Since becoming a lawyer over 6 years ago and undertaking a very different career path, there are plenty of things I've found out along the way that I didn't know in law school. Three major facts come to mind.
1. In real life, personality trumps pedigree. You hear nothing from BigLaw and the legal establishment except exhortations to be the top in your class, get on law review and how important it is to go to a Tier 1 law school or you will be doomed to failure. I remember hearing all this myself as a law student.
However, I came to law school with a very different perspective and experience. I was not surrounded by lawyers and legalese was as difficult as Chinese for most of the people I knew. There was no way I'd be able to discuss what I was learning or law school by using legalese with anyone I knew outside of school.
No client I have ever worked with asked where I went to law school, what my rank was or if I was on law review. In the entertainment field, my contacts have been far more concerned with a lawyer's personality than his/her “pedigree.” If you're a Harvard grad who was on law review but you're a patronizing jerk, you will not get the same openness from most clients.
2. You don't have to conform to the stuffy stereotype to get respect. I'm living proof of that. I'm also a lousy conformist.
I actually was told by a major bar association president that I shouldn't have to change my personality to feel accepted at that bar association (a very stuffy one in NYC). Feeling he was on to something, especially since he had that whole impressive “pedigree,” I went with that and never felt a moment's hesitation about being my quirky self.
I created my own rant blog and people found it funny, even attorneys outside of entertainment law. To my shock, I've even gotten leadership roles in bar associations and I have viewed those as the last place where an “anti” or “cool” lawyer would get acceptance.
3. Getting a bad grade isn't the end of the world. It really isn't. I came to law school having seen my sister lose the love of her life less than 3 months before and being left to care for their 3 week old son by herself. Some of my classmates had kids, full time jobs and marriages to deal with on top of their studies. I have no clue how they did it but they had my respect.
So what if you didn't make law review or you made a B? Think about what you DO have: your health, a place to live, people who believe in you (hopefully), maybe a devoted pet? Also, you are not your GPA/class rank/law school; you have to remember the things that make you different and will set you apart from the pack when it's time to create that career.
Monica Trombley is the Production Executive/In-House Counsel at One Way or Another Productions LLC. She authors a blog called "The Angry Redheaded Lawyer" (www.theangryredheadedlawyer.com). For more information and to get in touch, check out her website at www.monicatrombley.com