Career Alternatives, Food

Career Alternatives for Lawyers: Open a Museum

Barry Levenson

Are you a foodie? Are you committed enough to the gustatory world to leave the awful taste of the law behind and start a museum about your favorite food? Wisconsin lawyer Barry Levenson was that devoted. Sadly, his favorite food is mustard.

Levenson got a shout-out on NPR this morning for his National Mustard Museum. Levenson is a Wisconsin law grad who had quite a distinguished legal career. According to On Wisconsin, he practiced for 15 years and headed the Criminal Appeals Unit of the Wisconsin DOJ, arguing lots of cases before the state Supreme Court. In 1986, after a disappointing World Series — another sad note: Levenson is a Boston Red Sox fan — he consoled himself by buying lots of his favorite food: mustard. While healthier than ice cream, it turned into an obsession.

He began manically collecting jars of mustard. In 1987, one of his cases made it to One First Street; before oral argument in Griffin v. Wisconsin, he spotted a jar he didn’t have yet on a room service tray at his hotel and stuck it in his suit pocket, where it remained while he addressed the Nine. It was good luck perhaps. He won the Fourth Amendment case, 5-4. Levenson tells us he got some inspiration thinking back on “Justice Felix FRANKFURTER and Chief Justice Warren BURGER.”

Eventually, Levenson decided he wanted to flavor his whole life with mustard. He gave up his law job in 1992 and opened his museum. It gets 30,000 visitors per year. How do you make mustard that sexy?

From NPR:

His collection has grown to more than 5,000 mustards from around the globe — everything from French stone-ground to French’s Classic Yellow.

They’re all on display at the National Mustard Museum, in Middleton, Wis., which is gearing up to celebrate National Mustard Day, on Aug. 7 — a Saturday, for anyone considering a cookout.

Of interest to Article III groupies: Among those 5,000 mustards is Alex Kozinski’s Judicial Hottie Jalapeno Mustard.

Levenson hasn’t completely left the law behind. He’s written a book on food and the law — Habeas Codfish — and teaches a course on the topic at the University of Wisconsin. That’s not his only academic work. He also runs Poupon U.

Say it slow and it sounds like a whole different kind of education.

Courthouse Forum: Judge Kozinski’s Judicial Hottie Mustard [Underneath Their Robes]
Wisconsin’s Mustard Museum on the move [USA Today]
Spreading the Love [On Wisconsin Magazine]
The Mustard Museum: Passion For A Condiment [NPR]

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