Want to Chuck Your Legal Career and Become an Entrepreneur? A Report From the Field

Jeanne PiIf you’ve ever considered taking your law career and throwing it away for the chance to do what you really want to do, you’re going to love today’s interview with Jeanne Pi of AppsBlogger!

Jeanne’s a former lawyer, and a serial entrepreneur, who shares what she’s learned along the way. Her latest project offers a glimpse into how “one person (me) with no programming skills can launch a successful mobile app business.” Check it out!

And now, without further ado…

Alison: People like to say that a law degree is “really flexible” and opens lots of doors. I don’t necessarily agree, but you might be living proof, given the variety of things you’ve done since graduating from law school! Do you feel like going to law school ultimately helped, or hindered, your career progress?

Jeanne: Having a law degree did not open those doors for me.

I would’ve knocked them down with or without a law degree!

Seriously though, I attribute the variety of things I pursued to my “Scanner” DNA (sounds science fiction, doesn’t it?).

Actually, “Scanner” is a term author Barbara Sher coined in her book Refuse to Choose: “To Scanners the world is like a big candy store full of fascinating opportunities, and all they want is to reach out and stuff their pocket. . . . Intense curiosity about numerous unrelated subjects is one of the most basic characteristics of a Scanner. Scanners are endlessly inquisitive.” So, yeah, I’m a Scanner.

In the years since graduating from law school, I’ve started a few business ventures before finally settling in on my current one. I’ve had many failures (including a short-lived law practice), but learned to quickly move on.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity or self-doubt every time I “failed,” I saw it as getting one step closer to knowing exactly what I want to do with my professional life.

And though I was unsure of my path, I was certain that I didn’t want to work for someone else.

I do agree that having a law degree does lend a certain amount of credibility.

It definitely helped when I was putting together a real estate group investing in a multi-million dollar property. So, maybe the law degree did make it easier for those doors to open for me. But to make it THROUGH those doors, though, is a whole ‘nother story.

Ultimately, I think the skills I learned in law school are what gave me the confidence to pursue my many entrepreneurial endeavors.

And having that confidence can make all the difference in the world. It’s the difference between actually doing something to achieve your dreams or just sitting on the sidelines dreamin’.

I’m a law student who’s interested in the intersection of law and technology. I’m not sure if I want to practice law, or become a tech entrepreneur. What can I do while I’m in law school to help me decide?

Whatever you *think* you would like to do after law school, don’t wait. Try it out while you’re still in school.

Want to be a litigator? Clerk for a judge. Want to start your own practice? Work for a solo attorney. Want to be a tax attorney? You get the idea.

And no excuses about how there’s no clerking opportunities or legal jobs for law students. If you offer free labor, all sorts of opportunities will open up. Creativity and a little chutzpah can go a long way. Trust me, this upfront investment of your time can save you from wasting a lot more down the road.

The same thing goes for the tech field.

Understand that there is great risk involved in being an entrepreneur, and some people just can’t stomach all the stress and uncertainty.

You have to be really honest with yourself.

And don’t buy into the seemingly glamorous side of being a tech entrepreneur. You need to first ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you need to earn a decent salary to survive and pay for that high student loan?
  • Do you have enough savings or financial support to get you through the difficult first year(s)?
  • Are you willing to work slave-like hours for very little financial reward, if any?
  • Is this truly the lifestyle you seek?

Having said that, one of the great things I got out of law school is that there’s always an argument to be made, no matter how difficult the position is you’re taking. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. So, even though the odds of “making it” as a tech entrepreneur are stacked against you, if you have the passion for what you do and have an unwavering belief in your idea(s), you can just ignore everybody and climb your own private Mount Everest. Just know what you’re getting yourself into.

And one important piece of advice: please don’t mistake a hobby for a business. Having an interest in technology is a long way from turning it into a money-making enterprise.

Could you talk a bit about what you do in an average day at work, and how it’s similar to, or different from, what you thought you’d be doing when you started law school?

If you haven’t listened to the reality check podcast above, I strongly urge you to do it. Listening to Penelope drill the guy really puts the solopreneur lifestyle in context. And it will help you understand and appreciate the amount of sacrifice that must be made behind the scenes of an online business like mine.

I work 7 days a week and I love what I do! During the weekdays, I am on my computer 12-15 hours a day. What do I do during those 12-15 hours? This graphic illustrates all the things I have to deal with in operating an online business. As you can see, there is a LOT to do.

But you know what? Every day is different, and I’m never bored.

In addition to writing posts for my blog and networking with other bloggers, I’m currently working on three major projects for my business: (1) developing a mobile app; (2) writing an ebook on app promotion; and (3) creating a template-based product. I have so many ideas down the pipe, just not enough time to implement them. That’s the dilemma.

Anyway, what I’m doing now is definitely very different from what I thought I’d be doing when I started law school. I thought I’d be some type of transactional lawyer for a large firm working in an office building. Instead, I’m a solo entrepreneur working from home. My work day doesn’t end, it continues. But I’m lovin’ every minute of it.

Can you say the same about your career choice? If not, it’s time for some self-reflection. Life’s too short to slave away for a career you’re not passionate about.

It took me more than 12 years of trial and error, but I finally got it. I am now following in the footsteps of Brian Clark (of Copyblogger fame), another ex-lawyer who found success in the online world. It’s a wild and crazy ride and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Thanks, Jeanne! Best of luck with AppsBlogger, and we’ll look forward to an update on your progress.

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