After the law firm where I worked as an associate twenty five years ago gave me six months to find a new job, I had a crazy idea.
What if I didn’t look for a job at all and instead decided to start my own law firm?
And even crazier, what if that law firm owned by a woman in her late twenties could compete head on with the white-male dominated big firms in the industry that were charging several hundred dollars an hour? What if I could change the way that law was practiced, with firm budgets and not-to-exceed estimates and clients served by the firm’s owner rather than know-nothing associates.
When I shared my crazy scheme with colleagues, they told me that my idea sounded crazy and asked if I actually thought I could make money at it. But it turns out that maybe my idea was just crazy enough to work.
Of course in today’s world, my decision would hardly be viewed as crazy in the circles where I travel. But in others, not so much.
“Are you crazy?” I can hear a senior partner telling a young attorney at an established law firm who’s just given notice to leave and hang a shingle.
“That’s crazy,” exclaimed every law professor and classmate to Barack Obama when he turned down a near certain shot at a federal appellate or even Supreme Court clerkship to work at a small civil rights firm in Chicago to lay the foundation for his career in politics.
“Sounds crazy” is what I remember so many doubters in the legal profession thinking about pioneer Stephanie Kimbro and her virtual law practice concept and yet here we are a decade later, working seamlessly from home thanks in large part to her vision.
So many of my readers and colleagues reach out to share that “I’ve got this crazy idea.” Maybe it’s moving to a state with a high demand for legal services to start a law firm. Or launching their own practice right out of law school with $200,000 in student loan debt besides. Maybe it’s buying a building to serve as an incubator for other small firms, or packing up to practice law from a tropical location. Whatever your crazy is, I say bring it on. Because in the words of Niels Bohr once said:
We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”