In a café after midnight in Suzhou, China, I watch World Cup Soccer with three Chinese graduate students from Singapore. They are all MBA interns in Beijing, traveling on holiday. It’s summer 2010 and I’m in town to address an international translation conference. Our little group finds we have many mutual interests and we remain talking long into the night after the game is over.

In my twenty-five years as an international entrepreneur, I’ve started and run four businesses in five countries. The interns want to hear all the stories. I tell them about being head of sales for Apple in Russia in 1992, building the business from the ground up. I flew to every significant city in the country, from Magadan to Kaliningrad, building channels and creating retailers and support mechanisms. I tell the interns how I later started the only independent high tech distributor in the Russian Far East in Vladivostok with Apple as my founding client.

After Vladivostok, I formed a publishing company in Los Angeles with the software industry connections I’d made through Apple. With millions of books printed, fifty-two published titles and a list of strong reviews, it was a success. Five years in, however, the publishing company lost its distributor and failed in a devastating multimillion dollar bankruptcy. I converted my business assets into a high tech localization agency serving Nokia and the California videogame industry, the company I currently run. And today I am in China giving a lecture to a conference hall full of recognized experts in translation, presenting my first five minutes in Chinese. It will be the top rated session at the conference.

The interns love it. It’s the kind of adventure story all young MBA’s want to hear. Travel, success, failure, then pull yourself up by the bootstraps to try again. They are so very eager to start on their own careers and make their own stories. I smile, shake their hands, wish them the best and leave to move on to my next step.

I’m going to become a lawyer.

Why the change? While I have enjoyed participating in the rough and tumble world of business, life has changed for me. Today, I am a husband and father to four small children. Continuing my adventures in business no longer puts me alone at risk, and I must do my utmost to support my charges. While I am well aware that many law school graduates struggle after matriculating, my post-law school prospects will be enhanced by my preparation in patent law and my established connections with a number of potential clients.

Fresh from university in the 1980’s, after completing more than twenty honors courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry, I had no interest in the law. It was only when I started running businesses that I began routinely to interact with lawyers, understand what they are there for and what they can do. My interaction with the law has been with corporate attorneys, several intellectual property lawyers and, perhaps most painful and necessary, a series of bankruptcy attorneys. With few exceptions, they have been civil, straightforward, well-spoken and intelligent. As a client, I’ve learned to recognize the good ones and the bad ones. The good ones have become my conversation partners, my confidants and my friends. They help, protect and advise me.

I will be joining them and will do so wholeheartedly with a proactive plan for success as an attorney. Immediately after applying to law schools, I will start studying for the patent bar. I will take the patent exam before May to complete my certification with the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Summer 2011, making myself available for duty as a Patent Agent before and during law school.

Academically, I will target Intellectual Property. Not only does it interest me the most, but it has the most applicability to the companies that I have worked with over the past twenty years, including Apple, Nokia and Electronic Arts.

UC Davis is, without qualification, my first choice for law school. It lies close to the Bay Area, which will ensure that I maintain my business connections in the region. Further, its idyllic location makes the prospect of raising and educating my young family a joy.

During law school, I hope to be able to share my experience from the wider world. While I will be at school to read, learn and understand the law, I carry with me more than twenty-five years of experience creating businesses from scratch and doing so on three continents under a myriad of languages. It would be a waste not to share this experience with my cohort.

This decision has engendered some very close talks with my wife. This is our mutually chosen path for the future. And there are other benefits beyond joining the profession. All of my children will see their father studying at home during their formative years; I will be leading them by example down the road I wish them to take. They will be my legacy.

It will be a grand adventure. And I hope, someday twenty years from now, to be up late in some far away café with another group of young students, and entertain and encourage them with my stories of entering and practicing the law.  

One Response to “Lawyer”

  1. […] science, English or or other “soft” study. (My own reasons are published in detail here.) An interesting group; young, mature, attractive, enthusiastic. Certainly not overly cynical, […]

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