Last year, Washington native Courtney Weiner founded her own law firm. Now 38, she works at her one-person firm on consumer protection law.
First off, tell us what it was like to found your own law firm.
Well, it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was some combination of exhilarating, empowering, terrifying and incredibly rewarding.
What was the moment you realized you wanted to start your own business?
Part of it was that I did a 17-day solo trip to Australia and came back feeling like I could take on the world. Right around the time I came back [when I was working in a small law firm] I had this brief I had to write. It was the sort of brief where, had I been at a big law firm, I would have written the original draft and maybe eight people would have looked at it and made changes because that’s the way big law firms work.
With this, I did the whole thing. My colleague gave me some thoughts, but I did almost all of it myself. I didn’t leave my apartment for four days. I worked like 15- or 16-hour days and I didn’t care because I felt ownership over it. That was the moment where I realized not only could I start my own firm, but I wanted to.
Why do you find this type of law to be fulfilling?
To put it simply, I’m helping people. I’m helping widows who are getting notices of foreclosure even though they are paying their mortgage and the bank is refusing their checks because of some glitch in the bank system. Or I’m helping a member of the military who is dealing with security clearance issues because there was an error on his credit report.
These are issues that have a very real impact on people’s lives. I’ve had people call me crying, a lot of my clients have had serious health problems as a result of the stress that this puts them through. And what I can do first of all is listen, which is something that is on its own pretty powerful. And second, I can try to get them a little justice. We’re not living in a world where corporate cultures are big on justice, so being able for people to get that is incredibly fulfilling.
What do you like to do outside of work?
My passion is cooking.
What type of food do you like to cook?
I like to do seasonal stuff and international stuff. I have a ridiculous number of spices in my spice rack. I don’t get to cook nearly as much as I used to because I’m working harder than I ever have, but I do find it to be very relaxing. And I’ve been a vegetarian for more than 30 years.
Meat grossed me out and I was a strong-willed child. Not much has changed. When I was young, my parents took me to the doctor and said “[being a vegetarian is] not healthy, right?” and the doctor said, “Oh, no it’s fine.” My mom glared at him and learned how to cook tofu. But no, my parents have been very supportive, and after maybe 10 years they figured out that it wasn’t a phase.
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I discovered you in a most unusual way. I was searching the food network for a good recipe for roast duck, and yours was my choice. I had never heard of you, so I checked you out on Google. I am most impressed with you and your illustrious career. The duck dinner turned out to be terrific. Your recipe is the best one I’ve ever used!
Good luck to you with your career.