10 Former Lawyers That Followed Their Passions

10 Former Lawyers That Followed Their Passions

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We all go to law school thinking we are going to change the world, broker mergers and alter history by arguing our cases in front of the Supreme Court. However, once we actually become practicing attorneys, we realize most of our days involve sitting at our desks for at least 15 hours a day, following marching orders from higher ups and reviewing thousands of documents from the past five years in one given night.

The most intelligent and driven people that I know are law firm associates. Not until I stopped practicing law — and got into law firm marketing — did I realize that the caliber of these people was different from what you find in other industries. They are hard working, highly motivated, have both the endurance of a marathon runner and the quickness of a sprinter, but most importantly they are incredibly reliable. Reputation is of the utmost importance to lawyers so when they are given an assignment, they always deliver, even if it means giving up their weekend plans or shirking their spousal duties.

There is no doubt a handful of very happy lawyers and we need you to stay put! However, with regards to the ones that are dissatisfied with their lives, it pains me to see such talented people with great potential, stuck in jobs they aren’t passionate about. Although they have ambitions to write screenplays, start businesses or teach rhetoric, they rarely pull the trigger. As inspiration, below are 10 lawyers that used their law degrees to pursue their passions. Hopefully this will encourage the unhappy souls out there to do the same.

1) Richard Appel / Harvard Law

In college, Richard wrote for the Harvard Lampoon, Harvard’s undergraduate humor publication, and immediately found his passion in life. However, instead of pursuing comedic writing, he went off to law school. Richard worked for two years as a law clerk and served as an assistant to the US Attorney for SDNY before writing for and serving as executive producer to some of the hottest adult cartoons of our time; The Simpsons, King of the Hill and Family Guy. He won three Showtime Emmy Awards. Now tell me you don’t want to be this guy?

2) David Daniel Otunga Sr. / Harvard Law

David is a professional wrestler and two time WWE Tag Team Champion. He is also married to the beautiful and talented singer/actress Jennifer Hudson. After graduating from law school, he briefly worked for Sidley Austin in Chicago. In a recent interview, he told the reporter that he always wanted to be a WWE Champion but that his mother told him that he should have a “fallback plan.” He joked by saying that he told his mom “Hey Mom, I’ve graduated from Harvard, and I’m a lawyer at the best law firm in Chicago. I did what you said, so can I follow my dreams now?” Oh parents…

3)Nina and Tim Zagat / Yale Law

Nina practiced at Shearman & Sterling prior to moving to Paris to join her husband who was working for Hughes Hubbard. While in Paris, they started compiling a list of Parisian restaurants they liked and came up with the idea of a restaurant rating guide book. How cute is this story? The cutest, once you find out that they sold their business to Google for around $150 million. Quel bonheur!

4) Tucker Max / Duke Law

Tucker Max is an acclaimed, and self proclaimed, asshole of an author who is known for his sexcapades and drunken bouts. His book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell topped the NY Times Bestseller list. In fact, an email he sent to his friends detailing his experience as a summer associate at Fenwick & West, which mostly included showing up to work drunk, getting black out drunk at every summer event and makingdrunken inappropriate sexual comments to colleagues (just to clarify, he was always drunk), was the impetus for his climb to stardom. Unfortunately, it also led to him being fired. When asked if he regrets his poor decisions while summering at Fenwick he said “I mean yes I would have liked to have kept making $2,400 a week for the summer, but in the end, it was probably the best thing for me. I hated being a lawyer, but the money was so good, I don’t know if I would have ultimately had the courage to quit on my own. I would have languished in a job I hated, doing just enough to get by, and would become bitter and disillusioned, like almost every lawyer I know.”

His net worth is close to $5 million and he is now holding himself out to be a serious (and sober) angel investor…

5) Jerry Springer / Northwestern University of Law

Jerry, best known for his talk show, The Jerry Springer Show, started his career as a political campaign adviser to Robert F Kennedy, followed by becoming the mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio. After unsuccessfully running for governor of Ohio, he got recruited to be a television anchor by WLWT during which time he earned 7 Emmys before becoming the host of his own talk show. In 2008, he gave the commencement speech at Northwestern Law School’s graduation where he humbled the audience who he knew frowned upon his choice in lifestyle and career when he said “I am not superior to the people on my show, and you are not superior to the people you will represent. That is not an insult. It is merely an understanding derived from a life spent on the front lines of human interaction.”

6) Ben Stein / Yale Law

Although Ben was a trial attorney for the FTC, taught briefly at American University and Pepperdine, and was a speech writer for Richard Nixon, he is best known for his role as an econ teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Want a mental reminder of the scene? Anyone? Anyone?

7) David Lat/ Yale Law

David Lat needs no introduction. We all know him and read his blog religiously. David co-founded and became Managing Editor of Above the Law, a website covering the legal profession, which garners over one million unique visitors a month. He got a ton of media attention when he broke the news of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s impending bankruptcy. The precursor to Above the Law was Underneath Their Robes, a tabloid-esque blog about federal judges, which he anonymously published during his time at the US Attorney’s Office. When he was revealed as the author, he resigned from his position and was quoted saying “When you’re a prosecutor, originality and personality are not rewarded. When I was blogging, I felt like an individual, like I had my own opinions.” Those are some powerful words David.

8) Andy Bloch/ Harvard Law

Andy is a recognized poker player who has won over $4 million in Word Series tournaments. Equally impressive is that he was part of the MIT Blackjack team, the inspiration for the book Bringing Down The House and subsequently the feature film 21. Andy played cards all his life, but after getting bored at his engineering job, he decided to go to law school, which he paid for with his poker earnings. He infamously missed his last week of classes during his 1L and 2L in order to play in the Word Series.

9) Jeff Kwatinetz / Harvard Law

Jeff was the CEO and founder of The Firm, a talent management company, prior to founding Prospect Park. His client list is A list and includes Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Vin Diesel and Backstreet Boys. There is actually very little public information about Jeff, and it seems he would like to keep it that way.

10)Peter Thiel / Stanford Law

A member of the Paypal Mafia (which also includes Reid Hoffman who later founded Linkedin and Elon Musk who founded SpaceX and Tesla Motors), Peter founded Paypal in 1998. Previously, Peter clerked for US Court of Appeals for 11th Circuit and then joined Credit Suisse’s Derivatives group. Peter made $55 million when Paypal sold to Ebay and has since founded and invested in other startup ideas. In 2004, he made an early angel investment of $500,000 into Facebook for 10.2% of equity. He also started the Founders Fund, a VC fund to continue investing in budding startups, and Palatir Technologies. His net worth is close to $2 billion.

There was quite a buzz around the class that he taught at Stanford on startups. Notes from this class, which have been praised by the startup community, can be read here.

As you may have noticed, these people are not known for going to prestigious law schools or for their work as practicing attorneys. They are known for doing something out of the ordinary and being successful at it.

What do you want to be remembered for?


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About the author

Allen Rodriguez Allen Rodriguez is a legal product development strategist who has been serving the legal industry for over 21 years. Over the course of his career, Allen has built a reputation for creating innovative legal services products as well as developing highly effective law firm business and marketing strategies. Allen is a valued speaker on the topics of law marketing, legal services product development, and future of law issues.

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