If you’re worried about the crowded legal market, don’t be. Your law degree can help you launch all kinds of careers. Meet three former lawyers whose legal training has helped them thrive in other industries.
President & CEO, Supreme Pharmaceuticals
In what might be a record, 29-year-old John Fowler practised corporate law for “a robust 90 days.” But only because, after three months as an associate at Torkin Manes LLP, a major job offer came his way. When he was articling, Fowler founded his own medical-marijuana company, 7Acres. He then sold it to Supreme Pharmaceuticals, one of Canada’s largest medical-marijuana producers, and helped facilitate the deal. Impressed by his work, Supreme asked him to be its president and CEO. Fowler accepted the gig.
“I left a good Bay Street job,” he says, “and went back to making my mom worry at night.” These days, she’s likely worrying less. Since Fowler took charge of the company in 2014, he’s helped it grow into a $200-million business (up from $30 million) with 75 employees.
Fowler, who went to law school at the University of Ottawa, says his legal training comes in handy all the time, especially when he has to make hard decisions about his employees, whose careers he can make or break. “In law school, you learn to identify risks, and then mitigate them as best you can.”
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Government of Canada
After she finished law school at McGill University, in 1999, Catherine McKenna says “it all gets a bit confusing.” At first, she and her husband moved to Indonesia, and she got a job at a law firm in Jakarta. Two years later, she went to work at the United Nations and helped negotiate a treaty between Australia and East Timor over the disputed Timor Sea. And in 2002, she moved to Ottawa and spent three years at Stikeman Elliott LLP. Over the next decade, McKenna’s resumé continued to expand: she founded the charity Canadian Lawyers Abroad, worked in-house at the Canadian Real Estate Association and ran the Ban Centre for Arts and Creativity.
But McKenna, now 45, never seems to tire. So it’s no surprise that, in 2014, out of “frustration with the government of the day,” she decided to run, as a Liberal, for federal office. After she won the seat in Ottawa Centre, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made her the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. From day one, the killer negotiation skills she acquired in law came in handy, especially when working on negotiations for the Paris Climate Agreement.
CEO, 9 Mile Legacy Brewing
Shawn Moen, who grew up on a small farm in southwestern Saskatchewan, says he was “drawn to law intellectually.” But it was never his main passion.
After he graduated from law school in 2005, at the University of Saskatchewan, he worked as a corporate lawyer for eight years, in private practice and in government. But in the fall of 2013, he quit his job and went travelling. (On the way out the door, several colleagues told him that, secretly, they wanted to do the same thing.)
Moen ended up in Wellington, New Zealand, where he started volunteering at a brewing company. “I got a ton of experience in the art of making beer.” After a year abroad, he moved back to Saskatoon and founded the city’s trendiest new brewery, 9 Mile Legacy, with a long-time family friend.
“It has been just incredible to build something from the ground up,” says the 35-year-old. His legal training serves him well — in negotiations and conflict resolution, of course, but also in stress management. “Law is a demanding mistress,” he explains, “and so is starting a business.”