After working as a tax lawyer for a year after law school, Allison Suter needed a change. "I found myself wanting to do something different. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew that 'something different' would probably include running a business and creating something." That change came in the form of running a photography business, a passion she's always had and started cultivating between graduating from law school and starting her articles.
After spending sometime as a fulltime photographer capturing weddings, babies and other special moments, Allison found herself missing tax. "Who misses Tax?" says Allison on her website and blog (http://liveitloveitblogit.com/) where she discusses her latest venture, a tax filing software company."
"I felt like my left-brain/right-brain balance was totally out-of-whack. I needed some tax in my life! My husband (a product manager and designer), a friend of ours (a developer), and I were throwing around ideas and realized that the tax preparation industry was sorely lacking innovation. Most other options out there look and act like they were built in the 90s, a lifetime ago for software. As luck would have it, we were all available and in the position that we could afford to bootstrap a startup. And so SimpleTax was born."
Recently their free online tax filing software was given the green-light by the Canada Revenue Agency, giving it NETFILE certification.
"My background as a tax lawyer helps immensely," says Allison. "A lot of what I do on a day-to-day basis isn't interpreting tax law; it's interpreting the CRA's interpretation of tax law. Without a background in tax, I couldn't have done it as quickly, or with as much confidence as I have. And, because we are building a tax product, I do find myself swimming around in the Income Tax Act not infrequently."
Allison didn't always know she wanted to go to law school, but she knew she wanted to be in business for herself. And law school prepared her for that.
"Law school taught me how to think. I learned how to hear both sides of an argument. I learned how to make a reasoned decision. I learned how to write clearly. I learned how to admit I was wrong."
As for advice to other law school graduates or current students who are looking to follow their passions, Allison says that it's not as easy as it might look.
"I actually think that a little bit of planning can make a huge difference. As soon as I realized that I wanted to do something different, I started living like a student and saving my money. For me, that meant no fancy apartment or expensive restaurant dinners. Those savings are coming in really handy because it's taking my passions a while to pay the bills! More importantly, however, I think it is important that you respect yourself and your dreams. If you believe in the change you are making, it will really help get you through that tough time."