The paths to becoming a lawyer-entrepreneur are several. However, it seems the most common scenario is to do so after practicing for a few years. In the words of one of our law contacts: "Several of my law school classmates were interested in starting their own business, but didn't jump into it right away. It's a big step to graduate and not practice, particularly when you have loans to pay off."
Naturally, certain practice areas seem lend themselves better to lawyers looking to make the leap into entrepreneurship. One former Cravath, Swaine & Moore insider tells Vault.com: "If you're interested in starting your own business, corporate finance and securities offerings is your best bet. I have friends at Cravath who are constantly reading businesses prospectuses, and it's a great way to get contact with entrepreneurs."
Practicing for a few years can have other advantages beyond getting experience and paying off loans. Consider, for example, the case of Josh Rochlin, a former associate at New York's Rubin Baum Levin Constant & Friedman, and founder of MyCalendar.com, a Web-based personal organizer. According to the New York Law Journal, Rochlin's decision to leave Rubin Baum was anything but unfriendly. In exchange for a six percent equity stake, the firm invested $400,000 in Rochlin's new venture, and even offered the entrepreneur the use of an office at the firm. Despite non-existent revenues and a uncertain future, the fledgling business has many at the firm buzzing, including its chairman, who enthusiastically commented to the NYLJ: "It's a unique time. Never in my 40 years of practicing of law have I seen anything like this."~
Scenario two: Diving right in
Most career specialists will counsel against going through three years of law school with the sole intention of starting a business. However, having a law degree will never hurt an entrepreneur, even those fresh out of law school. For one, entrepreneurs with legal training will have the ability to draft contracts, choose a corporate structure, and better deal with investors. The JD also gives an entrepreneur a certain sense of confidence. "You learn how not to let contracts push you around," one lawyer-entrepreneur tells Vault.com, adding: "Also, inevitably in business, some yahoo tells you he's going to sue you, and you learn how groundless such a threat is."
As with practicing attorneys, would-be entrepreneurs currently enrolled in law school should think about focusing on certain areas, notably courses in corporate finance, securities law, accounting, tax, advanced contracts, intellectual property, and anything related to venture financing. If possible, specialists highly recommend taking business school classes in areas such as marketing, entrepreneurial management, and strategy. Finally, 1Ls thinking about becoming entrepreneurs should consider spending their first-year summer working at a start-up or small-business, particularly in departments such as business development, where a law background is desirable.
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