What makes an entrepreneur? Is it the passion for business, or the desire to become a high net-worth individual, or is it more than that? According to experts studying the field as well as Willie Powells, the award-winning immensely successful lawyer entrepreneur, the making of an entrepreneur needs just two things – the intense eagerness to solve a problem, and the passion to help people through the proposed solution.
Texas-based personal injury lawyer, Willie, has been the President and CEO of the Law Offices of Willie D. Powells III & Associates, PLLC for over 10 years now and he has dedicated his time and efforts to change the face of personal injury litigation in his state. He represents clients in a variety of legal matters with an emphasis on criminal law, complicated disputes, and personal injury. Today, he is an inspirational and aspirational figure for anyone who is looking to start their own business in a way that gives meaning to their lives.
What makes Powells so relatable and inspirational is that like many of us, he didn’t start his life with the dream of becoming a lawyer, but struggled a lot to find his true passion. Born and raised in Houston, Texas in a family of entrepreneurs, and inspired by his doctor entrepreneur mother, initially he seriously considered medicine as his profession. However, with parents’ advice against it and mulling over quite a few areas like music and sports, he ultimately chose a special-program high school for engineering professionals, and ended up in Drexel University, Pennsylvania, to study Chemical engineering with full scholarship from National Action Council For Minorities in Engineering (NACME), who, in his words, “gave him a full ride” for his studies.
It is Drexel University that virtually changed Willie’s life. He met his mentor, Professor Cato Laurencin, a graduate from Princeton, Harvard, and MIT, with an MD in Orthopedic surgery, and a PhD who had a scientific research lab in Drexel fully assigned to him. It inspired Willie that Laurecin was an African-American just like him, who must have gone through all the complications like racial bias and being different than his peers, just like him, and still became such an erudite and ultra-powerful figure. Laurencin took a liking to the hardworking and sincere Willie and pushed him to explore beyond his limits to find his genuine drive.
It wasn’t until the third year of Drexel that he truly became sure of his passion in law and chose South Texas College of Law in Houston with the aim of starting his practice in his hometown. According to him, “law school was a whole new world”. Yet, after getting in, he concluded that he found his true passion at last. Employing the strict discipline and scheduling he picked up in engineering school, Willie sailed through law school and started with corporate law in Exxon Mobil in his first year. Willie later went on to work in Sports & Entertainment law with The Houston Texans in the fourth year of his JD MBA.
In his second year, owing to his expertise in science, he pursued patent and intellectual property law at one of the few women-owned law offices in Houston, which had prestigious customers like AT&T. Even though being one of the handful of female attorneys, Wendy Buskop, was a huge inspiring figure for him, Willie realized it was litigation and winning arguments in a courtroom that fascinated him more, and so he went to work for a larger law firm to gain such experience. But there was a problem. He says, “I received a phone call from my sister, asking me a very basic question regarding a law issue, and I did not know the answer. Here I was, working at this huge law firm, making huge checks, and I don’t know the answer to a basic law question.” On top of it, he learnt that the firm was downsizing, meaning he was in a ”sink or fly” situation now. “So I chose to fly”, he says. He decided to use this as an opportunity to begin his own venture and thus marked the beginning of the Law Offices of Willie D. Powells III & Associates PLLC.
Even after starting his practice, Powells didn’t exactly jump into the field of litigation. Determined to gain real ground experience, he worked for almost 1.5 years with a couple of his friends who owned a small general service boutique law firm and tried his hand in a little of everything – tax, family, criminal and injury law. This is the moment where Powells came across Mary McCray and his life was met with a turning point.
Mary and her sister got into a severe accident involving a commercial truck. Willie had heard this terrible news through his involvement in the church. Despite being pursued by numerous massive law firms, Mary trusted Willie and stuck with him till the end. Willie had a personal conviction to make sure she got everything that she needed to fight the case, including financial assistance, top-notch expertise and countless hours of diligent work. Together, they won! This was not only life changing for Mary but has become the foundation of his long and flourishing career in Personal Injury law.
Working in the field with known people, Powells understood how personal injury cases can take a toll on a family – it can go on for years and get them bankrupt in exchange for a tiny settlement. This is what drove Powells to pick this area to specialize and try to make a difference. His genuine compassion for his clients, getting them reasonably high settlements in budget price, and winning the majority of cases soon brought him to notice. Mary’s huge tangible and intangible family became some of his biggest referrals and people from all over the town started to prefer him over other bigger firms.
Today, the Law Offices of Willie D. Powells III & Associates, PLLC, is massively flourishing, a multi-award-winning business with million-dollar verdicts, and over a thousand successful client base. Yet, even today, Powells makes sure that all his clients are treated just like his first client – with utmost care and dedication. Despite such consistent prosperity, Powells has maintained his humility and continues to give all the glory to God. And that’s what marks a true entrepreneur and a successful person in general – faith in oneself, trust in a higher power, and giving back to people. Even as a child, Powells says, his friends used to come to him to help them get out of trouble – for negotiating with parents and/or teachers. He didn’t know it then, but he feels these were the first ever law practice cases for him. Reminiscing, he says, “Life truly comes full circle”.