The Spirit of Entrepreneurship and Personal Journey
September 29, 2014
Lewis & Clark Law School alumnus David Howitt stepped away from practicing law, in the traditional sense, to pursue a career filled with the spirit of entrepreneurship and personal journey. Now the founder and CEO of the Meriwether Group, a business acceleration firm based in Portland, he is using his law degree in an entrepreneurial capacity.
Howitt grew up in Michigan, where most of his family members encouraged him to pursue a life as an attorney, doctor, or executive, following in their footsteps. So, from an early age he felt that he had to do well academically. When it came time to decide where to go for graduate studies, he chose Lewis & Clark Law School.
“I thought that learning the law would provide me with the tools that would be useful in life–knowing how to think, reason, use logic, and frame arguments like a lawyer–whether I ended up practicing as a lawyer or not,” says Howitt. “In terms of Lewis & Clark, I really wanted to combine my passion and love of the environment, natural resources, and outdoors…the thought of studying all of those things was really appealing because I felt like it was a good way to combine career with personal passion.”
After he graduated from law school, he took a job with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, followed by a position with a large law firm’s environmental practice group. Howitt says he learned quickly that working at a large law firm did not align with what he thought were his strengths–the ability to toggle between left and right brain thinking, and combining artistry and analytics in the business world. Howitt had a strong understanding of the law, and a desire to find purpose and personal fulfillment in his career.
Howitt decided that taking the risk and leaving his law firm job was worth it. He set out on a networking journey to find a career that was in alignment with what he wanted to do and who he wanted to be.
“I wanted to join a team where disrupting the status quo and bringing innovation into the market was important,” he says, “and where culture, purpose, and meaning had a place in the business decisions.”
That journey led him to Adidas, where he worked for four years on the legal side and four as the vice president of licensing and business development. In 2004, he began the next phase of his journey: starting his own business acceleration firm, Meriwether Group.
Meriwether Group is built around supporting the modern-day hero–who is the entrepreneur, according to Howitt. “Every hero has a mentor,” it says on the company’s website. “Skywalker had Obi-Wan. Frodo had Gandalf. You have us. As your mentor, we can help develop the additional tools that you need to make your journey successful, and while we can’t take the journey for you, we’ll walk with you every step of the way.”
Many of their past and current clients are local Portland businesses, such as Dave’s Killer Bread, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Little Big Burger, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Voodoo Doughnut, and Kure Juice Bar.
“We like to work with company founders that are disruptive–pushing the envelope, creating new categories, or creating revolution in existing categories,” says Howitt.
Howitt himself has been disruptive, pushed envelopes and created revolution after graduating from law school. He disrupted his law career by stepping into the business world, and he now pushes the envelope and creates revolution along side his partners at Meriwether Group by helping entrepreneurs bring their company visions to life.
Howitt has advice for other law students who wish to go down the nontraditional path after law school. “As a new lawyer, or a soon-to-be new lawyer, you have a lot of skills and new training that is absolutely applicable in the business world. You’ve been trained how to think logically, how to use discerning thought, how to organize your thoughts and how to write well. These are skills that are important as an entrepreneur and in the business community. My experience supports the idea that you can use these skills to benefit the people or companies you work with,” says Howitt.
Since graduating from law school, Howitt continues to have valuable friendships with Lewis & Clark faculty. He has developed a lasting friendship with Professor Craig Johnston, who he serves with on the Advisory Council for Earthrise and is still very connected with Former Dean Robert Klonoff.
“Craig Johnston is someone who has remained important to me as a friend and as someone who has been able to help me think through my career and life,” Howitt says. “Former Dean Klonoff is someone I respect greatly who also became a mentor and guide for me.”
“I look back on it [law school] in an extremely positive way. They were three really profoundly enjoyable years with a lot of personal growth. I felt like it was an amazing environment to be a law student and I really feel like my education and personal growth there played a big role in my success in business and in life,” he says. “For me, law school and becoming an attorney were absolutely pivotal and critical points on my path and continue to play a role in my journey.”
David’s book Heed Your Call was recently published by Simon and Schuster.