The winds of Berkeley have changed me.

Tommy Keisuke
4 min readJun 24, 2020


How many times in your life do you face a life-changing decision?
I made such a choice once in Berkeley.

I moved to Berkeley, California, in the summer of 2018 as a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.

While living in Berkeley, I decided to quit my law practice in Japan and start my own business. Definitely, the winds of Berkeley have changed me.

My decision to quit practicing law.

When I tell people that I am going to quit the legal profession and start a startup, the usual response is like this.

“Quitting the legal profession is such a waste.”
“ But you made such an effort to become a lawyer! Are you sure?”

It’s true that I had studied law at university, law school, and the Judicial Research and Training Institute before being admitted to the bar. It took almost 7 years.

The law firm I joined was one of the leading law firms in Japan for labor and employment law, and I worked as a lawyer for about seven years.

I never went home, never took a day off, worked in the office until I lost consciousness, and once I regained consciousness, I went back to work.

It was hard work, but I was happy that my clients trusted me and depended on me, so I just kept working.
It was difficult, but I really enjoyed being surrounded by the best lawyers and staff I could find, who were like family.

Actually, the number of clients grew.
I started earning several times more money than my peers.
I published many books.
I became a lecturer at Keio Law School, my alma mater。

If I may say so myself, I’m a good lawyer.
In particular, being a labor and employment lawyer was definitely my calling.

I have been involved in more than 130 labor and employment lawsuits, roughly speaking. The only one I’ve lost was just an $1100 partial loss decision. The rests were all wins or settlements. I also bargained collectively nearly 60 times in a single year before I went to the US. I liked the testimony and negotiations.

But gradually, I began to see a future for myself beyond the point where I continued to work as hard as I did.
That future may be a glorious one from the perspective of a lawyer.
But that future life looked boring.

So I decided to go to the US to think about how I would live for the next 30 years.

Are you sure to quit a lawyer?

My response to this is,

“I only have one life.”

I only have one life to live, and it’s boring to spend it as a lawyer.
It’s boring to chase after the future I’ve seen.
This was the answer I came up with as I went to Berkeley and met desperately struggling entrepreneurs, successful entrepreneurs, top researchers, top engineers, etc., feeling the winds of Berkeley.

It’s not like I was able to come up with this answer in a cool way all of a sudden.
Thanks to the winds of Berkeley, while I was struggling with my worries and pains, my mind started to become clearer.

(What I want to do)
I don’t want to solve conflicts or manage risk, I want to make people smile.

(What I’ve noticed)
If I keep working the same way, I’ll die.
I’ve since realized that doing a startup is far closer to death than working as a lawyer though.

(What I thought)
I was not born to be a lawyer.
The more I think about this stuff, the more I recognized that the future I saw when I was a lawyer was a very tiny one.

Let me explain, using pictures, what happened when the winds of Berkeley blew me onto a new course. Here are the pictures I took when I got my U.S. visa and when I renewed it 1 year later.

The winds are pretty strong.
If you come to Berkeley, please be careful of the wind!

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