Field of Dreams and Legal Entrepreneurism

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The opening day of baseball, three months delayed because of the pandemic, is tomorrow.

The New York Yankees will play the World Series Champions, Washington Nationals while the San Francisco Giants visit the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the O’Keefe house, the night before opening day, Sunday in the old days when baseball always started on Monday, meant watching Field of Dreams – and seeing how long it would be before Dad started crying.

I don’t recall where I first saw Field of Dreams or whom I was with. I do remember the last time – a couple weeks ago on July 4, on the side of a pole barn building parked in a small grass field on Vashon Island, a ferry ride off Seattle.

I made it all the way till Ray’s dad walked out of the corn and asked, “Is this heaven?” before crying this time.

Watching the Field of Dreams on the Fourth I couldn’t help but wonder just how many entrepreneurs were guided and inspired by the movie to go forward with their dreams.

How many companies were founded and built because of the “Field of Dreams?”

I left a law firm to start my own law firm and closed the firm, without any financial backing, to move my family two thousand miles from home to Seattle to start one company, and then my current company, LexBlog.

In each case, no matter how crazy my cause, I knew I would succeed. I was totally guided by “If you build it they will come.”

Look at some of the lines in Field of Dreams, which many of us know by heart. They’re the stuff that legal entrepreneurs eat up.

On the importance of not waiting “for other days” to act on your dreams, look at the exchange between Doc (“Moonlight”) Graham (Burt Lancaster) and Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) about Doc not acting on his dream to be a Major League baseball player.

Doc Graham: It was like coming this close to your dreams and then watch them brush past you like a stranger in a crowd. At the time, you don’t think much of it. You know, we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, ‘Well, there’ll be other days.’ I didn’t realize that that was the only day. And now, Ray Kinsella, I want to ask you a question. What’s so interesting about a half an inning that would make you come all the way from Iowa to talk to me about it 50 years after it happened?

Ray Kinsella: I really didn’t know till just now, but I think it’s to ask you if you could do anything you wanted, if you could have a-a wish.

Dr. Graham: And that you’re the kind of a man who could grant me that wish?

Ray Kinsella: I don’t know. I’m just asking.

Dr. Graham: Well, you know, I-I never got to bat in the major leagues. I’d have liked to have had that chance just once, to stare down a big-league pitcher. To stare him down, then just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn’t. That’s what I wish for. The chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingle in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases, stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That’s my wish, Ray Kinsella. That’s my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?

Ray Kinsella: What would you say if I said yes?

Dr. Graham: I think I’d actually believe you.

On knowing that things will work out, no matter that others can’t see what you can clearly see ahead, look at Terence Mann’s (James Earl Jones) assurance to Ray that people will come to his ball field in the middle of an Iowa corn field.

Terence Mann: People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, we won’t mind if you look around”, you’ll say. “It’s only $20 per person”. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it, for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game; it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh…people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

And on knowing when you’ve achieved your dreams, no matter how small or big they may be, check out this exchange between Ray and his dad, John Kinsella, a ghost (Dwyer Brown), while playing the catch they never had while father and son.

Ray Kinsella: You catch a good game.

John Kinsella: Thank you. It’s so beautiful here. For me, well, for me, it’s like a dream come true. Can I ask you something? Is, is this heaven?

Ray Kinsella: It’s — it’s Iowa.

John Kinsella: I could have sworn it was heaven.

Ray: Is there a heaven?

John Kinsella: Oh, yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.

Ray: Maybe this is heaven.

I’ve not told many people that I chose Seattle as the place to start my first company because the Mariners were building a new baseball park. Meant the team couldn’t move, something regularly threatened by My boyhood team, the Minnesota Twins. A field of dreams that I could take my family to.

Living 140 miles from Minneapolis and the Twins, I didn’t see many games. My dad worked a lot and going to a major league game wasn’t realistic.

So when a Silicon Valley venture capitalist liked my dream of a virtual legal community, but said I’d need to move to there, Austin, Boston, or Seattle to get funding, I chose Seattle, a city where I didn’t know one person.

Looking back, I think I am like a lot of legal entrepreneurs, whether the founder of a legal tech company or their own law firm.

There was the moment in time when I knew it was then or never that I needed to act. No matter that others couldn’t see the dream, I knew that if I built it (hired great people, invested time and money), they would come.

And in the end, knowing I arrived at some place special – the place where dreams come true. I felt blessed in being able to help others and being able to care for my family at the same time – still do.

So when I watch Field of Dreams tonight, it’ll not be just baseball I’ll be thinking about, it’ll be about making my dreams and the dreams of others come true.

If you’re an entrepreneur, or thinking about becoming one, I hope you’ll watch along.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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