Monthly Archives: October 2013

From Lawyer to Professional Foodie

_MG_7351WB from above with straw shortcakeOne of my favorite kinds of Life After Law stories is the “law to food” transition.  When I left Big Law, I thought seriously about starting a food tour company, since I loved sharing cool new food finds with friends.  I also thought about working for Whole Foods, for entirely different reasons.  Although my own transition led me elsewhere, there are many true, inspiring stories of lawyers who made the switch into foodie careers, including:

* Valerie Beck, who left corporate law to work for Mary Kay and then to build an empire of chocolate walking tour companies, including Chicago Chocolate Tours and similar operations in Boston and Philadelphia.  I admire Valerie not only because she channeled her love and encyclopedic knowledge of chocolate into a career that fits her outgoing personal style, but because she gives back in so many ways.  She helps other women entrepreneurs through her WIN network, and partners with a different charity in every city she tours in.

Warren Brown, pictured above, who left government practice to bake cakes and became a hugely successful entrepreneur.  Warren is the founder of CakeLove, the popular cupcake bakery chain around Washington DC, the author of several cookbooks, and a former Food Network star.  His most recent success is Cake in a Jar.  I had the chance to taste some of this amazing stuff in the development stage, and the buttercream frosting literally made me swoon.

* Shannon Liss-Riordan, who hasn’t left law per se, but who is balancing her career as one of the most successful wage-and-hour litigators in the country with a sideline as co-owner of the Just Crust, a cooperatively owned pizzeria in Cambridge, MA.  The Just Crust rose from the ashes of the Upper Crust, a pizzeria chain that she successfully argued was underpaying its workers and which subsequently filed for bankruptcy.   I find it especially wonderful that Shannon is running a restaurant when she has built her career by ensuring fair treatment for restaurant and coffee shop workers.

* Robert Rook, the lawyer who founded the Emack & Bolio’s ice cream empire in Boston.  Rook represented rock and roll musicians, and worked closely with the homeless on the side.  He named his “hippie” ice cream chain after two of his pro bono clients in 1975.  My advice for first-time visitors to E&B is “peanut butter oreo.”  You won’t be sorry.

Readers, have you left law for a food-related career?  Are you thinking about it?  What kind of foodie life after law do you want for yourself?

Valerie and Warren are among the 30 ex-lawyers profiled in my new book, Life After Law: Finding Work You Love with the JD You Have.  Get your hard copy or e-copy now!

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Your Life Begins Where Your Comfort Zone Ends.

Leap-of-FaithBefore I figured out my post-law life, going to law school alumni events made me queasy.  Thank goodness I got over that, so I could bring you some of the wisdom I heard last weekend at the Harvard Law School alumnae fest that happens every five years.  My favorite panel was one of two called “My Brilliant but Unusual Career” (seriously, they had so many interesting non-lawyer alums that they needed two panels).  Here are some useful sound bites.  All quotes are approximate – I didn’t have a proper recording device.

Sarah Hurwitz, a speechwriter for the First Lady, on risk:  “When you think about risk, think about it in a big way.  Think also about the risks of staying where you are, which can be just as scary.”

On looking down the road to determine whether you should change direction: “If I keep on the path I’m on, I’m going to end up somewhere I don’t want to go.”

On the importance of competing for jobs even when you are not the perfect candidate: “People make impressive narratives out of the half -mess that is their lives.  Be wary of being overly impressed by anyone.”

Susan Estrich: On her path from presidential campaign manager to tenured Harvard Law professor to LA lawyer: “Life is a series of decisions and most of us don’t have complete control over all the factors that go into those decisions.”

Silda Wall Spitzer: On the discomfort of leadership: “If you have never been in a position where you’re afraid, where you felt like you had to fake it until you could make it, you haven’t pushed yourself into a real leadership position.”

Jamienne Studley:  On choosing what to do when confronted with multiple interesting opportunities:  “At a number of my pivot points, I’ve tried to ask, ‘what a the chances that something like this will only exist today?’ I’ve tried to do the things that might not be available later.”  Also, “resilient is maybe more important than smart.”

If you, like me, have ever felt uncomfortable about drawing on your network, alumni or otherwise, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to reconsider that reticence.  You’d be surprised at the number of people outside of the competitive law firm environment who enjoy mentoring.  Many people like to help other people just as much, and maybe more, than getting help themselves.   Even law school alumni can help you move outside of law, as these panelists did.  Your own networks include people who can offer this kind of guidance and the connections that will help you figure out and succeed in your own life after law.  Connecting with potential role models may give you the confidence you need to take your next step toward a better-fitting career.

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