Why I Became an Attorney
One of the questions that I have been asked many times over past several years is why I decided to become an attorney. While I am sure there are times the question has been nothing more than a conversation starter, there is a general curiosity why someone who grew up in a Beachy Amish home would make the life choice of becoming an attorney. Like so many others people’s stories, to understand how I ended up becoming an attorney, you have to understand where I have been.
I would like to say that being an attorney has always been a clear path for me and that I knew at a young age that this was the profession that I should pursue. Instead, my story is filled with failures and successes that I hardly could have imagined as a youngster. Looking back on those early years, I didn’t enjoy school and there were many times that I wished to be somewhere else.
Because I was raised in a Beachy Amish church, I attended a parochial school. As with many people, my childhood worldview was primarily shaped by my home, church, and school. During those years, I would often wish for a “normal” childhood. Today I understand that normal means many things, but as a child, the idea of being different from others was something that hurt my self-confidence. My desire for what I considered normal was primarily driven by my desire to fit in with the world around me. In hindsight, I wish that I would have embraced my childhood years and now realize growing up in a Beachy Amish home taught me many valuable lessons.
When I finished eighth grade I was presented with one of my first big choices in life. I had to decide whether I wanted to leave school and pursue a job, or whether I would continue with my education. As the youngest in my family by nine years, I was faced with the option of continuing my education, even though my older siblings did not have that option. With the encouragement of my parents, I decided to continue pursuing my high school education. As anyone who has attended a parochial high school with thirty-five students can tell you, it is a different experience than attending a public high school. In a parochial high school, you are expected to learn the majority of your coursework on your own instead of in a group setting with an instructor. Although I struggled to remain motivated with this concept in high school, it did provide me with important learning strategies that have been valuable later in life.
As I approached my senior year of high school I began to realize two things. First, I had not done a good job of planning to complete all of my courses early in high school and my senior year was going to be a busy one. Second, I began to realize that while I had been learning in high school, the degree I would receive at graduation would not help me with my new dream. My new dream was going to college, and the high school diploma I would receive at the parochial school would not be admitted by every college. With these two thoughts in mind, I came to the conclusion that I would pursue what is called a General Education Development, or GED. Upon checking into the requirements to receive a GED, I was told that I would have to wait until I was 18 or have the guidance counselor of the school district I lived in sign a waiver. I acquired the signature and soon had my GED.
I would like to say that I was sad to miss my last year of high school, but I was mostly excited to be headed to college to pursue a degree in business. To save money I enrolled in a local community college, worked full time, and lived at home. After four long years of driving to school and working full time, I finally achieved what I had been working for, an associate degree in business. Even though it took me twice as long as students that did not have full-time jobs, it felt good to say that I had accomplished what I had set out to do. After completing my associate degree and gaining experience in the business world, I came to the realization that real-world experience was as valuable as the classroom. I was also learning that going to college is expensive, and I was ready to use some of my money for things other than school. With that thought in mind, I decided my school days were over and I spent the next thirteen years building a career with a company in the construction industry.
After thirteen years, I decided that it was time to pursue my entrepreneurial spirit of starting a business. I would like to tell you that every aspect of the business was a huge success, and everyone lived happily ever after. As with so many things in life, the full story is more complicated than I can write in this article. In a span of three years, my business partner and I had enough highs and lows for me to grow more than a few gray hairs. I think it’s fair to say that being in a partnership can be difficult and by the end of three years we were ready to pursue individual opportunities. After more than one difficult conversation, we finally reached an agreement, and my business partner would buy out my portion of the business.
I was now in my mid-thirties with a family to support and few answers on what I was passionate about in life. We were receiving enough money from the sale of my half of the business to pursue a new career, but I did not know what I wanted to do. I quickly realized that I was not ready to jump into starting another business, so I made the decision to continue my education to find a job that I would truly enjoy. This time I would pursue a bachelor’s degree in business, which would allow me more opportunities to find a job that I was passionate about.
After two more years of working and going to school, I was finally wrapping up what I thought would be my last years in school. However, as I reached the end of my second year, I began to realize that a bachelor’s degree would also allow me to pursue a career in law. Law had always seemed intriguing and it was a career that I believed I would enjoy. But like so many of our dreams, I let doubt creep in about my ability to survive another three to four years in school and began to question my abilities. It was only the encouragement of my wife and family that convinced me that I should pursue my dream and I decided to take the LSAT test required for acceptance into law school.
As it turned out, the next three and half years of my life were some of the most challenging times of my life. Although I enjoyed law school, between working, driving to Akron for school, and raising a family, I struggled to be present in all areas of my life. You may not be surprised to know that we struggled as a family and that I failed as a husband during these years. I will spare you the details, but if you want to know what mistakes to avoid in life, I can write you a list. However, as is often the case in life, I received forgiveness and mercy when I did not deserve it and will always be grateful. Finally, at the end of it all, I graduated law school and passed the bar.
I did not write this article to tell you that being a lawyer is a great accomplishment. Living in this time and place in history has given me more opportunities than almost anyone in the world. Instead, I wrote this article to remind us that each has a unique path to finding personal success. We often lose sight of the fact that how we define success in life should not be measured against those around us or the dreams of others. Rather, we all have goals and dreams that are unique, and our success should only be measured by how far we have come down the path we are pursuing. Our office understands that every path to success is different, and we want to help you in whatever direction you are headed to pursue your dream.
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