Start-Up Law Firms and Chris Webber Stories from 1993
Present May 7, 2022 Front Royal, VA
It’s a Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day. I’m free to work, more or less. It’s a gloomy day in May. It’s rained since Thursday. The creek is running and the walkway up from our driveway is sinking. We live on a mountain, so the water runs downhill and the walkway gets flooded as often as New Orleans gets sacked by hurricanes.
The slugs are out, but so are the Wisteria blooms. I take notice of these things. I just called a client to schedule a meeting and her voice has a lilt, almost like the purple Wisteria flower. Clients come first if you forget about God and family and professional responsibility (all of which really come first).
Speaking of family, as a mother you’re always putting your family first, and that holds true for our special day. Truth? I need to work all Sunday on getting my law firm, Jarvis Law PLLC, planted in its new space at 29 Crescent Street in Front Royal. I have deadlines and commitments. There’s a song lyric in that sentence. My life, after all, is about words.
Past April 5, 1993 Ellicott City, Md
Speaking of words, deadlines and commitments, I had all three the night of April 5th, 1993. My first draft of my History Honors thesis was due at 3 PM April 6th, and Professor Eckstein scared me. Short of a hospital visit for something more serious than a broken leg, I owed him 20-25 pages, properly cited, and error-free. My topic: The Progressive Era and the Supreme Court. Pages written: zero.
It’s about ten o’clock. I’m glued to the TV, the old-fashioned kind that you lock behind wood doors in a tall cabinet. UNC is playing Michigan. Power teams. I don’t like UNC, no good reason—family affiliation. My brother is a Duke grad. I’m pulling for the guys in the yellow jerseys. Chris Webber is one of them. He’s got the ball—rebounded it after UNC’s Pat Sullivan missed a free throw with 19 seconds on the clock. UNC leads, 71-69.
Michigan has one shot at tying or taking the lead. Chris has the ball. He needs to pass it. He’s a big guy, All-American forward, can’t dribble real well, but is a monster under and around the rim. Instead of passing it, he dribbles, gets jammed up, double-teamed. Has nowhere to go. Time’s ticking away. He needs to call a timeout. The problem is that Michigan has no timeouts left. The penalty for calling a timeout with no time left? Automatic technical. Other team gets two free throws and the ball back.
Chris freezes. Has a baffled, terrified look on his face. He jumps in the air, juggles the ball—and calls the timeout.
I watch all this, knowing full well I have twenty pages to write. Can’t take my eyes off the screen. The end result: UNC 77-Michigan 71. There’s a lot more you can say about the game. I didn’t have time to think about it then. I have a scholarly paper to write. Deadlines and commitments.
Coffee. A whole pot of nasty smelling Maxwell House coffee. This is before the days of sweet Ethiopian from Happy Creek Coffee in Front Royal, or a gentle Kona from Hawaii. No matter. I drink it black, which is a desperate move. No half and half. It’s 11:30 PM before I’ve opened a file on the Mac in my Dad’s study. The carpet crinkles under my feet. A soft light glimmers from a faux antique desk. Books surround me. Notebooks tip over handwritten scraps of paper; books line the walls and precariously perch in piles that will topple if I ram them with my toes.
I write like hell. No pace like it, not since. The sheer insanity of the words streaming out of me, mostly good, well-formed, thoughtful words. Even though I’m under the gun, even though I’ve put myself into the corner holding the ball with no timeouts left (I chuckle all night, a sympathetic not a mean chuckle, at my shared predicament, thinking “it’s okay Chris, we all get jumbled up sometimes”). And I’m joyful. Three, maybe four pages an hour, pace set and kept for hours. Parents wake, come and go. They’ve seen me this way before. Mom makes another pot of coffee for me. Dad smiles.
By 9 AM, 19 pages are saved, double-saved, and printed. I can take a two-hour nap and add the conclusion, the works cited page. Proofread the mess. It’s done.
The result? Good work—now rework the entire paper. It’s my Junior Year Honors Thesis, and by my Senior Year, I will have written a 70-page thesis titled, The Roosevelt Court: A Culmination of Legal Reform. The University of Maryland History Honors Program awards the paper Highest Honors. I do not write it all in one night. Learned from my Chris Webber Timeout to check my deadlines, only call timeout when I have one in the bank.
Still at the kitchen table. Have answered three questions from my teenage son, dug up my old thesis, and gotten the cable squared away for the new office at 29 Crescent Street. Right across from E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School.
In case you’re not a basketball fan: more on Chris Webber. He went on to have a long career in the NBA. After the Championship game in 1993, Chris’ teammates held him together and stood by him. You need good teammates in life.
In the next blog, I will share more stories from a law firm start-up, and maybe some more stories about the why I’m someone you can call for help with your business. About how we can be teammates. If your question is “how can you help me,” my answer is and will always be: we will figure it out together and yes, yes we can.