|'Dear Alice' #4:
'Dear Alice . . .'
- by Alice Marie Beard
surprise, people still write to me because of the online journal I kept
during my "One Hell" year at Catholic
So long as the letters keep coming,
I'll keep sharing the letters tht have comments helpful
to other "more mature" law students.
By the way, I went on to earn my J.D.
from George Mason.
From a one-L to be:
Hello, I am about 2 months away from beginning my first
year of law school. I received my bachelor's degree in
Political Science from [a large state university], and
will be attending [a well-respected state law school].
Before stumbling upon your site, I thought about keeping
an online journal about my first year as you did (good
way to let your friends at home know what's going on and
a good place to vent as well). I never realized that
there would be so many implications to keeping an online
LOL! Ya, well, keeping
that online journal might not have been the smartest
thing I've ever done. Writing the dean and the president
of Catholic University and telling them that it was not
polite for the law school to hold quasi mandatory events
on Yom Kippur also probably wasn't the brightest thing to
do a month into my time at Catholic. Live and learn. I
was a square peg matched to a round hole.
From one who will begin again:
I entered my second-tier law school hoping that I would
do well and transfer to a more highly rated school.
Unfortunately, I had a hard time learning all of the
materials and started falling behind. I noticed that some
students in my class seemed to know far more about the
law than my other classmates, including myself. After two
months of grueling and frustrating time in school, I
withdrew with the commitment to myself that I would study
law for a year for all of the first year courses. I got
my hands on all of the first year primers and studied
until I felt comfortable with all of the courses.
I applied to only the first-tier law schools this year
and got into [a well-ranked state law school]. My advice
to prospective law students is to start preparing for law
school ahead. Attending a law school without any sort of
prepping is asking for trouble.
From someone who's gonna be a mom for a
I am a twenty-six-year-old mother of two children: ages 5
and 4 this month. I will finish my Master's Degree in
Political Science in December (while working full time
for government), and wanted to go on to law school right
away. I now know differently. Instead I will be like your
neighbor mom who put it all aside to raise her three
kids. I can always go back once they are out of the
house. Plus, I don't think I have the attention span
after finding out exactly what is behind all of it!
A Midwestern Mom with Big Dreams -- just put on hold for
For 20 years I was
"on duty" as a full-time, at-home mom. I did it
by choice; it was the best thing for my children, and I
do not regret the choice. I expect to function fine for
at least another 25 or 30 years. That's a lot of years of
living as someone trained as a lawyer.
From a non-traditional at a top ten
I spent much of today giving my fellow non-traditional
about-to-be-2Ls a pep talk. We visited campus to buy
books. We go to a non-competitive school that is fairly
supportive of nontrads, and still we are dragging
ourselves to school. I think I am trying to convince
myself to keep going. Like many, I scored high on the
LSAT, graduated from a prestigious undergrad with high
honors, magna cum laude, pbk [Phi Beta Kappa], etc. I had
a challenging career where I constantly received kudos.
Law school is the only place I've ever felt stupid. It's
a demotivating experience. However, I'm going to keep on
keeping on. I'll be 45 in a few months, and I'll graduate
if it's the last thing I do. I can't believe that all
that feedback from the colleges I attended and the
corporations I worked for was wrong. It simply can't be.
Therefore, I'm going to keep going.
[a student from a top-ten law school]
From a CUA law graduate:
Dear Alice -
I heard about your website from [a mutual friend]. My
husband and I graduated from CUA in 1993. I couldn't wait
to escape that place! I enjoyed your site - I was able to
identify more than a few of your professors. Your
descriptions were perfect!
From an academically excluded student:
I am a 45 year old law student. Or I was - until 2nd
semester grades came out last week. After several days of
trying to gather my thoughts and figure out how I was
going to get myself and my furniture and what-not back to
the east coast by myself, I am now at the point where I
can at least attempt to figure out what happened.
Your journal was so helpful. I wish I'd read it BEFORE I
ever enrolled in law school, but I was so eager to go to
law school and to get off the east coast that I jumped
once I was accepted.
The school seems to have a high rate of
"repeats." A woman who was finishing her 2nd
semester of her 2nd time as a first year confided that
she had been academically disqualified the first time
around for having a 73.99 GPA when a 74.00 was the
cutoff. That's a .01% shortfall. A factor that played a
part in the equation was a Civ Pro professor who had
marked her down for "writing too much." But,
one of the assistant deans (they seem to have a lot of
them there, but maybe that's normal) told me that the
school was unmoved by such a circumstance. In other
words, if a student is so close, too bad. Later, during
the same conversation, the assistant dean expressed the
hope that I would return next fall, which is the option
the school gives all of its academically dismissed
students. Well, why not? It costs almost $40,000 a year
to go there. I'm beginning to think that there are some
financial incentives for a law school to adopt this
I am starting to feel a little better about what's
happened. Your website helped me.
From a 49-year-old 1-L
I just turned 49 (last Saturday) and am in my first year
of law school. There isn't a day that goes by that I
don't ask myself why I am doing this. I've been thinking
about quitting after December exams and going back to my
real life when I used to have fun. After reading a couple
of your chapters, I feel much better. I see myself in
every chapter you wrote. Thank you!!!
From a 45-year-old 3-L:
I am a 3L at [a west coast law school], a 45+ woman.
I prepared myself for law school knowing the biases and
hurdles against non-traditional female law students. It
has been a very rough three years. Part of it is law
school; part of it is generational, and most of it is
that we don't fit, and the schools don't know what to do.
Until there are more of us, the schools won't change.
If I could do it again, I wouldn't. By my third year I
was pretty disgusted with the ivory tower unreality of
law school and the immaturity of the students.
From someone who'll be asking questions:
Thank you for your website and letters and information on
law school from the perspective of a returning older
student. I have recently started to investigate law
school, and I have been concerned about being an older
student facing the rigors of law school. Your journal,
website, and 'dear alice' letters have given me courage
and hope. I am still not convinced that law is where I
need to go. However, I do know, from reading your
website, that when I meet with admissions officers at law
schools, I will have many, many questions to ask!
From another genealogist:
I will be 37 this summer, and I've been thinking about
law school for the last 4 years. ...
Though I'm not really the type for the courtroom, I know
I would be good at doing research and writing. I've done
genealogical work for the last 8 yrs. as a side interest.
is a surprising but excellent background for law school.
It involves researching original documents, analyzing
facts, persuading people to give you information that
they don't have to give you, and writing in an
intentionally gracious way. The difference, however, is
that a good genealogist is better at being cooperative
than being competitive. In the world of genealogy, the
more you give away, the more you have. It doesn't work
that way in law school.
From a college president:
Subj: your essay on the first yr.
Date: 2/16/2002 5:40:26 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: email@example.com (Peter Gabel)
i happened to come across yr. 1999 essay on the first
year while doing research on mills v. wyman, for
a purpose very different from the one you were subjected
to. your essay is just great...have you read my friend
Duncan Kennedy's "Legal Education and the
Reproduction of Hierarchy?"
if you want to know why i was researching such an obscure
topic or more about new college, which means to be the
opposite of all you were conditioned in (apparently
unsuccessfully!), let me know.
Peter Gabel is the son
of Arlene Francis and Martin Gabel. He is president of New College of California and associate editor of Tikkun Magazine.
From a mother of six:
I, too, am an older woman, 48, who had been at home. I am
finally able to pursue my dream. I have 5 children at
home and one grown. Thanks to a program at my law school
(part-time day), I can attend classes in the day, and be
at home with my family at night while I study.
This semester I am "isolating" myself, because
so many young students patronize, ridicule, and feel
sorry for me--all of which bug me.
I am terrified as final exams loom in the horizon. A 52
year-old classmate flunked out last year, never to
return, and we heard of a second year student who didn't
make it last year.
My law school advertises its part-time day program as
something an older woman -- a housewife with children in
school -- can do part-time. Unfortunately, older women
who come in under this program seem to flunk out more
than other students. I wonder if these women have a suit
because they have injury, and the advertisement of the
program gave them something to rely on; they relied and
now are $20,000 in debt.
Although the school advertised and encouraged women with
children to come to Law School, it did nothing to help or
support them once they were in school. There was not any
different or specific advisement, no support or
encouragement. And the professors did not like to see
older students in their classes.
Do such women have the
basis for a possible class action law suit? I don't know,
but it passes the "giggle test." I'd look at disparate impact
theory theory under Title
VII and Griggs.
Law school wasn't designed for mature, returning
homemakers. We are in the DISTINCT minority, and it's
more than just being a woman over 40.
My time at Catholic was a difficult,
sad nine months. There were times I left the school in
tears, yet I still had to put up with "the
kids," many who had NO understanding of an older
woman who'd spent 20 years as a homemaker and mom. Some
may still have been working thru maternal/child
breaking-away problems, and I was a substitute because
their own mothers were not there to spat at.
The most important page at this site
is this one:
Law school administrators KNOW things are different for
older students, but they don't share that info.