Geoffrey Stein: Former Lawyer Turned Portrait Painter (TFLP 063)

After more than 10 years of legal practice, Geoffrey Stein went to art school and became a full-time artist and portrait painter.

Meet Former Lawyer Geoffrey Stein

Geoffrey Stein: Former Lawyer Turned Portrait Painter

During the recession of the early 80s, Geoffrey Stein decided to go to law school after finding it difficult to find a job with his liberal arts undergraduate degree. He hated his first year of law school, but when he placed eighth in his class and graded on to law review, he ignored his instincts and decided to stick around.

Fast forward, and Geoffrey had practiced at several law firms, first handling medical malpractice and asbestos defense, then insurance coverage disputes, and finally insurance and reinsurance issues for the London market. Artistic since childhood, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming an artist and went back to art school. He has now spent almost 20 years working as an artist.

In this episode, Geoffrey shares about:

  • His artistic childhood, including welding starting at the age of 8, and why he didn’t think he could pursue being a sculptor.
  • Starting college at a design school, then deciding to switch to a more traditional liberal arts college.
  • Ending up in law school because he hadn’t taken enough science or math courses to qualify him for medical school or business school.
  • Once he was practicing law, putting together a portfolio to try to break in to advertising, only to go on interviews where people mostly wanted to talk about what it was like to be a lawyer.
  • Trying to combine drawing and design on the side while also working full-time as a lawyer, and why it didn’t work for him.
  • The turning point in 1999 when his wife Pat heard him complaining about being a lawyer and said, “If you want to be an artist, go to art school, but if you don’t, don’t complain about it again,”—and why her tough love helped him.
  • Waiting to leave the law until long after they had passed the benchmarks they had set as a couple to allow him to leave.
  • Why leaving the law is a process that takes time—for Geoff, 10 years.
  • Why he doesn’t wish he left earlier.
  • How it’s hard to quit law, especially for a career like art, because there are very different assumptions made about your education, intelligence, and class when you say “I’m a lawyer” versus “I’m a painter”.
  • How he ended up becoming a portrait painter.
  • How he uses the skills he gained as a lawyer all the time in managing his painting career and business.
  • Why “therapy is really important.” (Co-sign!)

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