When I lived in Washington, DC, I regularly frequented the delicious bakery CakeLove to buy cupcakes for friends’ birthdays, or just to snag a few fresh-baked morsels from the free sample plate. According to CakeLove’s website, its founder Warren Brown “left a career practicing law to pursue his passion for baking.” That was nearly 15 years ago, and today the DC food scene is full of ex-attorneys, reports The Washington Post. In DC you can find cake companies, an ice cream shop, wine bars and even a sloppy joe food truck that were all founded by lawyers who wanted more out of a career than brief-writing and due diligence. Other Beltway lawyers have started tech companies such as an online consignment shop, Snobswap, and a website called Activity Rocket that helps busy parents sign their kids up for extra-curricular activities. Not surprisingly, these entrepreneurs reported to the Post that their new ventures fulfill their desires to be creative in a way that a legal career did not. Some report using their legal skills (such as contract interpretation) on a regular basis; others prefer to leave such tasks to their paid attorneys (which would certainly be my preference).
Any JD who has thought about leaving the practice of law to pursue other goals, whether it be opening a wine store, a woodworking shop or a tech startup, should find these examples inspiring. It takes a lot of guts and planning to go from a career as an attorney to starting a small business, a notoriously risky venture. Then again, the legal business can be a risky one these days too. The important choice that these ex-lawyers made was to apply their strong work ethic and independent thinking to projects that they found exciting, rather than continuing on a path that was not making them happy.
DISCLAIMER: There is a difference in believing “you can do anything with a law degree” after you have decided lawyering isn’t for you, and going to law school because of that belief. The latter is a mistake in this day and age. Leaving your legal career behind because it’s making you miserable, to pursue something you love? No regrets! And potentially, lots of cash (and/or cupcakes).
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