For six years he taught speech, debate and English in Chandler and Okmulgee. While teaching, he made some vital discoveries.
“I realized that as long as I was working for someone else, there would be a limit on how much I could earn,” he said. “No matter how well I did as a teacher, I was still limited. I wanted to make things happen and to be compensated based on how well I did.”
Stonecipher switched from teaching to selling insurance. On his way to a meeting in Shawnee in 1969, he was involved in a head-on collision just west of Ada.
“It was a serious accident. I had insurance that paid for my totaled car, insurance that took care of my medical bills, but I was sued by the other party and had no money for legal fees.”
Finding a lawyer wasn’t difficult, he said, but coming up with the money to pay one was.
“I thought surely there was insurance available to cover legal fees, but it didn’t exist. I thought, ‘Well, that oughta be an easy thing to do.’”
The launch of Pre-Paid Legal was time-consuming and difficult, at a time when no such legal service existed in the U.S., but Stonecipher prevailed over the years.
“We started in 1972,” Stonecipher said. “We took it a step at a time. Funding was tough, because no one else had done it. I needed help getting off the ground. It took several years of losses before we began to show a profit.”
Educating the American and Oklahoma bar associations, as well as lawyers and ordinary people who might need legal insurance, was a battle that took many years to wage.
“People didn’t know lawyers or were intimidated by them or didn’t like them,” Stonecipher said. “The legal profession was only making a living from the top 10 percent of Americans; as time went on, they began to realize it’d be better if they served 50-80 percent, but that was a long battle getting them to understand that.”