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Careers in Law Episode 2: Children’s Rights Law

Careers in Law Episode 2: Children’s Rights Law with Leah Cohen-Mays

The Blueprint Careers in Law Series continues our focus on public interest law with Leah Cohen-Mays, an attorney at the Children’s Law Center and Adjunct Associate Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School. Ms. Cohen-Mays was a non-traditional law student, choosing to make the switch to law after a successful career in the entertainment industry. She currently owns a production company, SMILEAH Production, and wrote, directed, and produced an award-winning short film, “The Boots.”

In this interview with Blueprint, Ms. Cohen-Mays explains the obstacles students might face going to law school and working part-time and whether you need to know what type of lawyer you want to be before going to law school. She also explains how she continues to balance her law career as a children’s rights lawyer with her passions, as well as tips for time management tips for pre-laws and organizing your schedule to make it happen!

When did you decide you wanted to be a lawyer?

“I do remember what made me decide to go to law school. I was out in LA, I moved from Miami. I was dancing, touring, I was acting, doing commercials and I was working full-time at Capitol Records. I know it’s so random, but they let me go on auditions. So that was my requirement for taking the job. I’m like, “If you let me go on auditions, I’ll do whatever you want me to do.” So I was a coordinator there and I was allowed to go on my auditions. And after about seven years I was having fun, but I realized I was like, I’m not helping anybody. I’m not being productive. And I actually told my boss, I said, “I think my soul is drying up.” And she was like, “Do you need to take a leave of absence? What’s going on?” And I was just like, ‘I’m just not feeling fulfilled.’”

Was it hard to switch careers to becoming a lawyer?

“It was a lot because you think this is a career path you’ve chosen. Now I’m about to just totally switch it up and I don’t know how this is going to work. And I’m about to probably go into more debt. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to see my friends after talking to a couple of lawyers. They’re like, “Oh, law school is not a game.” So there is a lot of “what ifs” and how is this going to work? But one thing I always live my life on is, I got to do what makes me happy. And if at some point I’m not feeling happy and I’m not feeling like I’m living the best life I should be living, I need to take steps to make a change. And I know…there’s struggle that comes with it. There’s a little bit of the unknown and that fear, but you just gotta go for it. What are you waiting for? Because tomorrow is going to come…you’re going to wake up and be in the same place or no.”

Did you know what area of law you wanted to practice?

“I went into law school thinking I’ll be an entertainment lawyer because I was here for entertainment. I was acting. I was at a record company. All my friends were producers or writers or directors. So why not? I have my people here that are going to hire me. They’re already here. They’re built-in. I realized Southwestern [Law School] is like a rock star when it comes to entertainment. They have a great program. However, I realized I don’t like doing contracts. That’s not my thing. So I was like, yeah, this is boring. Not for me.”

How do you manage everything (practicing children’s rights law, teaching at Southwestern Law, acting, and producing)? It sounds like you have about six full-time jobs. So I don’t know if your time management in multitasking is the other skill set that you haven’t shared with us. How do you juggle it?

“I think I’m a multi-tasker by nature. I think if I’m only doing one thing, my mind is going into many places. I always try to find a balance. I don’t get as much sleep as the average person…I don’t advise you all to not sleep, though. Please get your rest. And I just really, I have to make time for the things that make me feel good. I have to. Even if it’s just 30 minutes a day that I’m working on my production, then that’s fine, but I got to figure out a little bit of time and do it. And then I’d take it managing my weekends when I don’t have to be in the office. I take full advantage of that. And I’m working on being better at managing my time. That’s so important, is making sure that you’re using every moment of your time as wisely as possible, but that’s a skill that I’m still in the process of learning.”

What are the biggest challenges you would say for students that have been working in the workforce for a while and then decide to pursue law school a legal career?

“It’s a big adjustment because you’re in the routine of working and law school is a whole nother beast…Also, you’re going to be with students who may have just come out of undergrad and they’re just a different breed…So I think just adjusting to a new world is the biggest thing. I do think there is an advantage though, to having been in the workforce and going to law school…”

Watch the full Blueprint Careers in Law Episode 2 to find out what the advantage of being a non-traditional law student is, as well as tips on applying to law school after undergrad! 

Note: Responses were edited for clarity.

Don’t miss our other Careers in Law Public Interest and Social Justice Law Episodes!

Careers in Law Episode 1: Housing & Homeless Prevention with Ugochi Anaebere-Nicholson
Careers in Law Episode 3: Immigration Rights with Karen Aguilar

Looking for a career in entertainment law or children’s rights law? You’ll need to take the LSAT first! Prep at your own pace with the Blueprint LSAT Self-Paced LSAT Course, with an instructor in our Live Course LSAT Classes, or one-on-one with a private LSAT tutor. We have an LSAT prep course for every learning style!
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