Here at Above the Law, we sometimes write about career alternatives for lawyers. We’ve noticed a trend: former lawyers turning to the food service industry. But no, they’re not serving overpriced scones at Starbucks — they’re selling cupcakes out of trucks.
As it turns out, working at a cupcake truck can be a lucrative career. In the past, we’ve profiled several successful lawyers with mobile cupcakeries, like Lev Ekster, Sam Whitfield, and Kate Carrara.
And Temple Law School has apparently caught on to the fact that a lawyer can rake in the dough as a baker, so they’ve posted an exciting job opportunity on their Career Planning Manager. See what’s cooking, after the jump….
Today is a sad day for businesses established by lawyer-entrepreneurs. First we learned that David J. Stern, the South Texas Law grad who went on to become “Florida’s Foreclosure King,” will be relinquishing his crown and closing his once-thriving practice. And now we hear that Lev Ekster, the New York Law School alum who founded a popular mobile-cupcake business called Cupcake Stop, has decided to call it quits.
Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall Ekster and his business selling cupcakes out of a truck that roved around Manhattan. We first wrote about him in May 2009, when we were charmed by the NYLS grad’s creative response to being unable to obtain a law firm job. Spring 2009 wasn’t the best time to be looking for a Biglaw gig, as you might remember.
A few days after our first post, we got to taste Ekster’s cupcakes (and interview him). The cupcakes were delicious (not as amazing as my cousin’s, but pretty darn good).
In the months that followed, Ekster’s cupcake truck picked up momentum, literally and figuratively. On Twitter, @CupcakeStop acquired almost 16,000 followers.
And then today it all came to a screeching halt. What happened?
Brandy Kuentzel, laid-off K&E lawyer turned reality TV star.
Apologies for this very belated coverage of the season finale of The Apprentice, which aired last week. Alas, no member of Team ATL — not even Marin, our resident reality TV addict — actually watched the show. The final episode was a bit like the proverbial tree falling in the forest without anyone around to hear it.
But it seems numerous ATL readers tuned in, even though ratings for the show are down 75 percent since the premiere season. So here’s a post, triggered by your many email pleas for coverage.
We extend warm congratulations to Brandy Kuentzel, the Chicago Law alumna and laid-off Kirkland & Ellis associate who emerged victorious in the reality TV competition. In the finale, Kuentzel defeated a fellow lawyer, Clint — a 40-year-old SMU Law grad described in his NBC bio as “living off of credit” — for the opportunity to work for Donald Trump.
One Brandy fan gave us some background on her: “She went to University of Chicago, started at Kirkland SF as transactional associate. After she got laid off, she started a mobile truck cupcake business.” (Digression: Why is driving a cupcake truck such a popular fallback option for lawyers? See also Kate Carrara, of Philadelphia, and Lev Ekster, of New York.)
Continued our tipster: “Brandy has an insane background story. She’s from Alaska, and moved out at an early age to self-finance her education, after graduating as valedictorian of her high school. Oh, and she is insanely hot. Google her.”
As you can see from her photo, Brandy is most definitely a hottie. But, interestingly enough, Brandy Kuentzel wasn’t quite as smoking hot back in her law firm days….
A few weeks ago we wrote about Kate Carrara, who left the law to launch Buttercream, a “mobile cupcake shop” — i.e., a cupcake truck — in Philadelphia. As we mentioned in our post, a surprising number of attorneys have launched cake-baking businesses. One of the most famous and successful, whom we forgot to mention in our earlier post, is Warren Brown of CakeLove in D.C.
Speaking of D.C. and lawyers turned cupcake makers, Carrara was recently interviewed by the Washington Post about her business. The snobs among you might scoff at the idea of leaving the law to drive around dispensing baked goods. But would your scoffing stop if you were to learn, as Carrara reveals in the Post interview, that this is a six-figure business?
Alas, it appears that Carrara, a 35-year-old graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law, has run into some trouble with the law. From the Philadelphia Inquirer (via the ABA Journal):
The popular vending truck run by Kate Carrara, known as the “cupcake lady,” needed to be confiscated because she had been warned where not to park and continued to break the rules, a top city official said Wednesday….
Carrara’s truck was taken Tuesday afternoon by officials from the Department of Licenses and Inspections, which said it was parked in University City without a vending permit for that area, said L&I Commissioner Fran Burns.
The truck was parked on Market Street at 33d Street. “She thought that spot was legal,” said Andy Carrara.
But as any law school graduate should know, ignorance of the law is no defense….
I have come to the conclusion that most Americans really enjoy three things:
Earning money, and
Buying food out of a truck.
Think about it. Remember as a kid when you would hear the music from your local ice cream truck making its way down your street? Remember running towards it as if your life hung in the balance, all the while thinking, MUST-GET-ICE CREAM-NOW!? And it didn’t matter whether you had 14 gallons of every conceivable flavor of ice cream at home; you just had to have your King Cone or Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich. Those were good times.
Well, roughly a year ago, George Washington University Law alum Sam Whitfield was reviewing documents for discovery as contract lawyer in Washington, DC, when he and his colleagues began craving cupcakes. The problem was no one wanted to venture across town to a local hot spot, Georgetown Cupcake,to pick them up. That’s when Sam had his first rendezvous with cupcake destiny.
“I thought, what if we could get cupcakes delivered to us?” he said. “I come up with three or four crazy ideas like this every day.”
Soon thereafter he found himself investing in a truck, a baker, and cake mix (lots of cake mix). In a very short time, Curbside Cupcakes was born, but would DC find his idea as delicious as he did?
Today, the proprietor of Cupcake Stop, Lev Ekster, stopped by our office with his delicious wares. Yumyumyumyumyum.
Ed. note: For the record, I really hate donuts. I don’t even particularly like sweets. I owe my girlish figure to (1) things that can be wrapped in bacon and (2) a zero tolerance policy when it comes to exercise.
The most important part of the visit was the excellent food. Lev brought over his three best-selling creations: cookie dough, Oreo cookies ‘n cream, and red velvet. I’d never had a cookie dough cupcake, but its gustatory greatness cannot be denied.
Lat preferred the cookies and cream flavor, while Kash opted to continue looking beautiful.
After we finished stuffing our faces, we sat down to talk with Mr. Ekster. Our notes from the interview, plus pictures of the cupcake-y goodness, after the jump.
When students at New York Law School can’t find work, sometimes they resort to tearing the clothes off of 1Ls. So we applaud Lev Ekster, an NYLS alumnus, for his non-violent approach to the economic crisis:
Recent law school grad Lev Ekster is going from court to cupcakes. When the New York Law School student realized he wouldn’t land a law firm job this year, he turned to entrepreneurship. Inspiration struck after a disappointing trip to Magnolia Bakery, where he waited in an excruciatingly long line for what he deemed a “dry and tasteless” cupcake. “The experience reminded me of my parents’ stories of waiting in line for bread,” says the native Ukrainian.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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