As I celebrated my fifth-year anniversary in the practice of law recently, the occasion caused me to reflect on what may be ahead for me as well as what has already transpired. And if the past five years are any measure, then I count myself as one lucky guy when I look to the future.
One accomplishment that I am particularly proud of is that I’m writing this column at all.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that roughly half of new business ventures fail after five years, and it doesn’t seem to matter if the ventures are launched during a recession or during a roaring economy.
Owners of the surviving businesses appear to credit their five-year anniversaries to a combination of pluck, luck and good planning, along with perhaps the most important ingredient – a passion for what they do. That is certainly the case for me.
Before I joined the ranks of the legal community, I earned a degree in accounting from Hope College and worked for a large corporation in Kalamazoo and a consulting firm in Chicago. Those opportunities provided challenges, good pay and a reliable income stream. But at the end of the day, the work left me with the feeling that I was simply a scorekeeper and everyone else was playing the game.
I am in the game now, and my work as an attorney carries an urgency that I never felt in a previous job. The practice of family law deals with very real, immediate problems for individuals who are sorting through life-changing events that few people anticipate will happen to them. The practice of estate planning deals with the far-reaching consequences of one’s final wishes before leaving this world.
My previous work experience was good to me. It allowed me to save the money I needed to attend Thomas M. Cooley Law School. It also formed a safety net of sorts in case the legal profession did not work out. Heaven only knows the uncertainty I felt selecting a new profession with no guarantees that -- even after years of study – I would be able to pass the bar exam and obtain my license.
Certainly, my wife Erin shared in my leap of faith because I established my practice only a few months before we were married.
But I have to say that once I made the decision to become a lawyer, I never looked back. It has been incredibly rewarding for me to help people through trying times and thoughtful planning about their estates. I feel satisfied and often wish there were more hours in a day to practice law.
So when I greeted well-wishers during my five-year celebration this summer at Cork Wine and Grille at Watermark Country Club, it was easy to share my sense of joy and accomplishment at being a lawyer and running my own business.
I expect the next five years – and many more after – will be equally rewarding, and I wish to thank all the individuals who have supported me as I established my practice and the clients who placed their trust in me as I served as their lawyer.
As the adage goes: “Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” There’s many a time when I feel that applies to me.