Everyone could benefit from a legal mentor: a trusted generalist with some knowledge of the law.
I chose to attend law school because I wanted to understand the law and how lawyers think. I wanted to acquire a pedestal of knowledge that would serve me in business or law or in as many endeavors as I wished to tackle in life. I wanted to understand my rights and responsibilities and not be intimidated nor miss opportunities for lack of training. Success, you see, is the intersection of opportunity and preparation. But all too often we view ourselves as inadequate to take advantage of opportunity when it knocks. We are cowed by the world. Many of us fall short of our potential simply because we lack confidence. We’re inclined to settle for a restricted view of opportunity. Such timid souls are the ones I would most like to mentor, because everyone has potential and everyone has a purpose.
I used to teach a college course titled “Principles of Real Estate.” For the initial class, I always opened with a rather humorous story about myself: the time I went for a hike on Sand Mountain, Alabama at my father-in-law’s cattle farm. I told the students about leaving the “fertile valley” of the farm and climbing up the adjacent rocky hillside to a plateau overlooking the panorama of agriculturally rich land below. Along the way back down, I was chest-high in thick brush when I encountered large black animals leaping above the brush nearby—probably to get a closer look at me. It was a tense moment.
My eyes grew wide when at dinner that evening someone asked my father-in-law about what might be killing his cows, to which he replied, “I’m not sure if it’s wild dogs or black panthers.” The students got a big laugh out of this story, the veracity of which I’m not sure they all truly grasped. However, their faces suddenly turned serious when, not missing a beat, my lecture morphed straight into a discussion of what made the valley economically valuable versus the craggy-cliffs and accompanying dangers of the hillside.
Recently, I found it necessary to rent one of those ubiquitous storage spaces for excess business inventory. The facility’s manager was showing me a space and I asked him whose development it was. It turned out the developer was a former student of mine and had taken that very course I taught so many years ago. I’ve seen this fellow a few times over the years and he never fails to tell me how my personal story and lecture fascinated, and then inspired him to pursue a career in real estate development. Now I—and a whole bunch of folks—send lots of money each month to his fertile valley. At a young age, he adopted an expansive view of opportunity and has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. It’s rewarding to know that I played a small, yet significant, role in his success by teaching him what can happen when opportunity and preparation converge; and one does not easily abide limitations.