Total Reinvention: A Legal Stylist.
by Kalyn Johnson
In my past life I was a corporate lawyer at Jones Day, one of the largest international firms in the world. I've always loved fashion, but coming from a suburb of Detroit, Michigan it was difficult to envision really being able to do anything other than become a "doctor, lawyer or engineer." I started practicing law in Chicago; I moved to New York in my third year of practice. Once in New York, I had an opportunity to explore the many facets of the fashion industry, but learned that I had far too much education to fit into an arena where college internships are the stepping stones to entry level positions. I resigned myself to being a connoisseur of fashion. Fortunately for me, this was not good enough for my friends and loved ones. While out one evening having drinks with a girlfriend, a woman approached us and paid me a lovely compliment about my overall look. My turning point was when my girlfriend said, "people stop you all of the time to admire your clothes and the way you put things together. Why don’t you get some business cards made up so that the next time someone stops you, you can hand it to them and tell them that you dress people for a living?" It was such a simple concept; I did it and that's how I started to make money doing what I love to do. That was more than three years ago when I was still practicing law. I loved styling people, but having a demanding legal career and demanding business on the side did not mix well. I tabled the styling business after 8 months and went back to focusing merger agreements and financing documents.
The fates intervened again a few years later, this time in the form of a wonderful man and a great organization. Todd, my boyfriend could sense my growing frustration with the law and my inability to really draw upon my creative juices. At the same time, I signed-up for a Ladies Who Launch incubator; the support from Todd combined with that of my incubator group gave me the courage to truly contemplate giving up my legal career to focus on something that would allow me to regain control of my professional life.
After much internal debate and struggle, I decided to quit my job. I was completely stressed out about money, benefits and all the creature comforts associated with law firm life when a friend said to me, "if you jump, the net will appear." I weighed the risk of staying some place where I felt underappreciated and was unhappy vs. the risk of doing something I love to do and am good at; I figured if I failed, I could always go back to practicing law. I was fortunate in that when I started practicing, I began socking money away to create a nest egg in case I ever got up the courage to fly the coop. So, while earning money is important to me, I've got a bit of a cushion and I've paired back my lifestyle quite a bit. When I left my job, I had no set plan, but I knew I needed to quit in order to figure it out.