Alternative Legal Careers Are Cooking in California

By Robyn Hagan Cain on May 11, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Let’s talk about alternative legal careers.

Back in law school, the career services staff thought we were crazy when we said that we had no interest in practicing law. When we asked for assistance with alternative legal careers, they asked, “Why are you in law school?”

Now, life at a fancy BigLaw firm is no longer a guaranteed path to a comfortable life, and more Generation Catalano attorneys are discovering that they aren't satisfied with the BigLaw life ... if they can even secure a BigLaw job. Suddenly, alternative legal careers are more appealing.

What does that mean for aspiring California lawyers?

If you want to practice, consider what you want from a legal career. For many lawyers, the answer isn't a big paycheck or a fancy car; it's the chance to interact with people and help them.

When times are tough and jobs are scarce, lawyers can be pretty creative in finding new ways to deliver legal advice, like opening a coffee shop that also provides legal services.

In Santa Monica, for example, there's LegalGrind Coffee & Counsel, an award-winning coffee shop where you can get basic legal advice, a referral, or notary services with your latte. Opened in 1996, Legal Grind offers coffee and 20 minutes of legal counsel for $45, (with a discounted rate for students with a current ID and seniors over age 70). The lawyer referral service is $25, and document notarization is $10.

Christopher Danzig at Above the Law recently reported that Silicon Valley will soon be home to a similar business. Bonjour Crepes, a business that has been struggling to turn a profit, has been looking for an attorney/cook to help launch the Counsel Cafe, (a reincarnated version of the creperie). The cafe is currently looking for a licensed California attorney who loves to cook.

Alternative legal careers aren't for everyone, but if you think you have the entrepreneurial spirit to make it work, consider checking out FindLaw's Law Firm Management resources to help you with the basics of launching your business. You won't find information about setting up a commercial kitchen or getting liquor license, but you can find free tips on startup, financing, and hiring practices that will be of use, even if you are serving up a latte with your legal advice.

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