David Stine has come full circle. He grew up on the family farm in Dow, Ill., graduated from Penn State, received his law degree from George Washington University, practiced law for one year, started making custom furniture and eventually moved back to Illinois to operate his one-man custom furniture shop. Along the way, he built furniture in high school, college and law school; helped run a nightclub in Washington D.C., got married and also worked six years as a full-time woodworker in the nation's capital. But in the end, Stine returned home to live in an 1871 farmhouse on 40 acres about a mile from where he grew up. His family owns about 1,000 acres in Dow, including 350 acres of sustainably managed woodlands.
Stine graduated from law school in the mid-1990s, passed the bar exam, practiced in Washington D.C., for a year and then quit. He would complete his law work by noon most days and become incredibly bored. Playing office politics wasn't his game and the whole environment drove him crazy. So why go through the three-year effort of attending law school and spend loads of money only to quit after such a short amount of time?
"The whole thing about law school for me was that it was a personal challenge," Stine explains. "I grew up here on the farm. We never had a lot of money. It was a big operation, but it wasn't like we were the Rockefellers. But it was always a big concern in our family on how you pass on the farm without destroying the farm with state taxes and stuff like that. I always found tax planning and real estate law interesting and so that was sort of a natural progression for me to go to law school.