It's a Tuesday morning at Atlanta's West Egg Café and the breakfast rush has just ended. With just an hour's lull before the lunch rush arrives, Jennifer Johnson is buzzing.
"We just left an espresso tasting at Batdorf & Bronson, so I hope I don't come off as jittery or talking too fast," she says in disclaimer.
But five years ago, something like an espresso tasting wasn't on Johnson's radar. She was an attorney at King & Spalding for almost six years, where coffee was primarily just a good reason to take a break.
Jennifer Johnson's buzz is not just from caffeine. She's excited to discuss an entrepreneurial endeavor that has proven successful for her and husband Ben, who also is what they both affectionately refer to as "a recovering attorney."
Ben Johnson, whose legacy includes a family of prominent Atlanta attorneys, practiced 10 years at Hunton & Williams before joining his bride at their family business.
Ben and Jennifer are luckynot all small start-ups turn out this way, especially not restaurants. But for this group of attorneys-turned-entrepreneurs, it was their law school training and professional practice that has prepared them to navigate the complexities of starting and running their own businesses.
Together, they sport five inactive bar memberships, and five different reasons why they saywith confidencethat they've left the law.
'I felt like it was an epiphany'
Rarely do these ideas and career changes happen with a single "Aha!" moment.
"After college, I went through that sense of, 'I don't know what I'm gonna do, so I'm gonna take the LSATs,' and then you go to law school and get a job and all of the sudden you think: 'Wait, what about that thing that was in the back of my head?' And it just takes awhile for that to push its way forward," Johnson says. That thing Johnson describes is a restaurant where people feel comfortable enough to eat alone, and where they can get coffee in the morning or a beer after work. It's a place to eat well and feel well. That thing is now their occupation.
And for many, it was a gradual transition, in which a hobby, passion or dream simply became more prominent, important or meaningful in their lives.