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Rosie O’Donnell, daytime talk show host, actor and comedienne, recently announced that she is planning to go to law school, possibly in 2002, when her television contract will expire. O’Donnell is hoping to use her law degree to fight for changes in foster care legislation in America, which she called “a shambles,” The Associated Press reports. ROSIE, ESQ? This is not the first time O’Donnell has expressed an interest in the law. Before transferring to Boston University to study drama, she briefly studied pre-law as an undergraduate at Dickinson College and then Boston University. Still, law school would be a big change for O’Donnell, a celebrity best known for her passion for musical theater, her love of all things related to Barbra Streisand, and the crush she has on “her Tommy” (Tom Cruise). The “Rosie O’Donnell Show” has been a hit since its television debut in 1996. Before that, the Commack, Long Island native was a busy stand-up comedienne and actor in film and theater, appearing in such movies as “The Flintstones” and “Beautiful Girls” and on Broadway as Rizzo in a revival of “Grease.” How would the comedienne fare in law school? The first hurdle O’Donnell would have to clear is a big one. Because she is one semester shy of an undergraduate degree from Boston University, she may have to first complete that degree before even applying to law school. WHO’LL FORGIVE THE LACK OF A B.A.? If O’Donnell wanted to attend Yale, the top law school in the country, she’d have to complete her undergraduate degree before sending in her application. But other law schools may be more forgiving of such academic shortcomings. Jocelyn Sherman, an admissions officer at New York University Law School, said that O’Donnell’s law school application would be considered as long as she was in the process of completing her undergraduate degree and would actually complete it before classes commenced in the fall. Kevin Downey, Assistant Dean of Admissions at New York’s Fordham Law School, observed that most law schools, including Fordham, require four years of undergraduate study. “However,” Downey continued, “law schools are empowered to waive the minimum standard, but Fordham’s policy is never to do that.” Assuming that her lack of undergraduate credentials will prove surmountable, how would O’Donnell’s law school application be evaluated? Here’s what a law school admissions officer might consider when considering the Queen of Nice’s application: PROFESSIONAL AND BUSINESS EXPERIENCE Law school admissions committees look favorably on candidates with professional and business experience. “Professional experience,” says Downey, “when attached to someone successful, not just someone famous, can be a very big part of the [admissions] file.” O’Donnell is nothing if not experienced in business. In fact, she has not only been the host of a hit talk show for over four years, she is also its executive producer. And O’Donnell was producing television shows as far back as 1988, when she produced and hosted a half-hour series on VH-1 featuring up-and-coming comedians. O’Donnell spent two years as a spokesperson for Kmart, and she recently announced plans to launch her own magazine, “Rosie’s McCall’s,” for which she will serve as editorial director. Will O’Donnell’s extensive professional credentials wow law school admissions committees? Says Downey, “It would be foolish to ignore that sort of material.” COMMITMENT TO PUBLIC SERVICE O’Donnell has more going for her than business savvy. She has a demonstrated commitment to numerous liberal causes that far exceeds simple check-writing. Over the years, O’Donnell has been one of Hollywood’s most outspoken advocates for gun control, as well as one of its most fervent opponents of the NRA. In a 1999 episode of her television program, O’Donnell almost came to blows with show guest and National Rifle Association member Tom Selleck over the issue, and in May 2000, she served as emcee of the Million Mom March, a march on Washington, D.C. to bring attention to the importance of gun control. Another issue close to O’Donnell’s heart is children’s advocacy. The host has created and marketed several products and books, including the joke book “Kids Are Punny” and the albums “A Rosie Christmas” and “Another Rosie Christmas,” the profits of which benefit children’s charities such as the For All Kids Foundation. Rosie has also hosted the “Kids’ Choice Awards” not once but twice. The talk show host is also a vocal supporter of breast cancer research, drawing attention to the importance of the issue by publicly discussing her own mother’s losing battle with the disease when O’Donnell was a child. Admissions committees are bound to be impressed by such a demonstrated commitment to public service. “Activism,” says Sherman, “definitely carries weight.” LITIGATION EXPERIENCE O’Donnell is no stranger to the courtroom, and she has experience as both plaintiff and defendant. Just this month, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced that it is suing O’Donnell on defamation grounds for damages reportedly caused when the talk show host said during the taping of her show that the group endorses certain kinds of leather used by The Gap. PETA is seeking an on-air retraction as well as $350,000 in punitive damages. Earlier this year in Portland, Ore., O’Donnell sued a radio station for trademark infringement. The station uses the slogan “Rosie 105,” and the star claimed that the use of the word “Rosie” deliberately misleads station listeners into believing that the radio station is associated with the talk show host herself. No doubt law school admissions committees will be impressed with O’Donnell’s familiarity with the courtroom. That’s if some lawyer friend doesn’t talk her out of applying in the first place.

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