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'Weary' Patent Lawyer Taps Into Spirit-ual New Career

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

It's widely known that some lawyers turn to alcohol to relieve stress. But only a few like attorney Paul Hletko decide to turn alcohol into a new career.

"I was growing weary of practicing law," Hletko tells ABA Journal in a magazine feature. So in 2010, he decided to turn away from his patent law practice and focus instead on opening a micro-distillery which he named Few Spirits.

But turning Hletko's home-brewing hobby into a full-scale business required a bit of legal maneuvering -- a challenge Hletko met head-on.

Hletko wanted to open Few Spirits in his hometown of Evanston, Ill., a city that's famously "dry," according to ABA Journal. Local laws apparently required an establishment to have an on-site commercial kitchen in order to serve alcohol.

So Hletko got the laws changed, a process that took about a year.

First, Hletko lobbied to create a new class of liquor license for micro-distillers. He then petitioned the zoning board to allow him to operate a distillery within city limits. Finally, he convinced health officials to back a new law that allows him to serve alcohol and pretzels at his distillery, without having a commercial kitchen.

By doing everything himself, "I saved a lot of money on legal fees," Hletko told ABA Journal. Few Spirits has been up and running for a year, making white whiskey, gin, and bourbon that's now being sold in Chicago and even the Pacific Northwest.

Paul Hletko, a 1996 graduate of Loyola University of Chicago, worked in litigation before focusing on patent law, according to his LinkedIn profile. He's now practicing law just part-time, with hopes of leaving the profession altogether if the spirits move him.

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