The Great Recession forced many to rethink their careers—Chris White, ’07, being among them. He has gone from BigLaw practice to legal head hunting, and along the way founded the Chicago Beer Experience. “I have had the privilege to attend Michigan Law,” says White, “and to use my education across various platforms, from practicing law and career counseling to starting my own company.”
After law school, White briefly worked as an associate for Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP before being laid off due to the Recession. While he searched for another job practicing law, White led tours for the Chicago Food Planet. “And I had a ball,” he says. “It was just so much fun.” However, it wasn’t until a friend’s suggestion that White considered making a career of it. “He recommended I do the same thing, but with beer, since the industry was starting to boom in Chicago,” says White. “The thought stuck with me.” By the end of the year, White had founded the Chicago Beer Experience.
The Chicago Beer Experience offers top-rated walking tours where visitors and natives alike can explore and learn about the Windy City while sampling the local beer selection. “For me, what gives a place meaning is the stories that build it,” says White. “Examining Chicago and its history through the lens of its taverns and beer provides a different, but meaningful, perspective on how the city developed.”
The Chicago Beer Experience is a small company where White dons many hats, including tour guide and general counsel. “My law degree was a huge help in the early days, and it continues to serve me well,” he says. “I am able to handle on my own the majority of tasks that the average startup needs a lawyer to manage.” From risk spotting to corporate documentation, White uses his background in law to make sure his business comes out on top.
White says that although world events often make having a drink seem like a good idea, the rapid growth of the craft beer industry has begun to slow. He isn’t worried, though, and is taking advantage of the latest trend to explore other interests. “The beer tours have grown to a certain size, and I have tried to grow them larger, but it is a Saturday business,” says White. “Turns out people don’t want to learn about beer on a Monday, which gives me extra capacity to find new ways to challenge myself.” While he continues to run the Chicago Beer Experience, White works full time as a legal recruiter for the Gunther Group, one of Chicago’s top attorney placement firms. “I realized that my true passion is people,” he says. “Legal recruiting allows me to use my degree and my professional experiences—particularly those I gained during the Recession and while founding the Chicago Beer Experience—to help others with their legal careers, which is fulfilling.”
Although White’s original career plan took a turn, he found support with more than a little help from his friends. “My degree is priceless, but the biggest positive that I have from Michigan Law is my classmates,” says White. “I carry those friendships with me to this day. They gave me a great sense of community and support during a difficult time, and continue to inspire me.”