Welcome back to Thrillable Hours, my interview series about alternative careers for lawyers.
For newer Legal Nomads readers: a little background. I decided to start the Thrillable Hours series as a way to spotlight lawyers and former lawyers who were doing interesting things. On my travels, so many people have asked if I regretted my law degree or years working long hours in New York. I found myself explaining again and again that my legal education served me well, that my time in New York gave me skills I am grateful for. While I feel much more fulfilled and excited about my line of work now, at no point did I regret my prior career. This got me thinking: how did other lawyers feel? Be it those who left the practice of law altogether, or those who opted for something a little less conventional, I wanted to learn about their stories and how their legal education influenced the way they saw the world.
This new instalment is with Scott Jordan, who co-founded the popular travel technology clothing line Scottevest with his wife Laura. It was my friend Gary (from Everything Everywhere) who put us in touch; Gary works with Scottevest and thought Scott would make a great Thrillable Hours candidate. This word-of-mouth referral has become a great source of new interview subjects, so if anyone has a lawyer in mind for the series, please send them my way!
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What made you decide to follow a less conventional path than typical law school graduates? Was there a particular moment that catalyzed the decision for you?
I did practice law for a while when I graduated from law school. I never fully intended to, but I did really well in law school, and I was offered a great deal of money at large firm. I like to call this the “golden handcuffs” stage. I was always looking for a way to escapt the law, basically. I realized I was miserable…I tried to move away from the strictly legal work by accepting a partnership position at an internet company (thinking I would be more involved in the business side), but I was always considered the “lawyer.” It was a long and winding path, but I finally realized that the best way – maybe the only way – for me to go on as a businessman was to start my own company.
What do you find most fulfilling about your current job?
I control my own destiny. My income is not limited by the hours that I bill, I am not dealing with clients, so my work is exactly what I want it to be. My dealings with lawyers are as limited as possible. I love the environment at my company – the fast pace, the ideas, the energy, the people – it makes for a totally different experience than I had in law.
Do you have any advice for professionals who are interested in leaving conventional private practice but concerned about what is out there?
If you’re miserable, you owe it to yourself to make the change. When you take the risk, the worst thing that will happen is that you go bankrupt, which in this country isn’t that big of a deal. Being unhappy is always a big deal.
How did your legal education inform the way you see the world today? Do you still identify yourself as a lawyer?
I identify myself very deliberately as an EX-lawyer. My legal education does enable me to understand the legal issues that businesses face. It allows me to filter them and to recognize those that are important. I am not afraid of the legal issues, in short, and a brief history of my company will prove that. Overall, I was good at law but very unhappy – in one sense, this dissatisfaction pushed me to do something totally different, and something that I love. For that I’m grateful.
What do you have to say to those who tell me lawyers can’t have fun?
They’re right! From my perspective, I’d agree. The nature of the field – the pressures and the restrictions – does not, in my experience, propagate “fun.”
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Scott E. Jordan is the co-founder and CEO of Scottevest, Inc., a clothing company whose trademark is multi-pocketed clothing especially geared toward the tech crowd. He practiced real estate and corporate law with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and DLA Piper, both based in Chicago, IL. He then left corporate law and served as counsel for a new dot-com, Next50.com. He was commuting between Chicago and New Jersey and had the idea for a vest to serve the modern professional – to hold all the gadgets and gear conveniently. Shortly thereafter, Jordan founded Scottevest and TEC-Technology Enabled Clothing, and applied for a patent for their Personal Area Network system of wire management. You can find Scottevest’s Facebook page here.