Watch Jonathan Negretti discuss Negretti & Associates’ pledge to create a scholarship endowment at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. In this video, which is part of his firm’s Legal Beagle Podcast, Jonathan reflects upon his long journey from his undergrad years to the current moment, of being able to give back to his alma mater in a significant and deeply meaningful way.
By Jonathan Negretti
Negretti & Associates recently formalized a commitment to creating a scholarship endowment to the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. For each of the next five years, at the very least, the endowment will offer a scholarship to law students who are community leaders.
The endowment is important to us at Negretti & Associates for a couple of reasons.
Back when I was in my undergrad years at Arizona State University (ASU), I struggled a bit in picking a direction in my education. There was actually a time where I almost failed out of ASU. My GPA was so low that I was at the point of being put on academic suspension. That was a bit of a defining moment for me. I knew I could do the work. I just wasn’t doing the work.
So, I visited my dad in San Diego, where he lived at the time. I spent time on the beach reflecting on my life and thinking about my future, and where I was going. I found some clarity in that time away: that you are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for, or that you even believe that you could do.
I returned to ASU and met with one of my academic counselors. I said, “Look, I can’t unwind what has already happened. But I can look forward into the next year and a half of school and figure out how to graduate and have some sort of direction.”
My counselor and I sat down together and put together a plan. I was able to excel. In fact, in my declared major, I think my GPA was a 3.9 — maybe a 3.8. But, because of the previous trouble I had in my first two to two-and-a-half years at ASU, my overall GPA was quite low. It was in the low 3s. It was certainly not remarkable, and certainly not something that I look back on and am proud of. But you learn and you grow from things.
After getting my degree from ASU, I went off into the world of media, and worked in media sales. I worked for few different publications and helped start a publication that was created by Dave and Jackie Goodwin here in Arizona called College Times, which they later sold. I helped grow a key accounts desk at The Arizona Republic into an eight-figure, income-producing desk for our state’s largest newspaper.
Even though I had these exciting experiences, I felt like I was lacking something. So, I started to investigate what other things were out there for me. One thing I considered doing was going to get my MBA. I visited with ASU, because it offers an MBA program. I also visited with Thunderbird, which is an international business school in Arizona — one that is highly acclaimed in the Phoenix area — and even sat in on classes and met some students. Then, out of happenstance, I was told that I should give a go at law school.
I had never thought of going to law school. I don’t come from a lineage of attorneys. I don’t have that background or that pedigree in my family. But law school sounded interesting and I knew that the experience, or the education itself, could benefit me in a lot of different capacities going forward — especially since I have a sincere interest in business.
Finding a Side Door
I had a three-step approach toward going to law school: I would take the LSAT, apply to law school, and then figure out, financially, how to go to law school. It’s kind of funny. Maybe I should have thought about how to go to law school financially before I took the LSAT and applied to law school! Nonetheless, that was my three-step approach.
I took the LSAT, but I did not do exceptionally well. On the spectrum of where I scored on the LSAT, I probably was on the lower end — maybe not where tier-one schools, the upper echelon of law schools, would even give me a look. It was certainly not Ivy League material. But that was okay because I wanted to go to Arizona State.
Combined with my LSAT score, my GPA was too low for ASU to admit me. Yet, fortunately, at the time, there was another law school option in Phoenix: the Phoenix School of Law, which is now defunct.
Phoenix School of Law admitted me to law school. But, still, that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to know how to get into ASU. I’m a big believer that if you don’t get in through the front door, that maybe there’s a way to get in through the side door.
I continued to pester the dean of admissions at ASU for weeks on end, wanting to have a conversation about how to transfer over to ASU after my first year of law school. It’s not often that students would transfer after year one of law school, but it’s not uncommon, either. It does happen from time to time.
When the dean of admissions at ASU finally picked up the phone, I said, “Hey, look, I just want to know how to put myself in the best position possible to transfer to ASU.”
She said, “This is what I need you to do. I need you to kick butt in your first year of law school. I need you to be in the top 10 percent of your class. I need you to join organizations and be active on campus. You can’t just be a bookworm. You have to show that you are more well-rounded than that. I need you to meet your professors and get to know them, so that if you have to have a letter of recommendation written about you, they actually know who you are, and they’re not just being asked last-minute to write about one of their students. You need to show they’ve gotten to know you over the course of the school year.”
I felt I was capable of meeting those expectations.
I joined a law school fraternity. I didn’t know that there were law school fraternities, but there are. I was in a bunch of different organizations. I joined organizations that had to do with religion and the law. I joined organizations that had to do with social justice and giving back into the community.
Then, I went and sat down with my professors and I got to know them as people. They got to know me as a person and relationships developed.
When it came time to transfer, I had checked all the boxes. I was in the top ten percent of my first-year class at Phoenix School of Law. I had joined a ton of organizations and was well-rounded in that capacity. I knew a lot of my professors and had asked a few of them to write letters of recommendation.
When I submitted my application to transfer to ASU, I was immediately admitted as a student.
But rather than simply just transfer to ASU, I went to Phoenix School of Law and I sat with the dean of the school and I said, “Look, I know that I’m going to go do wonderful things for this profession and I want to be an ambassador for whatever school I graduate from. If you offer me a scholarship to stay here, I will stay and complete school here and I will forever sing your praises and I will give back to the school and I’ll donate.” The dean was uninterested and said, “Good luck at ASU.”
I made that same offer to ASU about giving back and being a part of the legacy of law school. I said the same thing to the dean of admissions as part of my application to be admitted — that if you let me in, I will forever be grateful, will forever give back to the school, and be part of that ongoing legacy of law students who have graduated from Arizona State.
Introducing The Negretti Law Leadership Scholarship
Fast forward to today. We are eight years removed from law school. Our firm is in a position, much credit to the hard work of our entire staff, where we can offer this endowment to Arizona State University on behalf of the firm.
Now that we have created The Negretti Law Leadership Scholarship, the first student to receive the scholarship will be a part of the next incoming class, in August 2021. I’m really excited to have this be part of the firm’s legacy, my personal legacy, and Arizona State University’s legacy.
When I sat down with the team at ASU to create this scholarship endowment, it was really important to me that this wouldn’t be just another scholarship available to a student who excelled in their undergraduate program or on their LSAT scores. I really wanted to try to identify people like me.
Here’s what you need to know when you think about law school — or when you’re thinking about the people they admit into law school.
Law schools are ranked. Those rankings put law schools in different tiers. Earlier, I referenced tier one. That’s usually the better law schools in the country. The rankings are based on the students that they admit and have to do with metrics like undergraduate GPAs, LSAT scores, etc.
So, here I am, asking the law school to create a scholarship that identifies people like me: people who didn’t have great undergrad GPAs or great LSAT scores, but have some life experience, a desire to go do great things, and can be great in this profession, regardless of what it says on paper.
ASU and I had to work hard to try to create a scholarship that allows recipients to be identified as among those people.
If we, as a firm, can impact this profession in a positive way by finding more dedicated, more non-traditional, more out-of-the-box types of attorneys, then I think that we’re doing the right thing and we’re offering some good into the profession that we are honored to work in.
I’m humbled by the fact that we are in a position to make this endowment. What’s more, I’m thankful to the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University for believing in me and for helping me put together a scholarship that really gives back, by identifying future students who will make positive impacts on this profession.