter, a bag boy, a busboy, a fish monger, and a carpenter. At one point I even rode semi-pro for Airwalk Snowboards. Somewhere along the road, I realized how much I missed academia and applying critical thinking and so I decided to finish off my undergraduate degree.
In 2001, at the age of 23, I started back to school at North Carolina State and 2 years later graduated with honors with a B.A. in History. I had set my sights on law school almost from the beginning. At the time, I was inspired by a passage from an Icelandic saga, Njal’s Saga to be precise, where at the Althing the injured Njal sent his messenger to the bonfire, each time recalling a law that trumped the other’s lawyer’s recollection. I had an image of the law that equated it to mathematics, whereby there are a finite set of rules, and a finite set of solutions. That, or maybe I was motivated by my politics and I wanted to work with an NGO as attorney. At this point, I don’t really recall, and I don’t think it even matters. Either way, I was accepted to the University of Miami and decided that would be my start into the legal profession.
Honestly, law school was a shock. I can never put my finger on why. Everyone was bright, everyone was cocky (just as scared but cockier than me). The law was not as finite as I had assumed and so I questioned my decision, but I pushed through somewhat half heartedly my first year. Going into my second year, after studying in South America for the summer, I was beginning to find my stride. However, tragedy struck before I had even returned home. My second year was emotional and time consuming outside of law school and motivation suffered. By my third year, my academics had turned around, but I was still feeling lost in the sauce and constantly questioned my decision. This of course led to a less than stellar attempt to study for the bar. Well that and the world cup was on. 😉
So in September, when all my friends were beginning their work as attorneys, I had to tell the several potential employers that I had was 1 point short of passing the Florida Bar. It was then that a light went off. Trying to make sense of why I was so upset over this outright failure, I realized it was because I did want to be a lawyer, I was proud of my achievements and humble and appreciative of the mistakes that I had made. So I spent the next 2 months trying to find a job. Finally, days before Thanksgiving, I was taken on by a family law solo practice as a law clerk, with the understanding that I would sit for the February Bar. It was a tumultuous time as I saw 11 employees come and go in less than 6 months, but I stood my ground. I was being groomed to be a litigator. I had negotiated a decent salary and 10% of what ever I brought in the first year, if I passed. I was going to develop a mediation practice in family law as an additional service the firm provided. However, in April, the same week that I received my passing results, we had had enough of each other. And so I was back on the street.
For the next three months, I spent 3 hours a day drafting cover letters and sending out resumes. I knew 2 things, I wanted to be a lawyer and I didn’t want to be a litigator. My strength and my heart are in transactions. During that time, to make money I worked making custom furniture, building decks, putting up fence, you get the drift. I didn’t want to commit to a job that wasn’t legal, out of principal and respect for business owners. I was doing part time “PR” work for a small business immigration firm in Brickell hoping that by sticking around the office, they’d eventual start handed my legal work. In August of that year, I was asked by a friend to come help deal with some of the overloaded work he had. They were trying to build a company and still had a some pending legal issues to be dealt with. By January, I had earned myself a full time job, and that is where I continue today. I work on everything from private placements and S-1s to non disclosure agreements and simple promissory notes. The work is menial at times and incredibly exciting at times.
Last year, with the company’s blessing, I began to develop my law firm as a part time business, as my wife was expecting. I had a partner, but he moved to California before we ever had a client, and so I stopped focusing on building the firm. However, with the birth of my darling daughter in November, I decided to go at it alone and try to build the firm, as either a back up plan or as supplemental income in the short term and a thriving firm 4 or 5 years down the road. I continue working with the company and when I have free time, i.e. in the morning, on my lunch break, late at night, on weekends, I work on the firm and give my few clients due attention.
That is where I am today. I am not arrogant of my situation, nor do I write with any expectation of sympathy. My father taught me well the importance of tough love and humility. I have accepted my mistakes and the bed that I have made. I have never felt entitled to anything and I have always accepted my lot as I have created it. While I strive to be a knowledgeable person, a knowledgeable attorney, I have much to learn. Luckily, my greatest hobby is trying to suck up as much information as I can, sometimes that means suck up bad information. I also know that hard work alone is not always a solution. I have to be creative and innovative in my own life in order to continue to learn, to grow and to build a life for my family.