Author: Alison Monahan
Here at The Girl’s Guide, we’re a sucker for lawyer-turned-entrepreneurs. (I wonder why.)
Today, we’re excited to introduce you to Elizabeth Leonard, a Penn Law grad who left her public interest law job to create Blue Bridge Project, which provides life-changing travel experiences to high-school students.
Ever wanted to chuck your law job and travel the world? Well, Elizabeth actually did it! Here’s her story:
You have an interesting background, in that you went to law school, worked as a public interest lawyer, then started the Blue Bridge Project. This path from law to entrepreneur is one that’s happening a lot these days. Was this your plan when you started law school, or did it develop afterwards? How did you decide that entrepreneurship was right for you?
I knew going into law school that I wouldn’t love litigation (I was probably the only law school student who enrolled without seeing a single episode of Law & Order!) but I certainly did not know that I would start my own business within 3 years of graduation.
I went into public interest law because it afforded me the quickest path of learning what it was really like to be a “traditional” lawyer.
I liked working as a public interest lawyer, particularly when I interacted with clients, but the glacial pace of litigation was frustrating. I quickly realized that I was definitely a “people person” and drafting briefs in the privacy of my own office day after day got lonely for me.
Prior to attending law school I led service-oriented trips around the world for high school students and was always passionate about the power of transformational travel for students.
Deep down (wherever that is!), I knew that building my own programs was a personal aspiration but I didn’t have the confidence to run my own business. Moreover, I was (and still am!) terrified of failure.
Law school definitely attracts risk-adverse people, and I count myself as one of them! When I look around at my classmates, almost all of them are on a “traditional” path and I worried that leaving law so quickly after graduation would be detrimental to my career.
I am not exaggerating when I say that in the first few months before I left law, I spent as much time dealing with the emotional aspects of starting my own business as I did the practical aspects!
The path to starting out on my own was not planned and it has not been easy. That said, it is immensely gratifying!
What are the three most important skills you learned in law school that you apply to your work as an entrepreneur?
1. Critical thinking: Law school taught me how to thoughtfully sort through a lot of information and quickly distill key points. As an entrepreneur, I utilize this skill daily. On any given day I am thinking through the pros and cons of various insurance packages, writing web content, negotiating with service providers, and drafting business contracts. This is not dissimilar from the experience of preparing for class during all three years of law school. I spent hours at the library sorting through cases and concepts and in order to preserve my sanity (and maintain a social life!) I learned to efficiently synthesize all of this material. I could not get through my to-do list every day if I hadn’t honed those skills in law school.