“…and one day you will show them that desk and say, ‘ I built that with my own two hands.’”
One of the obvious things about building a solo practice is the immense pressure we face. It is not just pressure to build a client base, but to build everything. As the head of the operation—as well as the tail—you are the architect, the contractor, the electrician, the plumber, the inspector, and the resident. If the building collapses, it’s on you. If the pipes burst, it’s on you. If things just plain fail, it’s on you. And I love it.
My father was a lead carpenter many years ago. I watched him turn his first house (a sorry little one-story two-bedroom spot) into a beautiful home that I got to grow up in. Until the day the house was completed, you were guaranteed to smell sawdust in the air and hear electric tools through the night. I loved watching my father put on a dust mask and his tool belt. It was magic to watch him sketch out floor plans on the back of torn envelopes and then turn them into reality. And it was nothing short of manly to see him carry four pieces of sheetrock at a time up the stairs like it was a stack of papers. If the man wanted to build something, it was going to be built. And I got the bug.
According to my mother, when I was about two years old, my father was working on the roof. She came outside to see my four-year old cousin staring at the ladder that my dad left leaning on the side of the house. My mother asked her where I was, and my cousin simply pointed up the ladder. Somehow I managed to climb the ladder to get on the roof. My father quickly snatched me up and brought me back down. Story goes that when my mother asked me why I climbed the ladder, I pointed at my dad’s hammer and said, “Daddy, bang bang!.”
Fast-forward twenty-five years to present day.
I met up with an old friend today and was regaling him harrowing tales of starting my own practice. At one point I told him that I was putting together my desk in my new office. He laughed and said, “you will have kids and one day you will show them that desk and say, ‘ I built that with my own two hands.’” And I thought to myself, “he gets it.” My professional goal is to be the best trial attorney in the United States, but my personal goal is to leave something for the future Wallace clan to look to and be encouraged by.
For as long as I live, I will remember my father building a life for my family out of raw materials. For as long as I live I will build—and so should all practitioners—with eyes toward the future because we never know who will want to climb that ladder behind us just to watch us and be inspired.