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Meet Shelby Palmer

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shelby Palmer.

Shelby, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of education. I went through the typical career aspirations as a child—doctor, teacher, firefighter, etc. But for whatever reason, once I landed on becoming a lawyer, it just stuck with me. Since the 4th grade, it has always been my career goal.

I went to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and absolutely loved my experience. I would not trade it for the world. I was active in organizations such as the Student Government Association, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and the Morehouse Business Association. After college, I debated between going straight to law school and taking a gap year. After talking it over with my parents, my plan was to “just apply” and if I did not get into any of my top choices, I would try again the next year. After casting my net super wide, I was accepted into 13 law schools, many of which were my top choices.

I knew I ultimately wanted to go into entertainment law, so I decided on USC Gould School of Law. While there, one of my favorite extracurricular activities was serving as the president of the Black Law Students Association. During the semesters, I interned at USC’s Intellectual Property Clinic and Starz. During the summers, I worked as a summer associate at a large firm, which led to a full-time offer at the end of my second summer.

Has it been a smooth road?
It certainly hasn’t been a smooth road. I think a lot of times, people only get to see the end result and selected fractions of the journey. In my experience, however, it is it not-so-smooth portions that really matter because I would not be who I am today without the challenges I have overcome along the way. For starters, I am extremely close to my family, so moving to Los Angeles by myself to tackle law school with all my friends and family 2,000 miles away was definitely one of my more courageous ventures, to say the least. Although all my loved ones were only a phone call or plane ride away, being in a completely new environment, maneuvering life as an adult and managing relationships was a personal challenge for me outside of the rigor of law school.

I had always thought of myself as very smart, but law school was so different for me. I remember sitting in my Contracts class the first week of school basically teary-eyed because I was extremely confused on the subject. I can laugh about it now (especially because I ultimately ended up doing pretty well in the class), but that is just a small example of how ill-equipped I initially felt I was to handle different challenges and changes at that time.

Additionally, while I have been fortunate enough to have some great career opportunities thus far, I was certainly told “no” several times. Often, the imposter syndrome would count me out of an opportunity before I even stepped foot into an interview room. But one of the beauties in being physically alone in Los Angeles was the absence of distractions. I was able to just sit in solitude after those moments of “rejection,” figure out what I wanted my guiding principles to be and essentially evolve into more of my true self. I think it all comes down to being grounded, understanding and appreciating life’s rhythms, and ultimately finding comfort in the reality that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be at any given moment.

There is a saying that “the reward for overcoming a challenge is facing another one,” and it has proven itself true many times in my life. Although I have tackled and accomplished a lot, I’m still figuring things out. I have literally been in school my entire life, where benchmarks and next steps have always been easily outlined for me—get good grades, get an internship, join a few organizations you’re passionate about, and graduate with a job. So now that I am done with school and am a freshly minted attorney, it is somewhat intimidating that it’s completely up to me to decide the direction of my future and implement a plan to make it work. The possibilities are truly endless, and that is both the beauty and the beast of it all because while there’s no ceiling, there are so many more factors and curveballs to consider.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What do you do? What do you want to be known for? 
I work for a national full-service law firm, where I serve as a litigation associate and focus my practice primarily on entertainment and media.

I chose entertainment law because it is such a well-versed and broad field and it is something that most people experience every day in one form or another. Especially now with social media, the issues that are prominent in typical entertainment cases—contracts (reading the fine print is so important), trademark, copyright, defamation, etc.—are not limited to celebrities or big studios. The issues are now touching the lives of everyday people.

While I certainly want to be known as a top entertainment litigator, I also want to be known for my role in increasing diversity in the legal field. One of my biggest passions is mentorship. I don’t have a huge platform now, but whenever I get the occasional DM or email asking for tips and strategies for the LSAT or for getting into law school, I am all over it. I love sharing the knowledge I have about the law school process and putting in a good word for people whenever I can.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I like that the city is extremely diverse in that sense that there are people from all walks of life with different goals and ambitions. Whatever you want to do, I’m sure there’s a niche and a group of like-minded people willing to embrace you. On the other hand, I would definitely say I can do without the traffic!

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Image Credit:
Ameera Davis

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