ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA —
Across the United States, men and women who spent years training to practice law are baking cakes, arranging flowers and walking dogs.
More and more lawyers - like Warren Brown - are turning their backs on their legal careers to become entrepreneurs.
“It was a good job; a lot of authority, a lot of responsibility,” Brown admitted. “I got to practice law which was interesting, but three months into it, I knew that I wasn’t going to be a happy, satisfied lawyer the rest of my life.”
He says the work didn’t call on his creative side, so he turned to another one of his interests: baking. His friends and coworkers encouraged the move.
Warren Brown frosts a cake at his CakeLove bakery, Arlington, VA, September 22, 2014 - J.Taboh, VOA
“I brought in cakes to work, I would bring them to parties, I’d show friends what I was doing and people all said the same thing, 'You should build a business around this, you should open a cake shop. You should sell these,’” he said.
And that’s exactly what he did. After two years of practicing law, Brown traded the courtroom for the kitchen. He opened his first CakeLove bakery in Washington in 2002, and soon added another in nearby Virginia. He employs more than a dozen assistants who help him create his popular cakes and cupcakes.
“If you’re in the food business, you got to get something out of the fact that people are going to eat your product,” he said. “You need to want to share and I do and it gives me a lot of pleasure to know that people are enjoying CakeLove and it’s not just people that I’m handing the product to, it’s beyond that and it just warms my heart.”
A growing exodus
According to a recent survey by the American Bar Foundation, almost 20% of lawyers who passed the Bar exam in 2000 were not practicing law in 2012. A study by the American Bar Association suggests that 45 percent of attorneys are dissatisfied with their work.
And those numbers are growing.
Casey Berman is a former lawyer and founder of the blog Leave Law Behind. He helps unhappy attorneys transition to other careers.
“Often times, people go to law school not necessarily for the wrong reason, but they just sometimes don’t think about it critically,” he said. “And they end up in a job where they really haven’t researched, explored, assessed or optimized their skills and there’s that disconnect.”
He estimates that 40 to 50 percent of the million or so lawyers in the U.S. are unhappy or have considered doing something else.
Warren Brown, for one, says he’s happy to have found a satisfying alternative.
“I’m very, very happy that I am not practicing law," he said as he frosted a cake. "I’m very happy to be in business as an entrepreneur.”