Monday, December 27, 2004

HOW LAWYERS CAN GET ON TV: SF ATTORNEY BECOMES BIGSHOT ANALYST

After thinking about it some more I think I may junk that whole idea about going into the investment business, I'd hate cold-calling clients and I'd be no good at it, and besides, I'm no good at numbers and can't count. And I won't develop any transferable skills beyond making money for bosses who'd be sent to jail for insider trading. About the only thing I'd like about business is getting rich. But there are other ways to get rich, like book deals. No, I think reporting on the investment business would be a better fit for me, so sign me up, CNBC.

And on another subject, I think I spoke too soon about bidding farewell to politics, I'm already having second thoughts. I think that if I can't get back to broadcasting, then I'm probably going to use my political experience with big PR consulting firms. But my preferred backup plan would be finding a way to re-activate my law license that I still have. Then I could at least gain some real, transferable skills that I might actually be able to take to TV land at a later date, covering trials and crime and stuff.

People who know me from way back know that before I turned to media, I briefly pursued a legal career. I had hoped to get into a firm that did entertainment law so that I could get into movies and TV eventually. But my career collapsed on takeoff during the early 90s recession in the legal profession, and no firm wanted to allow me to article. Criminal law was my second choice, but no one would let me do that, either. When I finally made a deal to article at literally the last minute, it was with a firm in a small city that I didn't want to live in to begin with. In fact, I spent my entire articling year commuting, back and forth, five-and-a-half hours each way every weekend from my home in Saskatoon to this position in this burg I didn't want to practise in. The firm gave me an articling experience consisting of divorces ( lots of them ) and what most lawyers describe as "dog cases" and "fish files" (cases and files the other lawyers don't want to do). About the only good thing was the criminal law exposure, I give them credit for that. I did manage to get a couple of clients out on conditional discharges (just like Todd Bertuzzi).

The irony is that while nobody in the legal profession wanted to take me on as an articling student, when I had to do internships in the super-competitive field of TV, I not only got to intern at one national network, I managed to intern at two of them. Go figure that out.

A year ago, I learned that the law societies across Canada had relaxed the rules regarding inter-provincial mobility, so I could transfer my license to Ontario if I wanted to without having to endure additional requirements to article; that was a big boulder removed from my path right there. But because I didn't get the experience in criminal law or entertainment law, my articling experience is seen as a big strike against me... especially on Bay Street. Not even the fact that I worked to help elect Bay Street lawyer/bigshots would help me. In fact, most of the lawyers I met on these campaigns were trying to get out of law- they were either quitting or being fired. In fact, one of them succeeded in getting out, to a big policy job with the government. Now she's working for a bunch of political consultants. But she was a top organizer on that campaign she was working for, so that helped her a lot, I think.

(Speaking of campaigns, it looks like someone I met on both of John Tory's campaigns, Cynthia Cheng, managed to get herself published in the Toronto Star today. Not some letter to the editor either; a real article. She told me she was trying to get into writing and so on, so I'm assuming that's the same person.)

Bottom line is that if I were to go back to law I'd need to find a way to get criminal law or entertainment law experience somewhere in town, although the real reason I'd want to go back to law is to get experience so I could write screenplays for David E. Kelley or get a job as a color commentator on Court TV.

It's articles like this next one that make me sometimes think about going through the hassles of trying the legal field again, even though I'm not officially licensed in Ontario. Here's an article about a lawyer in San Francisco named Harjot "Ginny" Walia. She has a criminal law practise in the Bay Area and has only been practising for two years. But she was able to build her practise by getting herself on TV. One time she went up to Nancy Grace and said she was a big fan of her show and offered to be a guest analyst on Court TV. Lots of guts. And guess what, they put her on the air!

Now she's a big analyst on Court TV and Fox News and is getting lots of clients as a result. So now she's rich and famous. It's things like that that make me wonder how I could get back to doing something connected to the legal profession, although to be honest, I'd much prefer something in TV.

As for Nancy Grace, last time I heard she was going to do a new legal show on Headline News.

(UPDATE- Here's an article I found from Nova Scotia on what a lot of law school grads were able to do. Turns out I'm not alone, lots of people have left the business. One guy chucked his law degree and went to film school, because he wanted to get into the film industry. That's what this article doesn't mention: for people with law degrees, their only hope is to go back to school because the only entertainment jobs you can get with a law degree only go to top Ivy Leaguers and other geniuses. I have TV experience and have a brother who works on big Hollywood movies in B.C., but darnit, I don't want to go back to school yet again! I've got enough education! Isn't there some way to get in which doesn't require me to part with a boatload of borrowed money? Arrggh!!! ! !)

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