I decided to Google this topic of discussion prior to commencing this article, just to research the direction most authors took with their advice. Would it be a generalization–totally subjective to the author, stuffy and/or seriously helpful? As I suspected, most of the information provided was extremely black and white, with zero emotion or personal stories of what really happens for a legion of people seeking to be accepted into law school, get a law degree, pass the bar exam and GET A JOB!
Attempting to become a lawyer is not easy. It can be one of the most humbling experiences of your life. So without further adieu–I offer Part I of comedic, yet one hundred percent seriously on-point tips on the “Dos and Don’ts” in pursuing a law degree.
1) Do Not Go To Law School Just To Buy Time
Yes, it is your senior year of college, the job offers you received are not of interest to you, and your parents are chomping at the bit to get you off of their insurance. This perceived lifeline of going back to school to get a degree that you may or may not use is not the best strategy. Why do you ask? Oh, just the six figure amount of loans you will have to pay back, after you realize you would prefer to teach Kindergarten.
ADVICE: Pursue a law degree with a clear goal and purpose of how you would like to utilize it upon completion of law school.
2) Do Not Take 17 Hours In Summer School Courses, Work And Study For The LSAT At The Same Time
Trust me on this one. I took a practice LSAT test and received a score that would have allowed me to get into all of the schools on my radar. However, after taking 17 hours of summer school classes, working and attempting to study for the LSAT my score dropped lower than Flo Rida and Lil’ Jon suggest. One of my sorority sisters did the opposite. She dedicated her entire summer to studying and she got a great score.
ADVICE: The LSAT is serious. Dedicate as much time as humanly possible to receive a score conducive for entry into your dream school. Take preparatory classes and do not skimp on the selection of your prep course.
3) Choose Your Dream Schools Based Upon The Area of Law You Would Like To Practice And The Location
It makes all the sense in the world to go to law school in Texas if you have an interest in Oil and Gas Law. It makes zero sense to go to law school outside of New York, Los Angeles, District of Columbia or Atlanta if you want to practice Entertainment Law. Most law firms recruit from schools that are located in their city and state.Also, if you have an interest in being a solo practitioner, you can begin to network and develop relationships while still in school with those in the area who will require your services in the future.
ADVICE: Set yourself up for optimal success by living and studying in the city and state where you will ultimately want to work. The student who studied at NYU or Brooklyn Law School, while interning at Def Jam will have better advantage of securing employment in the Business and Legal Affairs Department upon graduation as opposed the student with the same interest of working in the entertainment field, yet, studied in Iowa and interned at the Public Defender’s Office. To be honest, I chose to go to school in Houston because I was afraid of New York at that time. Also, I wanted to be like Lita Richardson and Star Jones. They both went to law school in Houston, then ultimately made their mark in the entertainment industry in other markets, so I figured I could do the same thing too.
4) Apply To Schools Early
If after taking the LSAT, you received a score that you are proud of, begin to apply immediately. This includes early admission. Waiting until Christmas Break of 2012 to send an application for admission for the Fall 2013 class is not smart. It’s like waiting until noon to show up for 11:00 am church service on Easter. All of the good seats, scratch that…all of the seats are taken!
ADVICE: Prepare and gather all letters of recommendations, transcripts and personal essays as early as possible. Seek early admission if this is an option for you.
5) Save Your Money
Law school is not cheap. If you in any way shape or form can cut corners on spending prior to entering school, I would highly suggest this. Fortunately, I interned my last year of college, so I saved money prior to starting school. Additionally, I worked all three years of school to pay for my living expenses (rent, food, gas, etc.). I have colleagues who decided to take out loans to pay for their living expenses and they graduated with double the amount of school loans.
ADVICE: It is only three years, and those $200 Frankie B Jeans will be out of style by the time you graduate. (Who remembers Frankie B Jeans ?!) Save your money and spend wisely.
Coming up on Part II: Humble Yourself, Study Groups, Internships/Clerking, Recruiting and The Bar Exam.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.