Off the Beaten Path From corporate big-law to outdoors gear connoisseurs, Ferrell & Koral Alman (‘12L) demonstrate the versatility of a W&L legal education.
Ferrell and Koral Allman are trailblazers—both literally and figuratively. Ferrell, the lawyer-turned entrepreneur, spent a gap year between his undergraduate and law school tenures hiking the iconic Appalachian Trail. A few years later, the dynamic duo walked away from lucrative corporate law gigs in Silicon Valley to build an eco-friendly outdoor company from the ground up. Not exactly the traditional career arc for most legal practitioners, but eschewing custom in favor of adventure has proven to be a winning formula for the Roanline founders.
For Ferrell, a passion for all things outdoors-related runs in the family—his parents ran an outdoors shop when he was growing up. While he might have picked up on some of the ins-and-outs of the outdoor industry, carrying on the family business wasn’t Ferrell’s original plan. He earned a B.S. in Biological Engineering from Mississippi State University, with the intention of pursuing a career as a patent attorney. Before settling on a law school, Ferrell took a year off the academic scene after undergrad and thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. Hoping to land a spot at one of the leading patent law firms, he knew he wanted to go to a law school that was geographically close to Washington, D.C. or, alternatively, the Silicon Valley area. Fortuitously, he fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Lexington during his trek, and after an “outstanding” visit to W&L, the decision to attend was settled.
During his time at W&L Law, Ferrell took advantage of the wide variety of business class offerings from the curriculum. The most memorable aspect of his W&L legal education, however, was the unique 3L Experiential Program that acts as the cornerstone of the school’s unique “actual practice” initiative. “The experience was invaluable, it really gave me a leg up on my peers starting out as a young lawyer.” Ferrell recalled.
After obtaining their J.D.s, Ferrell and Koral both handled complex litigation as big-law associates in Los Angeles, California, where they sharpened their business acumen negotiating complex contractual agreements for corporate elites. All those hours spent in the midst of up-and-coming software companies—coupled with the framework of their legal education—paid dividends when Ferrell and Koral started seriously entertaining the idea of opening up their own business. According to Ferrell, the ability to “see things from a lawyer’s perspective is something different in the corporate world. The attention to detail, intuitive thinking and creativity needed to succeed as a trial lawyer are easily transferrable to many other fields—entrepreneurial endeavors included.”
After over four years of working in the corporate world, Koral spotted a “now-or-never” market opportunity. Having spent years hitting the trails—and buying the gear to do so—she had grown tired of her favorite brands’ lack of products tailored specifically for women: “During one of our hikes, we had a conversation about outdoors clothing and gear marketed towards women and the obvious need to fill the niche for fashionable, but functional products,” said Koral. “A lot of items on the market in the early 2010s were really just men’s items that were more fitted and I felt like there was little effort being made to provide women with items that worked when necessary, but that looked great on them.”
Since moving to Asheville and opening up Roanline, Koral has continued her initiative to provide female outdoor enthusiasts with the right gear: “I’ve worked on really finding the right brands for women—products and brands that are flattering, fashionable and fun; things that can take you from the pub to the trail.” What’s even more impressive is that Koral has continued to practice law while pioneering an effort to empower women who love to experience the wild. “Although I’m still practicing law, it’s great to be able to help Ferrell grow our vision and see where the industry is heading.”
The forward-thinking couple also wanted to provide fellow outdoor-lovers with access to emergent brands with compelling backstories and a proven commitment to giving back to the nature-focused community. Corporate social responsibility and Roanonline go hand-in-hand. Ferrell and Koral plan for the company to become a certified B Corporation in the near future—a third party standard that requires companies to meet social sustainability and environmental performance benchmarks and to be transparent to the public regarding their business practices.
The environmentally and socially responsible business model is producing results for the quickly growing Roanline. Based out of Asheville, N.C., the company is preparing to open up its first brick-and-mortar location to compliment its booming online marketplace. It’s exciting times for the Almans, who are an inspiration for young lawyers everywhere that a little sense of adventure goes a long way in pursuing your career goals.