When I was a little girl I wanted to be a physicist, so I could know all the secrets of the universe for sure.
I grew up to be an undergraduate student at Drury University, majoring in Chemistry, Biology, and Environmental Studies—titrating solutions, crawling in caves, and researching the properties of coal filters (sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Monsanto).
But after hundreds of hours stuck in cold research labs, I realized that as much as I love science, I couldn’t pass my days separated by time and logistics from people I wanted to help.
So, I went to law school.
The Story of a Lawyer
The legal case I’m most proud of is one I handled while still in law school.
I was working in the Civil Clinic, where we represented people who could not afford counsel, including those who were being evicted from their homes for allegedly not paying rent.
This client was a man on disability for a condition where all of his nerves randomly screamed in pain, rendering him curled up in the fetal position for hours, days. He had missed one rent payment, and a few days later, the notice was nailed to his door that he must pay or he would be evicted from his apartment in 3 days.
That’s where I came in.
Yeah, he didn’t pay rent and therefore couldn’t stay in that apartment. I’m a landlord myself, and I get that tenants need to pay rent or it’s unfair to owners. But he needed more than 3 days to figure out what to do next. So my job was to get him more days.
A few weeks later, I was ready to go to trial before a jury, put my client on the stand, and have him explain that while paying rent was required, three days wasn’t fair in this situation. I had a bunch of legal arguments to give to the judge that were somewhat creative but he could have bought them to justify helping my client.
But before my case was called, my client went into a seizure in the hallway.
Fyi, court bailiffs are trained in advanced first aid. Just in case that comes up for you.
In an hour or so, my client recovered, the opposing counsel settled with me (knowing that if I put my client on the stand and he went into another seizure from the stress, the jury wouldn’t be too happy with the landlord who was kicking him out), and I got him the time he needed to figure out the next step of his life.
A month or two later, my client sent me a note.
A thank you note, sharing how his newly-won additional days in his apartment had saved him, giving him time to get back on his feet again. I actually made a difference on that day. But it took a long time until I again felt like I made a difference like that, especially as a lawyer.
Meanwhile, at the University of San Diego School of Law, I developed a new system for environmental regulation, and served on the board of two law reviews. Since I was Law Review and magna cum laude and Order of the Coif, upon graduation I took a job in big law working for big corporate clients.
I worked at Skjerven Morrill LLP and Sidley Austin LLP, mostly doing intellectual property litigation (patents, trademarks, licensing, trade secrets, antitrust). Worked on cases for big-business clients including Applied Molecular Evolution, LG Electronics, and Microsoft. Got great performance reviews, always made my billable hour requirements, was on the track for making partner.
And so I quit.
The thing is, I looked at the partners in those firms and I didn’t want their life.
I wanted to have a family (and to actually spend time with them). I wanted to travel and learn and keep growing. I wanted an existence where I didn’t have to wear pantyhose.
I wanted to love my work. I wanted clients who actually knew my name. I wanted to help clients change the world.
I wanted to do something so important to someone’s life, that they might be inspired to send me a thank you note.
When I left the big law firm, I first opened up a financial planning and estate planning practice, helping people to “illuminate a path to a prosperous future.” Over the next decade, that morphed into small business consulting, a radio show, a blog, a podcast, marketing trainings, life coaching, and a bunch of other projects (including Live Your Truth).
While people kept asking me about legal stuff – I even wrote a book Grow Up! Strategies: The 7 Legal & Financial Strategies You Need to Up-Level Your Small Business to answer their questions – I stubbornly refused to give legal advice.
The experience of working in law firms had tainted the law for me.
I didn’t believe I could be a lawyer and still be myself.
But in late 2011, I realized something wasn’t right with my coaching / training / consulting practice. I was frustrated and stuck. Kept trying to launch different programs and strategies and projects that were only sort-of-right and none of them really worked financially or inspirationally.
Then I got a message: all I needed to do was to let go.
A few months later, I finally realized what I needed to do.
I realized that this journey of doing scientific research, working in big law, opening up multiple small businesses, learning online marketing and social media, being trained in science and law and finance and Myers-Briggs and feminine/masculine energy, getting two tattoos, raising a kid – gave me a particular perspective and experience to create a unique (and somewhat weird) law practice.
I realized that I can be an attorney and Live My Truth at the same time.
But I could only do that, if I committed to create a different kind of practice.
So I opened EPW Small Business Law PC, helping coaches, consultants, artists, e-commerce business owners, and other entrepreneurs find simplicity in the law, so they can get back to spending their time helping their clients and doing their good work.