Where do you see yourself in five years?
It’s a get-to-know-you question many people have been asked in interviews or in relationships. My husband reminds me now and then of the time I asked him this same question on our first date. But I’m the kind of person who likes to have a plan, so it’s something I also ask myself. And the truth is, five years ago, I wouldn’t have seen myself where I am now.
I am former military — Air Force — and when I enlisted, I figured I’d be in for just 4 years. Before I knew it, nearly 16 years had passed when I was approved for early retirement, due to force downsizing. Then I somehow ended up in a whirlwind that took me from the Pentagon to Scott Air Force Base in southern Illinois in 2012 to a foot surgery in 2013 to law school in Florida in 2014, and now I’ve been running Ally Legal here in Valrico, Florida for almost three years.
I started Ally Legal with one thing in mind: to be my clients’ ally on the legal battlefield. For most of my career in the Air Force, I worked in communications. You typically don’t want your communications postured on the frontline, so I was “in the rear with the gear,” so to speak — thinking through all the contingencies, coordinating lines of communication, making sure everything was prepared and ready so nothing important would get lost or interrupted when it mattered most.
It’s strange that five years ago, I wouldn’t have envisioned myself here, and yet I’m doing the same thing now as I did all those years in the Air Force: thinking through the what ifs, helping make sure everything’s in order so that when it’s needed, it’s already set up — I’m in the rear with the gear, preparing my clients so they won’t have to go to battle.
One of the things the Air Force teaches from the beginning is “Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do.” You learn ‘em. You live ‘em. I try to emulate that mantra in everything I do, because at the end of the day, I don’t want someone to suffer because of something I did, or that I failed to do or overlooked. Before I went into estate planning, I worked for another firm handling mostly family law. It wasn’t originally my plan to open my own firm. But I realized pretty early on that if I wanted to work and live with true integrity, I simply couldn’t work under someone else’s standards. When you work hard for something, it has meaning to you, and you don’t want anything to ruin it. I worked hard for my career — in the military and in earning my law license. I’m certainly not willing to let anything jeopardize that — I’m not willing to compromise my integrity or put the key to my future in someone else’s pocket. That’s why I started Ally Legal.
So where do I see myself in five years?
Five years from now, my oldest child will probably be in college, or at least out of the house. My youngest will be a teenager, getting ready to start high school. I intend to be a lot more established as Ally Legal, and to have “by name” recognition in my areas of practice. And five years from that? Maybe retirement. But I’ll have built something I can be proud of — something with integrity in its own right.
Five years ago today, I wouldn’t have envisioned that I’d be running a legal firm that is gaining independence and growing to a point that I now need to choose whether I’m going to stay truly solo or expand. It’s truly a great problem to have and I’m thrilled that it is my problem.
I’m often asked by new clients: “Are you ‘Allie’ (aka Ally)?” I just have to chuckle — “No. I’m Angela.” I am more than Ally Legal. I am a whole person — a wife, a mom, Air Force veteran, and attorney. But when I started Ally Legal, I pictured it as something bigger than me, something that could keep on growing if I one day expanded, brought on partners. And I know that wherever I go from here, I want each step I take to be deliberate and meaningful. To be with integrity.
This year, I’m launching a new plan for my online presence. I’ll be starting a series of monthly posts — about Ally Legal, about my experiences and some of the worst-case scenarios you should know about to be prepared, about my past in the military, about being a mom, and about me. Because integrity isn’t just about standing for what you believe to be right, morally — it’s also about being whole, undivided, united in a purpose. I want to share my heart behind Ally Legal with all of you, peel back the curtain, and let you see Angela.
...Starting with a follow-up to the question: Where do you see yourself in five years? Because I was also asked this by a recruiter before I enlisted, and that conversation all those years ago laid the foundation that made me — and Ally Legal — who and what we are today. More on that next time!