Alumni Profile: Valerie Lovely, from Artist to Attorney
One month after Valerie Lovely passed the Massachusetts bar exam, her first client found her, fulfilling a promise made years earlier. At a going away party for Lovely, who was leaving her post as special programs coordinator in Berklee's Office of Special Programs to attend law school, the then-student employee told Lovely she would seek her legal services in the future.
Sure enough, she did. "I need you. I hope you're a lawyer now," came the message on Lovely's voicemail. Lovely came to the woman's aid, successfully getting her out of a bad management contract she had signed.
But in doing so, she altered her intentions to wait a few years after law school before opening her own law practice. "My plan went right out the window," she says.
The word got out that Lovely was in business and in no time several people were asking her to represent them. Shortly thereafter, she opened her own firm in Boston's Back Bay.
"I set up my practice as a musician with a little bit of lawyer," says the 1995 graduate. "I knew how I'd want to be treated if I went to a lawyer. I don't use big words. I talk in plain language."
But you won't find Lovely, who specializes in transactional music law, in the courtroom litigating. "I do the paperwork behind the scenes," she says.
She offers a tiered system of service to accommodate a spectrum of income levels for established and not-so-established musicians. "This way, I'm able to grow with my clients or vice versa," Lovely says. "It's not as cost-prohibitive."
"I'm educating my clients along the way. It's not just 'this is good to sign,'" she says. "It's been a fun journey."
Lovely, who majored in film scoring and played piano, credits her Berklee education for preparing her for that journey. From performing to conducting a film scoring session, she garnered enough experience to make public speaking—a cornerstone of law school—a breeze. "In moot court, I could just get up and talk," she recalls. "I think Berklee prepared me for that, to be comfortable in your own skin. That gave me a real edge."
Not to mention the advantage of her vast knowledge of music and the industry. "When talk about music, I get it. I speak that language," she says.
From her years of exposure to the music business, Lovely has gained a unique perspective. Her advice to budding musicians? "I think a band needs to take themselves as far as they can go on their own first. Put a CD together. Play everywhere: high schools, colleges, not just in your local towns. Sell T-shirts, CDs, bumper stickers. Market yourself. Play, play, play. Sell, sell, sell. I think a lot of bands out there make a really good living just doing it that way."
By establishing oneself first, a band will be a lot more attractive to a record label, she says.
Through it all, Lovely stays close to her Berklee roots. She has hired Berklee interns, and her former legal assistant, who recently left to go to law school, is a Berklee alumnus. Lovely teaches the Berkleemusic course Legal Aspects of the Music Industry, was a faculty member for Berklee’s Business of Music summer program and participated in a Music Business/Management entrepreneurship panel. Meanwhile, a large percentage of her clients have a Berklee connection: alumni, staff, trustees, and faculty.
And to think, her practice all started with a former student employee making good on a promise.