All posts by DonnaTruly

Don’t go to law school just to “save the world”

Law school has had a lot of bad press lately. The Wall Street Journal reported that only 55% of 2011 law grads had a full-time, long term job that required a law degree nine months after graduation. Forbes said going to law school is the worst career decision one could make. The New York Times has run a series of scathing articles over the last year; discussing schools’ failure to teach students how to be lawyers,  criticizing law schools’ lack of transparency about employment prospects, and suggesting that law schools are facing an existential crisis.

Now that my three years in the fifth level of hell law school are over, I can speak very confidently as to my agreement with much of what those articles have to say.* Law school is not a good idea for many of the people who choose to enroll. It is usually  too expensive.** Far too many people enroll in law school because they have a liberal arts degree and can’t get a job anywhere else. You know who law school is a great idea for? Those people who have a precise idea of what they want to do with their law degree; those people who spent enough time in legal internships or shadowing attorneys to know that they will actually love legal work. And those people who spend enough time researching the legal industry to know the inherent risk in applying, enrolling and getting wrapped up in six figure debt. (So yes, that excludes the folks who took the LSAT on a whim, got a 178 and stumbled into a top tier law school because they had nothing better to do after college graduation).

Despite the negative sentiments above, I’m actually happy that I went to law school. And I’m looking forward to practicing law.  Whenever I speak at pre-law panels or with the undergrad students that I’ve helped with the application process, I try to present both sides of the coin. Yes, there are many of us who enjoyed the process and/or the rewards of the law degree. But there are MANY who regret the day they enrolled. People considering law school need to do extensive research to ensure that it’s the right decision for them. If the only reason you’re going to law school is to avoid the terrible job market, here’s a newsflash: the job market is terrible for  almost everyone, lawyers included. You’d be better off settling for another job than taking on enormous debt which may leave you in the same sad state of utter joblessness.

I think the “stay away from law school” advice is really pertinent for people whose sole goal is to “save the world”. These are people who have a desire to do good and have somehow decided that getting a J.D. is the best way to achieve said goal. They are often unable to articulate exactly how they plan to use their degree; or if they can articulate it, it’s usually in a way that could be easily achieved by getting a cheaper, shorter degree or by simply working in the field of interest with just their bachelor’s degree.  They have bought into the idea that a law degree is some sort of  potion that enables one to cure society’s ills without knowing how that potion actually works.

 

For example, Jill may say she wants to help solve the healthcare crisis. Jill decides she should get a law degree to do this. After all, lawyers make the laws right? Jill doesn’t consider alternatives which may be more suitable, like an advanced nursing degree, or a Masters in Public Health, or being a health justice activist, or mobilizing her community to demand elected officials focus on health-related issues, or being a lobbyist. Or Jack wants to work in international humanitarian law. But Jack hasn’t done enough research to discover how scarce those jobs are and how they never go to fresh graduates. Or how most other countries don’t follow the US legal system and so his legal degree will not translate directly to their needs.

I’m not knocking the save the world types at all. In many ways, I was one of them. (Okay, maybe in every way). And law school worked out for me. So I’m sure it can work out for others too. However, I often find that much of the discontent with law school stems from the fact that many of us had no business being there in the first place.

And here’s a sobering fact: though there’s a glut of lawyers nationwide, there are not enough lawyers serving needy communities.  There are several reasons for that. Many law grads who want to serve needy communities cannot afford to do so because their salaries wouldn’t be enough to cover their immense debt. Many of the places that offer legal services to needy communities cannot afford to hire lawyers because their budgets are so constrained. And some of those who enter law school with the intent of doing good get lured away by enticing six figure jobs, neglecting a life of public service. The sad paradox is that the tens of thousands of unemployed lawyers cannot afford to provide legal services to the people who need them the most.

So if your plan is to go to law school so you can “save the world”, think long and hard about what your impact will be. Are there any lawyers working in the area you’re interested in? If not, investigate why.  See if you can do some work in that area before enrolling in law school so you can be sure it’s what you want to do. Will you be able to pursue that job with the debt load you’ll have? And is it something that you need a law degree to do? If not, save yourself – and your wallet- the trouble.

 

*Okay, okay. Law school wasn’t THAT bad. But I only realized that in the latter part of my program. That first year was pretty hellish.

**This would require a separate post to explain, but I am a HUGE proponent of debt free education and I generally don’t think anyone should be going into six figure debt for a degree in any field, except medicine.

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When is a dream too costly to pursue?

Since Ryan Lochte and Gabby Douglas won their gold medals at the Olympics their personal lives have been under intense scrutiny. Commentary on his grill, and her hair aside, I found the conversation surrounding their finances quite interesting. Or rather, the conversation surrounding their parents’ finances. Both of their families have incurred severe debt and faced foreclosure, allegedly due in large part to the costs of supporting their Olympic endeavors.

As a swimmer and a gymnast, Lochte and Douglas are elite athletes in sports that are prohibitively expensive to the average person. While swimming pools and gyms abound, the cost of training, equipment, coaching, supplements and lost income for traveling parents are significant. The parents of an aspiring Olympic athlete may have to spend tens of thousands of dollars annually before having any guarantee their child will make the team in their chosen sport. Four time Olympic speed skater Eric Flaim estimated he spent over $100, 000 a year. One article suggests a parent would have to spend at least $400, 000 to raise an Olympic table tennis competitor.

Which brings me to the question in this post’s title: When is a dream too costly to pursue? I can’t imagine being in Natalie Hawkins’ (Gabby’s mother) shoes and choosing to pay for leotards, and the costs of training with the nation’s finest coaches, over paying my bills. To be clear, I think she made the right decision. Perhaps she was truly convinced her daughter was going to be the star she is today. Or maybe she was willing to make whatever sacrifice was necessary to give her daughter a fighting chance at her dream. It certainly seems so, since she has noted how hard it was for her to send her daughter to live with a host family so she could train with her current coach.

I also can’t imagine making the decision that Gabby did to request that sacrifice from her mother. Even as a young child, knowing the financial difficulties that my mother faced, there were some dreams I wouldn’t even mention because I wouldn’t want her to contemplate any more sacrifices for me. I never wanted her to have to choose between paying a bill, and supporting me in some new endeavor. To be clear, I love Gabby and everything she accomplished, I just wonder how they got through those days when they knew pursuing her dream could be leading them to financial ruin. What if she never made it to the Kellog’s box and they were sitting at home, watching the Olympics on the tv like the rest of us, with a stack of unpaid bills in the corner?

For every Gabby and Ryan, there are hundreds, or even thousands more who dared to dream, and failed. Sure, there are philosophical arguments about how “the only failure would be to never try”. But to be realistic, the same people cheering Gabby and her mom on now, would be scoffing at them if they had lost all that money and had no glory to show for it. How many times has a friend shared a dream with you and though you verbally encouraged them, you thought This person is never gonna make it and they’re about to waste their money pursuing foolishness.  I know I’m not the only one. I try not to be a dreamkiller. In fact, I’m usually the one telling people to conquer their fears and dare to do the impossible. Just this week I tried to convince a friend to drop out of law school and pursue her acting ambitions. When it comes to me however, I am logical and practical to a fault, and can find a way to talk myself out of any risky pursuit.

But playing it safe never got anyone very far. Everyone we consider legends now all had notable ‘failures’ before they garnered success. So it seems you have to make risky, seemingly irrational decisions if you want to win big. But how much of a risk is too much? The cost of Gabby and Ryan’s dreams would’ve been way too much for me. I’m way too concerned about having a roof over my head and dollars in my bank account. Perhaps for them the cost of not pursuing their dreams was greater than the cost of persisting against all odds. I’m happy that for them, the risks paid off.

On Dawn Harper & Lolo Jones: How (Not) To Be A Gracious Loser

Dawn Harper won the gold medal in the 100m hurdles at the 2008 Olympics. She won the silver this week in London. Yet in many ways, she lost to her countrywoman Lolo Jones. And it’s become evident that Harper doesn’t know how to be a gracious loser. Harper was the reigning Olympic champ but given the level of media coverage given to Lolo Jones, many incorrectly thought Jones had a better chance of medaling than Harper did.

The Harper/Jones controversy reared its ugly head some time before the Olympics. She gave a television interview where she admitted to being confused about why Jones had more press coverage than she did, given her better stats. Harper has a point. As the reigning Olympic champion, she probably rightfully expected to get more media coverage than her compatriot. Some even pointed to colorism as a potential cause for the disparity in their publicity. Lolo has a compelling backstory of once being homeless, of living apart from her parents in high school so she could keep running, and a high sympathy factor giving her tragic fall in the 2008 Olympics where she was a favorite. But Dawn won her Olympic gold in shoes that she borrowed because she didn’t have a sponsor. Dawn also had a tough upbringing. She’s alluded to it in interviews but implied that she’d rather protect her family’s privacy than use their struggles to gain publicity. A not-so-subtle dig at Lolo, perhaps?

So while Lolo finished seventh to Dawn’s first in Bejing; in terms of public sentiment, Dawn was the loser. Lolo went on to appear in ESPN’s 2009 Body Issue. She had an HBO special earlier this year, where she (in)famously revealed she’s a virgin. She gained endorsements from Oakley and Red Bull. She appeared on the Leno Show and the cover of Time Magazine, and was featured heavily in other media outlets. Dawn Harper, not so much. And Dawn’s still mad about it.

In an interview that surfaced this morning, Harper and 100 m hurdles bronze medalist Kellie Wells seemed to taking shots at Lolo. Ostensibly, this interview should have been about their great performance in London. Admittedly, the interviewer guided them away from that by asking Harper about not getting enough respect. But Harper fell right into the trap. Despite the fact that her PR agent told her not to answer those kinds of questions, she gave quite an animated response alluding to her discontent over the coverage of Jones, ending with a resounding “Boom, just like that!”

[I can’t embed the video but the video is worth watching to see the body language http://www.businessinsider.com/harper-wells-lolo-jones-interview-2012-8]

Dawn is entitled to her anger, resentment and disappointment. But this was not the way to express it. Whatever personal issues she’s facing with Lolo should have been handled privately. Though the hurdles are not a team sport, they still went to London to represent their country together. It wouldn’t have killed her to show a little team spirit this morning rather than engage in petty diatribe about her colleague. Perhaps in the moment she thought she could expose Lolo’s flaws, or even those of the media but really all she did was set up more media interest in Lolo. The title of the piece surrounding her interview isn’t even Dawn Harper says … it’s Two American Hurdlers Ripped Lolo Jones… The reality is that in this narrative, Lolo is the star of the show. Harper and her team could attempt various strategies to change that, but this should not have been one of them.

Life is not always fair. The sad reality for Harper is that in a few months time the average American probably will not remember her name. But it’s likely they’ll remember Lolo.

Can Harper rightfully blame the media for bias and colorism? Yes.

Is she entitled to dislike Lolo? Sure. We have no clue what’s going on behind the scenes.

Should she have handled this interview in this way? Absolutely not. She played right into the media’s hands and helped to promote the very athlete she was trying to deride. Instead of discussing Dawn Harper’s wonderful record and two Olympic medals, the discussion is about how bitter and petty she is.  And for this particular loss, she can blame herself.

On Track with Jamaica

This is my attempt to jump in on the #30in30 blog series started by Erik Parker which I learned about via writer Aliya S King. I’m starting 5 days late, so I’ll have to do some 2-a-days if I want to finish on time with everyone else. Bear with me, I haven’t written anything non-legal in a while. We’ll see how it goes…

I woke up at 5:35 am on Saturday. I just jumped right out of my sleep, without an alarm. This is no small feat for me, given that I am terribly nocturnal and am barely able to wake up with an alarm, much less without. But at 5:35 am the first Jamaican would be on the track for Olympics 2012. Of course I got up.

My love affair/obsession with athletics is longstanding. It’s irrevocably intertwined with my infatuation with all things Jamaican. Given Jamaica’s history of success in the sport, it makes perfect sense. Though it is ironic to me that I would choose sports as the object of my affection when I have never been athletically inclined. I played netball in prep and high schools, but no more than the average Jamaican girl. I have never been a great runner. When my ninth grade class was learning to hurdle, I was one of three students excused from participating because we were so short our teacher didn’t think we could safely clear the hurdle. Thank God; the hurdles were intimidating. 

Yet somehow, I have always been obsessed with athletics. I watch all the competitions; not just Olympics or World Champs. I search for live streams for all the events. I love reading the stats. I follow athletes from high school champs in Jamaica and investigate the backgrounds of NCAA athletes in the US. I really should find a way to get paid for this.

There’s something about seeing our athletes shine on the world stage that just brings so much pride and joy to my heart. It’s hard to verbalize, particularly to anyone who’s not Jamaican. Why do we run around screaming when a Jamaican wins a race? Why do we get so excited just to see one of our athletes on the track?

But maybe they get it too, a little bit. So many news sources have noted that we get the most thunderous applause when we enter stadiums. There’s a little bit of magic in our island, I swear. Or maybe a lot. And everyone knows.

My past few days have been scheduled around the times our athletes would be on the track. Whenever someone invited me somewhere, I had to double-check to ensure I wouldn’t be missing a race. Someone mentioned that I could miss the heats and semi-finals yesterday since only the Women’s 100 m finals were important. No they’re all important! 

You see, it’s not just about the winners. Despite the fact that Jamaica has been the sprint factory  for so long, we never won our first gold medals in the 100m until 2008. Thank you Usain and Shelly-Ann. There many silvers and bronzes, but never the golden prize. Prior to that, our only other sprint golds were Donald Quarrie’s and Veronica Campbell in the 200m, in 1976 & 2004.* Our gold medals in the 400m flat and hurdles were few and far between. Yet the pride and admiration we feel about our athletes is so immense.

Many have expressed in recent conversations that we’ve become spoiled by the success. Two-time 100 m winner Shelly-Ann Fraser said she wouldn’t call us greedy, but we do expect a lot from them. I cannot lie. I wish we could win everything. Give us all the medals! The beautiful simplicity of a good 100m race is that it demonstrates the resilience and winning power of our people in a mere 10 seconds. The fighting spirit that Jamaicans have that inspires me. It’s readily apparent in track but look closer, and you’ll see it in other aspects of our lives too.

And how cool is it that we had an equestrian compete this year? Can you imagine traveling all the way from Kingston to London with your horse in tow?! 

I haven’t blogged in a while but just seeing our talented athletes in their black,green and gold made me want to do any- and everything; sing, dance, scream, write – you name it. Maybe shed a tear, or ten. It will give me such pleasure to watch them raise our flag and play our national anthem in London today, 50 years to the date after the British flag was lowered in Jamaica for the last time before Independence.

Thankfully, Jamaica won’t be back on the screen till around 2pm today so waking up at 5:35 am wasn’t necessary. But I will gladly do it again to see them in action. On your marks, get set… WIN

* I’m excluding 400m from the sprints. Though I was taught it is a sprint in Phys Ed, all my friends who are athletes refer to it as a middle-distance race. Hence the exclusion of Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley’s 400m golds in 1948 and 1952.

My Favorite Bob Marley Songs

If I had the time, I would write a detailed post about how Bob Marley’s legacy is much more than the posters emblazoned with red, green and gold and pictures of that illegal plant. But, alas, time is not on my side. Instead, I give you my top 5 songs by the late, great, Right Honorable Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley.

5. Exodus – The title track from his 9th album with the Wailers – the album that Time selected as the best of the 20th century. This song feels like fuel for a revolution. Love it!

4. Natural Mystic – I have no real justification for my love of this song. It just feels like it’s always been a part of my life.

3. Redemption Song– I have a vague memory of studying the lyrics of this song as a poem and participating in a choral elocutionary rendition in school. It’s funny, I can actually visualize the book with the poem but I can’t recall if this happened in high school or earlier. Regardless, I have heard so many horrible covers of this song through the years (Yes, I’m looking at you Rihanna) that I almost wrote it off with One Love, and Three Little Birds. But I think that longtime study of the words gave me such a deep appreciation for this song that I can’t let it go. We forward in this generation, triumphantly!

2. Satisfy my Soul – I discovered this song relatively late. I was very used to the revolutionary side of Bob, but not so much his love songs. Come to think of it, I first listened to this song because I read the Colin Channer book of the same name. Colin Channer is a great (New-York based) Jamaican writer, who hails from my hometown of Montego Bay. Anyway, I remember listening to this song for the first time, and just getting it. Whatever it is.

1. War – Adapted from the words of a speech made by then Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie 1 before the UN General Assembly in 1963. The words still ring true today. Another song for the soundtrack to any revolution. Unfortunately the best videos of him performing this song can’t be embedded, but you can always visit the Island Records youtube page for more videos.

Special Mentions:

Forever Loving Jah

Duppy Conqueror

Could You Be Loved

Rastaman Chant

What are your favorites?

Respect is Just the Minimum

Greetings Earthlings,

I am taking a break from self-imposed blogging sabbatical (read: I just wasn’t making blogging a priority) to comment on the boorish behavior that seems to be pervading our politics. I understand that politics is a dirty sport. It is often more about the gamesmanship than actual issues. But every game has rules. And we should be able to expect fair play from individuals seeking our support as the voting public. Unfortunately, in the midst of all the strategizing, politicians have apparently forgotten that a little respect goes a long way.

The latest egregious violation comes from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

When this inflammatory picture surfaced earlier today, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. I even suggested it might have been a camera trick like that Mayweather photo that made it seem like he was biting/kissing Ortiz’ nose.

Then the video of her explaining how she felt ‘threatened’ by President Obama surfaced and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

It must be wonderful to live such a privileged life that you feel comfortable pointing your finger in the face of the leader of the free world. I wouldn’t put my finger in my mother’s face, or a professor’s face, or any stranger’s face, for fear of losing said appendage. Actually, I wouldn’t even put my finger in a child’s face, because I was taught from a young age that it is a disrespectful thing to do. Yet she saw fit to point in the face of a man who has his own elite security detail and snipers at his beck and call. Perhaps we should collectively applaud her unabashed bravery. If that’s not gumption, what is?

Bear in mind that the illustrious Governor Brewer can list among her achievements signing the bill that limits ethnic studies classes in Arizona’s public schools, and the infamous Arizona SB 1070 immigration bill that has me debating whether I should keep my government documents on me at all times just in case.

Meanwhile, back a yard (that would be Jamaica, for the unfamiliar), former Prime Minister and current leader of the opposition Andrew Holness released this gem of a tweet :

The facebook post that is linked in the tweet refers to the Prime Minister as merely the PNP party leader, rather than Prime Minister. In all fairness, the social media posts were likely made by his social media director (Dear God, I hope he has one). But one would think that after the barrage of complaints he received about his tweets in previous months, he/they would have learned their lesson. When his party was soundly defeated last month, many political pundits and average Joes speculated that the loss was at least partially due the party ads that so grossly attacked Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller who is perceived as being more similar to the average Jamaican than he is. Yet his social media accounts do not suggest that the lesson has been learned. Whether you agree with her politics or not, as a political official, you should refer to her by her title, or at the very least, her surname. And why the constant use of all caps? Don’t they know that’s akin to shouting?

As someone who follows politics closely, and have several family members involved in politics, I would hope that we can move past the divisive ad hominem attacks, and focus on what is best for our nation.

I apply the same train of thought to US politics. No matter how much one may disagree with President Obama, if you are a public figure/elected official addressing him, he is President Obama to you. Not Mr. Obama, Obama, Barack, or the food stamp president. If you must refer to him derisively, do so when you’re not on your public platform. Give respect where it’s due. It’s just the minimum. Word to Lauryn Hill.

p.s. The Republican debate is on at 8pm EST tonight, January 26. CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer will be moderating, and the audience will not be silenced as it was for Monday’s NBC debate. You should be able to watch live here: http://live.cnn.com/ Grab your popcorn!

Image is Everything

Yes, I jacked the title from the old Sprite commercials. I don’t quite agree with that characterization of life. I’m much more concerned with my perception of myself than yours. But, the older I get, the more I realize that your level of success strongly correlates to how much people like/love/believe in/accept/understand you. This is even more important when you’re in the entertainment industry. Musicians and actors collectively spend millions of dollars on image consultants, PR associates and stylists to craft the perfect image to enhance their appeal to us, the masses. And for the most part, if I’m gonna buy what you’re selling, I need to understand what you’re saying!

Which leads me into a discussion about last week’s Soul Train Awards. (Yes I’m a week late with this but it’s finals time. Sue me.) I didn’t watch the show because I was studying. (Well, I was trying…) But I did log on to twitter during the telecast. My most recent tweet was from an American friend basically saying I needed to assist Mr. Vegas because he was inarticulate during his red carpet interview *hangs head in shame*

I laughed it off and didn’t take it very seriously because I’ve watched enough interviews with Jamaican deejays in my lifetime not to expect better. I have vague memories of watching Anthony Miller’s Entertainment Report and counting how many times the interviewee would say ‘u nah mean’ or use some other space filler in their sentences. I definitely didn’t have high expectations. But, then I saw this tweet from @Bevysmith

If you can’t see the text it’s :

When I was interviewing the Jamaican gentlemen (sic) I could barely understand him & I simply cut the interview short

She was referring to Gyptian who she interviewed on the red carpet. Later in the night, she mentioned that she was pretty sure Gyptian was under the influence. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case, but no judgements here lol

Watch his acceptance speech:

Bevy Smith shouldn’t be passed off as just a random commentator. She hosted the BET red carpet for the Soul Train Awards and has an enviable resume filled with decades of experience that include being a fashion editor at Vibe to hosting the ultra exclusive Dinner With Bevy series. Her comment made me wonder how many opportunities have been missed simply because we were unable to communicate clearly.

After I saw and retweeted her comment, I got involved in conversations with Jamaicans at home and abroad regarding our artists’ presentation of themselves on the world stage. Some expressed dismay that reggae is our most famous export and our musicians do not always represent us well. I love my reggae as much as the next person, but I too cringe at some of the interviews I’ve seen our entertainers give. As much as I want them to spend time in the studio crafting hits for my listening pleasure, I would really love if they would spend some more time doing some media training. Have some soundbites prepared for international audiences. Get familiar with how to use twitter and facebook effectively. Develop a strategy for their brand and stick to it.

Given that every Jamaican artist seems to be clamoring for ‘crossover’ hits and Billboard recognition, one would think they would start focusing more on presentation.This is not to say that I expect them to twang and put on an accent for the foreigners. But as many have noted, music is now a business as much as it is an art. Artists have a product to sell. If they can’t communicate it effectively, who is gonna buy? I definitely understand that depending on their backgrounds they may not have had access to media training and similar tools that their international counterparts do. But that’s where their management should step in and provide the necessary guidance.

I don’t know any Jamaicans who still buy music legally. I don’t even know any who used to buy Jamaican music back when we still paid for cds. So a Jamaican artist’s dollars are coming first from limited local endorsements and stageshows. The big bucks are to be made by touring and selling overseas. (Though CD sales are down everywhere but it’s still better than what they’d get at home). If they’re gonna make money selling reggae music, they’d better figure out a way to ensure that people understand what they’re saying, not just in their lyrics but also in promotional appearances.

I’m sure many of our artistes would love to get international endorsement deals. Well in that case, many of them are gonna need their image revamped and most companies will not want to align their dollars with someone who they doubt can effectively communicate about their product. When we talk about image, we normally think about wardrobe and lifestyle choices. Let’s not forget to consider whether people can understand us and realize that we are in fact capable of stringing sentences together.

p.s. I don’t want to knock Gyptian. I *still* listen to ‘These are some serious times’ after all these years. Seeing him on stage at the Awards with the Jamaican flags all over the stage and the crowd on its feet made me all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

****UPDATED**** I found out Gyptian was hospitalized for dehydration shortly after posting this. Wishing him a speedy recovery!