Graduate Student Spotlight: Colton Cray, USC

Eller PDC Alumni Stories

3515525585Colton Cray graduated from the University of Arizona in May 2014 with majors in MIS, Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Operations Management and a minor in Global Business. He is now pursuing a law degree at the University of Southern California.

Why did you decide to pursue a law degree at USC?

My decision to pursue a law degree was separate from my decision to pursue one at USC necessarily (Bear Down > Fight On). My pursuit of law in it of itself might seem strange considering [my majors and minors]. During my time in the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program, I saw that the most successful venture teams were often the ones with the best due diligence: the ones who didn’t just take risks, but rather those who took mitigated, calculated risks. Success with a start-up meant honing and balancing certain strategic and analytical skills and I knew that those were the same skills people hire lawyers to perform. I love entrepreneurship and wanted to get started developing my own business but I knew that a lot of successful serial entrepreneurs had gone to law school so I decided to follow suit (no pun intended) and earn a JD from a top institution.

My decision to enroll at USC Gould School of Law came from a generous scholarship offer due to my business background. Law schools like USC’s value a business background because the most prestigious firms’ main clientele features fortune 500 companies performing complex business transactions requiring an experienced eye for business. Those companies trust people who can “talk the talk,” so to speak. USC reached out to me immediately after my LSAT score was released and invited me to apply for their “Rothman Scholarship”; essentially a full ride that goes to one student each year. The scholarship guarantees a summer position following the first year at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, one of the biggest law firms, directly in the heart of Los Angeles. Since earning this scholarship, I will get exposure and hands-on experience with some of the most exciting mergers and acquisitions deals in the world.

What was the preparation and application process like?

Preparation and application was not something to take lightly. I was in the heat of the McGuire program and applying for full-time positions in the finance industry when I started considering the application process and took a free practice Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Law schools separate candidates based on GPA and LSAT scores, so it was important that my GPA was already competitive (3.75 at the time). I enrolled in a 10-week LSAT prep course with Kaplan (their minimum package) and studied rigorously in between job applications, a part-time internship, and building our McGuire venture. It neither easy nor cheap. After I took my test in October, schools immediately began sending me informational flyers, booklets, e-mails etc either asking me to apply or waiving application fees (average $65 apiece). The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC)’s website makes applications easy by allowing you to apply to any and all schools directly through their website. After selecting what schools I wanted to apply to, I began writing my personal statement. I sought professional help and hired a tutor to consult on my paper. Finally, I requested my official transcript and submitted all my applications around February. All costs considered, I was out nearly $1,750, so you have to be committed. It’s worth mentioning that I did everything very late in the process, to my detriment. The advantages of applying early can make a monumental difference in the caliber of school one gets admitted to, I happened to be lucky by finding a perfect match with USC months before I even submitted my other applications.

What do you hope to do after you complete the program?

Since attending law school, my post-grad aspirations have drastically changed. I fully intend on pursuing a life-long career in law. After the program I hope to accept a full-time associateship at Skadden and practice corporate law or litigation there. There are many other paths associates with a few years under their belts can pursue though; they can move into more specialized positions within the firm, branch out to their own practice, move to an in-house counsel position with a client, or pursue their own business. Really, having that kind of education and experience is a way of opening doors and creating opportunities, whatever those may be.