'Dear Alice' #4:
'Dear Alice . . .'

- by
Alice Marie Beard

To my surprise, people still write to me because of the online journal I kept during my "One Hell" year at Catholic University.

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:
Date: 6/19/2001
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 journal.

Alice's response:
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:
Date: 7/23/2001
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 while:
Date: 8/9/2001
Ms. Beard,
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 a while!

Alice's response:
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 school:
Date: 8/17/2001
Dear Alice,
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]

Date: 9/10/2001
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:
Date: 9/26/2001
Hello Alice,
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 approach.

I am starting to feel a little better about what's happened. Your website helped me.

From a 49-year-old 1-L
Date: 11/2/2001
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:
Date: 11/14/2001
Hi Alice
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:
Date: 11/30/2001
Dear Alice,
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:
Date: 2/4/2002
Dear Alice,
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.

Alice's response:
Genealogical research 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: pgabel@newcollege.edu (Peter Gabel)

hi alice,

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.

best wishes,
peter gabel
law professor

Alice's response:
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:
Subj: Help!
Date: 4/2/2002
Dear Alice,
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.

Alice's response:
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.

Off-site links:



the other parts of
Alice's place:
I. dead people stories
II. live people stories
III. letters home
IV. not a law journal
V. Camp Fire

email Alice