ONE HELL minus the sugarcoating:
'Dear Alice . . .'

- by
Alice Marie Beard

This is the sugar-free version of life as a returning homemaker at The Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law.

The letters below came in response to my "ONE HELL: Thoughts on law school," a journal of my "one hell year." Maybe the information can help the next middle-aged mom who tries to pick up the pieces and put them together again.

By the way, my J.D. is from George Mason University.

To get to the index of ONE HELL,
CLICK HERE
[The letters begin immediately below.]

From a lawyer from IU, after my one-hell year:
Dear Alice,
Everyone doesn't fit in the same box. Activist students can be a pain to an institution but, to some schools, it's also a part of their mission to encourage that type of diversity. That you didn't match Catholic's norm doesn't mean you are not intended for law school or even the law; it just means not "their" law school.

Attending a place that is more welcoming to diversity (and the ability to fit other students in is as much a diversity issue as gender or skin color) is key to a successful completion of your studies. Remember the analogy that law school is an overcoat? It doesn't make the person; it's really a trade school that goes around the core person, helping prepare him with new tools and terms to do what's important to him in the real world after he leaves.

Diversity is very important to SOME institutions. Go find one.

Alice's response:
Thank you for your kind words. Finally, it's time to laugh: The interim dean's words were, "You're a pain in the ass." A little later in the same conversation, he said, "Now, let's keep this professional, Alice."

I said, "Yes, Bob. Let's." I figured we were on a first-name basis by then.

I'd gone to him for help in dealing with harassment I was getting as a result of publicity about my online writing. I got no help.


Suicide attempt by big-city cop/law student:
[e-mail from Feb. 2001]
Alice,
I am 35 and have just been kicked out of law school for less than a 2.0 GPA. All I can think about now is getting back in. I'm devastated.

Last semester, a cop I knew and had studied with put a gun to his head a few months after he flunked out. His name is Joe, and he's in a coma and wasting away. He was in my first year torts class; there were fewer than 50 of us. He was a good guy. As far as I know, the story didn't hit the press. The last I heard, he had pneumonia. The school did nothing to communicate what happened; I heard about it from his fellow cop students. They are understandably a hard bunch and don't seem to dwell on it too much.

I wonder, is it possible to do law school a few years from now? I hear horror stories from my friends who are over 40 and say you slow down after 35.

Alice's response:
Oh my God! For any law student thinking of the cop's solution, check this page:
'Before you kill yourself.' It's from an Ann Landers' column and written by a nurse. ... Remember: Everything but death is appealable: Find the rule, and meet it or defeat it.

Now, regarding "slowing down after 35," according to studies that I found after my time at Catholic's law school, returning older students have a different adjustment pattern/curve than younger students. The biggest predictor seems to be the number of years between the undergraduate degree and the start of law school: The more years, the harder that first-year adjustment. Competent law school administrators know this. They should share the information bluntly with returning students rather than pretend otherwise, and there need to be considerations for such students. ... Treating older students like outsiders, as I was treated at Catholic, is not an unheard of situation for older students. ... Law schools are admitting older students. The question is: Do the law schools only want our tuition dollars, or do they honestly want to educate us? Or, are they perhaps agreeing to fulfill a contract that they don't even know how to fulfill?

A law school is like a law firm: If no professor decides you are WORTH educating and worth mentoring, you are on your own. It's both harder for older students to survive on their own and harder for them to find mentors. And, for older female students, particularly returning homemakers, it's doubly hard to find a mentor.

I am sorry about the cop in the coma. For you, as you come to grips with your own situation, check this link:
The Best and the Brightest
Or, check my
Coda page for excerpts.


From a first year down South:
Dear Alice,
I'm a 47 yr old 1L. It's been 25 yrs since I took a test and am trying to prep for finals without freaking! Graduated as an Electrical Engineer in '75 and recently took a 'golden handshake' deal; wanted to do something different. My school has a VERY traditional 1L: no tests prior to finals, intentional intimidation by profs, case method.

Alice's response:
Some things are done to first years simply to intimidate them. The logic may be that the practice of law is adversarial. You've heard people say, "I want a lawyer who's meaner than a junkyard dog." Well, how do you think they make junkyard dogs mean?


From a second year:
Alice,
I'm 45, major in Air Force, father of five, and 2nd year night law school student. My hardest challenge is to refrain from jumping out of my seat and strangling law professors. Why are they so arrogant? It has nothing to do with Socratic method.

Alice's response:
Why? Probably because many law professors do NOT like students and see them as interruptions to their own research and writing. WHERE did I hear that? The words came from a law professor who was named "Teacher of the Year" at his own very fine law school (not Catholic).


From a nuclear engineer/Civil War buff,
after my one-hell year:
Dear Alice,
I hate to generalize, but I have an idea why Catholic's law school was hostile. First, while they may say they want diversity and inclusion, the kind of diversity the law school wants is differing views of the faculty, not the students. Second, like the military, law school is all about breaking down previously established ideas about thinking and then rebuilding the individual in a new mold. Anything that sets students apart in a way that gives them power outside of the regimen of the law school could interfere with the process. Your journal set you apart because you could write well. It also set you apart because you had an outlet for recognition that the faculty could not control.

I think you did a lot of good with your journal. It is unfortunate that Catholic Law probably thinks otherwise.

Alice's response:
There's a good chance the hostility came from my in-house complaints. I complained about backward computer services, lack of access to professors, lack of a faculty advisor, lack of a student directory, lack of a dependable faculty directory, lack of any listing of faculty office phone numbers.

As an example of the computer services, we had our LEXIS training on an overhead projector in a lecture hall.

Law students are known for complaining, and many CUA law students complained, but I complained openly.

I suspect I was admitted "for flavor," and I may have been expected to behave like CUA's version of a "Catholic mom." Another returning homemaker told of getting down on her knees before a male professor, in his private office, and begging and crying for the help she needed. Yes, she got help, but the middle-aged Catholic wife and mother got that help by getting down on her knees and begging.

So, where did the mutual hostility come from? I felt I'd bought a pig in a poke and complained; CUA kept wondering where their "nice-girl Catholic momma" was and was confused. It was a bad marriage that lasted nine months and cost me $24,500.


From a law professor at a school in the Midwest:
Alice,
Law schools admit non-traditional students, then do very little to help ensure their success. From what I can see at my school, it's more "benign" neglect (if neglect can ever be considered benign) than an intent to do harm. It is, in large part, not knowing how to remedy the problem.

Alice's response:
Yes, to the first sentence, but I've heard from students at some law schools who say their schools bend over backward to support non-traditional students. For example, University of New Mexico boasts about their academic support programs: "There are a number of academic support programs designed to help students adjust to the first year of law school. Tutorials in all substantive courses are available to first-year students. Tutors are chosen from among outstanding upper-class students." Another school says, "If a student is admitted, we expect him or her to graduate, and our academic support programs do all they can to assure academic success of all admitted students." An increasing number of law schools have academic support programs.

Also, there are a wide variety of "non-traditional" law students. Even among non-traditionals, a woman who spent 20 years rearing children and doing community service is rare. Law schools service the masses of their students. Because my "type" was so minuscule in number, my needs were of similar concern to the law school.

U. of Dayton law professor Vernellia R. Randall argues, "The one-size-fits-all approach to student learning has historically disadvantaged non-traditional groups." She says that, since law schools "admit a student population that is diverse in its learning styles," law schools "have an ethical, if not a legal, responsibility to those students right now to today provide them with a pedagogically-sound legal education."

Once more, for more on the subject, check these links:
The Best and the Brightest
For excerpts, check here:
Coda to ONE HELL.


From a student who quit early:
Dear Alice,
I enrolled in law school this year and withdrew from school a week ago [before the end of the third week of school]. I go back and forth a lot on whether I did the right thing. I spent a lot of time and money on the prep for admission to law school, moved across several states, signed a lease, and bought furniture. Then I started at law school and found that it was just going to be at least 70-80 pages of reading every night and I never had done that before and felt that I might fail with a large debt load. How can there be so many people willing to put themselves through hell with no certain reward? Maybe others see something I don't, but it is really this uncertainty which fazed me into quitting.

Alice's response:
Schools are different. Faculties are different. Administrations and collections of students are different. Some law schools are more likely to have genuine communities; others, no. If you and the law school are NOT matching that early, withdrawal would be the best option. You'll get most of your money back, and you can apply elsewhere for a better match. If you decide to stick out the year and try for a transfer, you'll need a B average to transfer, and Bs are hard to come by for most first-year law students.


Attrition rates:
Here are attrition rates for Washington, DC, area ABA-approved law schools, from high to low:

The numbers are the "no excuses" attrition rates, with no breakdown between those who left for academic reasons and those who left for other reasons. They're from this web site: DeLoggio Admissions Achievement Program. Because some law schools try to manipulate situations to get at-risk students to withdraw under color of "other reason," the best number to consider is the "no excuses" attrition rate.

Law schools try to avoid admitting that any student leaves because of academic troubles since the question is not only, "Why did the student fail," but also, "Did the school fail that student?"


From a 1/2 L who decided to "bag it"
comes the case of the Juice v. the Squeeze:
Dear Ms. Beard,
I started law school this year and am now at the end of first semester studying for Torts. What did this semester do to me? Well, I'm taking my finals and wrapping it up for good. A month ago I broke the news to my parents and my girlfriend that it was not my bag.

I'm a 21-year-old guy from NY who was a Finance major in college. I've been like an oozing wound all semester, complaining about law school. I'm not sure what put me over the edge, but it probably would be a combination of the fact that I never wanted to practice law (saw law school as an alternative to an MBA) and the fact that I am coping with the $14,000 I just blew on one semester. I concluded that the Juice was not worth the Squeeze.

My sister's babysitter graduated from Tulane Law and passed the LA bar; now my sister pays her $8 an hour. The hall monitor at my mother's vocational school went to St. John's and passed the NY bar. My sister's best friend in high school finished at Fordham, passed the NY bar, and left the state to be a bartender in Salt Lake City.

I figure if I stop now and work, if I find a job I like, great! If I hate my job and get pushed back to school, probably for an MBA, that's fine. But $86,000 in debt after 3 years with a stressed-out look on my face and no work experience, that is for the birds.

Alice's response:
You may change your mind about law. As Everett Dirksen said, "Life is not a static thing. The only people who do not change their minds are incompetents in asylums, and those in cemeteries." ... Life changes, and so do decisions.

About life after a JD: My brother's first job was as a security guard at a department store. A friend's first job was as an assistant on a construction crew. My godmother is a nun who went to law school at 40+ and flunked the bar three times; she appealed one failure with the phrase, "Due to the shortness of human life." ... My brother's second job was researching for a federal judge, and my brother now has a private practice that suits him. The plumber's helper now has a career encouraging industrial recycling; his job doesn't require a law degree, but it helps. The nun finally passed the bar and has worked immigration law for many years in Chicago.

Life changes.


Subj: TWO Hell
Dear Alice,
I am in my second year of law school, and I'm miserable. I hated it on the second day of orientation but stuck out the first year because fellow law students and faculty assured me that what I was feeling was normal the first year. They said I would enjoy classes after my first year. I hardly go anymore. I want to withdraw, but I'm scared since I don't know what I want to do, but I do know I hate law school, and I hate the people associated with the school, and I hate myself.

I discovered early that I did not like the competitive, evil law school environment, but there was so much pressure to stay. My family and friends treat me as if quitting law school is not a choice.

I've made poor attempts to commit suicide with alcohol and sleeping pills and to hurt myself physically because of the depression. At 25, with $40,000 in law-school loan debt, I feel like my life is over. I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer; now I truly despise the profession. I haven't an ounce of self-worth, and everyone treats me as if I am such a disappointment. I found your website looking to meet or talk with someone who can relate somewhat to the experience because I've felt so alone and desperate for someone to just listen to how I feel and to know that I'm not the first to leave, that I can still be successful in life and be happy again.

I want to thank you because, through reading about your experiences and those of others, I have found the courage to do what I wanted to do my first week of law school. I know I will probably never get past the criticism of others for quitting. I don't know how I'll move or find the funds to leave, but I actually welcome the struggle.

Alice's response:
Please check this site:
Before you kill yourself.

You are young. Make a decision that works for you. If you're not going to class and intend to quit, quit immediately. It will mean that you don't have grades for this semester. That will be a plus if you change your mind in a year or two.

At 50, I realize that most people have so many of their own troubles that they don't have time to judge my choices. And about that loan? This country does not have debtors' prisons. Get a good nite's sleep; go for a long walk in the morning, and thank God that the sun came up. Then, watch Tom Hanks' movie Castaway. "The sun will come up tomorrow, and you never know what the tide will wash in."


From a retired law professor:
Dear Alice,
My mother was in her mid 50s when she went back to law school. (She had finished the first year before I was born, but started all over again). She passed the bar on the first try and was a solo practitioner into her 80s. I've had a number of students -- male and female -- in their 40s or better since I began teaching, and most have finished, passed the bar, and practiced law.


From a 50-year-old lawyer
with a big firm that has offices in big cities:
Alice:
Let's be very honest: When you graduate at 53/54, you will NOT be the normal first year associate material and, because of that, you will not be a candidate to join one of the big firms. Big firms (frankly, like mine), want 25 year old first year associates who can be molded into the firm's image. (There are always exceptions to dogmatic statements like that, but I believe I speak from experience.)

Alice's response:
Does anyone want to play "spot the issue" here? Yes, the lawyer clearly and absolutely identified himself and his firm. He wrote as a friend, but his candor was surprising. And, by the way, I've no interest in "BIGLAW," the buzz expression for huge, almost factory-style law firms with branches in big cities thruout the country and the world. I thanked the gentleman, but I added, "I think God has some other plan for me."


From a law student whose friend
had to repeat her first year:

I know several students who, after receiving their 1st yr grades, were forced to withdraw, apply for readmission, be interviewed by a committee of faculty as to why they did not make a 2.0, then wait for an answer from this "Godlike" group. They must start completely over like a new student, go through the entire first year again! One of the students who had to repeat her first year, described the experience: "Humiliating, degrading, debilitating, embarrassing, physically and mentally sickening, maddening, unbelievable, unnecessary, destructive, horrible, sad, mean, disorienting, self-esteem lowering, and the sh*ttiest thing that I've ever been through."

Alice's response:
"The sh*ttiest thing" in life is getting less than a 2.0 the first year of law school and having to repeat it? ... I have a friend who does the daily physical care for her 22-year-old son. He is in a coma because of a head injury sustained after his seatbelt broke when he was hit by an oncoming car. ... We must keep things in perspective, please.


For those facing the bar,
words from a well-seasoned Arizona lawyer:
Alice,
When I got outa school, we took a 2.5 day bar exam. The first day was the multistate, with multiple choice answers. Passing grade was 50%. Yep, 50%. For a reason....

The multistate salesman had been lobbying the Arizona Supreme Court to adopt it. The Chief Justice found out the company had released a sample test and answers from a few years before. One night, he took the test. And flunked, badly, with a score just over 50%. The next day the salesman came back, and got an earful. A compromise was reached: Arizona would use the test, but if 50% was good enough for the Chief Justice, it was good enough to practice law.


From a new JD with Brethren roots:
Dear Alice,
I remember 3 years ago. I was very nervous. On the first semester exams, I had gotten a "D" in Civ Pro, and I was praying my grade improved on the final. It did, and I squeeked by into 2L. I found that the 2L and 3L classes are easier to get through.


From another Camp Fire Girl in law school in her 40s:
Alice,
I'm a 43-year old female 2nd year law student. I've had my own struggles getting back to school & figuring out what this law school thing was all about while getting my grey roots colored periodically. The scariest thing for me is that the generation gap exists, and we're on the other side. The second year is both less and more difficult - but suddenly it's over and there's only one more year. My grades are only beginning to be other than mediocre, and I've recently been diagnosed with a learning disability (which I know I've had all my life, but in these enlightened times it has a name!)

p.s. - I'm a Camp Fire Girl from way back (Grizzly Peak Council)!

Alice's response:
Wo-He-Lo, from the now-vanished Mishawaka Council and from the Patuxent Area Council!

Just because you learn differently doesn't mean you are "disabled." Many teachers believe there is only one way to learn -- whatever way a student must learn in order to learn with the teacher's style of teaching. Sometimes, the problem might not be a "learning disability," but rather a "teaching disability." A whole crew of teachers were convinced that Helen Keller could not learn, but the problem was that the teachers knew only one way to teach.


From another older One-L:
Alice,
First year is almost over. Second semester was and is still hell for me. The brief [writing] experience was a nightmare, and the kids are really getting on my nerves. Law school is going to high school at 44.


From a Camp Fire Girl
who turned 49 in the midst of bar review classes:
Alice,
I was miserable my 1st year. A friend and I joked that our grades were the ones that made the top 1/2 of the class possible. We joked, but it was true. And it was demoralizing. I had better than good undergrad grades and outstanding grad school grades, albeit many years ago. And I had a long, very successful career that I had tossed aside to go to law school. And now here I sat, giving up not only that recognition, but also any life outside law school, only to get slapped around and feel totally incompetent and downright stupid. There was one professor who encouraged me, and I stuck it out.

My second year I got involved in a research project of my choosing. I found out that I had good research skills. I was open when I started law school that I did this because I wanted to go to law school. During my 1st year I forgot that, and I think that is part of what caused me so much grief. It was easy to get sucked into that competitive grind. By my 2nd year I was regaining my sense of why I was there and was able to roll with the punches better.

I write this from the perspective of finishing my 3rd year a week ago. I did what I wanted: I was admitted to law school;
I went to law school, and I finished. The disappointing grades were easier to take when I look back at why I made the choice to go to law school. I have no idea what my class rank is. I do know that my grades have progressively improved semester by semester. I remember talking to a 1L at the end of last year who was totally devastated by her 1L experience. She finally decided to return for a 2nd year and says it was the difference between night and day. She is returning next year.

P.S. I was a BlueBird and a Camp Fire Girl while growing up in Idaho.

Alice's response:
Remember that part of the Blue Bird Wish? "Remember to finish what I begin." Congratulations on "flying up," and Wo-He-Lo!


From a student in New England:
Alice,
As a third-year part-time law student, I found ONE HELL to be very similar to my first-year law school experience. I am 40, work full-time in a non-law-related business, and have another 1 1/2 years of night classes. I BARELY survived first year; since then my grades have improved slightly and, hopefully, they will continue to improve now that I have finished the required core courses and can take some elective courses. I now realize I will probably survive law school and actually earn my JD; what keeps me awake at night now are the prospects of passing the Bar and finding a decent job without taking a tremendous pay cut from what I currently make (and paying off what will eventually be $60-$70,000 of school loans).

Alice's response:
To repeat: Studies show that older students with older undergraduate degrees tend to have first-year grades that are NOT predictors of what they can do. Once more, I refer to
The Best and the Brightest


From a juvenile prosecutor in the Midwest:
Alice,
The practice of law doesn't have much to do with the law school experience. I have always seen it as sort of "boot camp." You don't need to do law review, no matter what anyone tells you. I did internships instead to focus my practice area and position myself for employment. I was a Non-Trad law student in the early '90s. Being 40 years old in law school with a bunch of kids was a real trip. None of them experienced the Viet Nam War, President Kennedy, etc. I found the experience very interesting.

People hire older law grads. I found a job right away. I made it through law school, passed the bar, even though I couldn't stay up past 10 PM studying.


From a student at Catholic's law school
(explanation follows):
Date: 4/15/2000 5:37:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: [
name deleted by Alice Beard]
To: AliceBeard@aol.com

Dear Alice,

Who do you think you are??
Not only do you critize this law school unjustly,
you put my law degree in jeopardy.

Please do us all a favor and stop with these ramblings.

Here's another one for your page: A little less time on the WEB and a lot more time in the books and your grades will come up to par with those of the 2o-somethings in your class.

Alice's response:
The above was emailed anonymously from a CUA law school computer. It was among the "fan mail" I got from "Catholic's kids." The day before, a first-year male in CUA's class of 2002 had hurled the same words at me in the cafeteria. He and five other young students whom I didn't know confronted me. Their claim was that I was "devaluing" their degrees with my online journal. Their spokesman was angry and hostile. He said that he himself hated Catholic's law school; however, since he'd already invested so much money in tuition and since his grades weren't good enough to transfer, he wanted that investment safe-guarded against possible negative publicity.

The encounter was typical of what I got from several CUA law students once they became aware of my online journal. When I sought help from law school officials, it was refused. That was the "community" I experienced at Catholic's law school. As an attorney/friend said when we spoke after my nine months at Catholic,

"Heh?! 'Community'? At Catholic?! There IS no sense of community there! At least there never was when I was there."

He graduated from Catholic's law school in 1977, and he also is a Catholic.


From an older One-L at CUA in 2000-2001:
Date: 5/15/2001
Hello Alice,
I don't know as you'll remember me. We corresponded last year in September as I started 1-L at CUA Law. Everything in your site about the lack of a community at CUA Law is dead on, at least for the older returning student.

I was accepted [at George Mason] and stupidly went to CUA instead. Some of the people at CUA were worth the time, such as Prof. [name deleted]; others were not. None of it was worth [the cost of tuition]. I am trying to decide now if going back to school next fall is really worth it.

Alice's response:
George Mason is George Mason University School of Law, in Arlington, Virginia, inside the DC-beltway. This writer's remorse likely comes from the fact that GMU is now a "first-tier" law school, while CUA has dropped to the bottom of the "second tier." Also, GMU is a state school so the tuition is cheaper. Perhaps a case of "buyer's regret" for having bought a pig in a poke.

[UPDATE: In April 2002, CUA's law school dropped into the third tier. Mason remains in the first tier.]


From an older One-L in the Midwest:
Alice,
First semester I was grasping at anything and everything that I thought would help me with law school. I was frantic! But this semester things have mellowed out. Do you find that in second semester you sometimes go to class without having the assignment read? I NEVER did that first semester. I'm afraid the first year law school FEAR is gone.

I CANNOT imagine being in a class where there is no one around your age. There is a group of us over 30 year olds in our section, and we often have the same gripes. Invariably it has to do with our HUSBANDS being spoiled little babies used to us doing EVERYTHING for them and then the difficulty they have adjusting to our having to STUDY instead of waiting on them hand and foot. Then throw raising children into the equation and it is a recipe for ripping hair out at the roots!

Grades were disheartening, I admit. Everyone wants A's; instead, we end up with C's and if we are exceptionally lucky, a B.


From a Two-L:
Alice,
I am a 2L. Some days I feel like I'm just a kid who shouldn't be here, and some days I don't understand why other people don't get it. I have met some of the nicest, neatest people with a high degree of integrity at this law school, and I have also met some of the most back-stabbing, unethical slimes I have ever known in my 24 short years on this planet.

Alice's response:
Welcome to law school! One does not go to law school "to meet nice people." A friend graduated from Georgetown. As a first-year, he was dating another first-year in a not serious but friendly relationship. He was sick, missed a class, asked the woman for her notes. She refused: "No. I'm competing against you. Why would I help you?"

With the grade system in law school, by hurting student X, student Y helps him/herself. And, the easiest one to hurt is the weakest. ... You know the old joke about the two "friends" who are set upon by a bear. The first puts on his running shoes. The second asks, "WHY? You can't out run the bear." The first says, "I don't have to out run the bear. I only have to out run YOU." ... Welcome to your "friends" in law school.


From a lawyer with Hoosier roots:
Everytime I donate to my [undergraduate] alma mater, I get great satisfaction that I do not give a dime to my law school. My feeling is they used the bottom 90% of us so there could be a top 10% to fawn over. A students become law professors; B students become judges, and C students go out and practice law!


From a student "down South":
Dear Alice,
I am 42 years old and finishing my 3d year (evening division). Next to marrying my wife, going to law school is the single best decision I have ever made in my life. Yes, juggling a full-time position, wife, child, studying, Law Review, etc, etc has been incredibly trying. But it does get more manageable as you get further into it. Not easier as such, but fewer surprises. A good example is case briefing. The first part of the first semester, I would spend hours briefing a few cases, each taking up several pages. Sometimes I would spend more time redoing them to make sure I had everything down just right. Now, I book brief, and can get the meat of most cases on the first good pass through.


My torts professor told me that once in a while in law school the student's whole world view shrinks, everything else is shunted off stage, and what is left is a small hard marble; that marble is the law.

Alice's response:
Speaking of torts professors, and since it's time to laugh, the torts professor at Catholic used an outline that, as several students joked, was 20 years old and yellowed and brittle with age. There were two student outlines for his class that circulated freely among students. One was a near verbatim transcription, including his jokes. He told the same jokes, at the same point, every time he taught the class. ... We used a new book, but he would pass over new cases and substitute "oldies but goodies" from previous editions.


Ready to copy and paste. Just fill in the blanks!
Subj: <blank> Law School Sucks...
Date: 1/30/2001

Dear Alice:
I just withdrew from <
blank> Law School, located in <blank>. This place is hell on earth. The professors are jerks. The competition is 100% cutthroat. I highly encourage anyone NOT to attend this torture chamber.

The only reason I came to this school is because of my LSAT score. There are people who are here only because they got full-scholarships, and they admit it was like making a pact with the devil. They regret that decision.

Alice's response:
The above is offered as a form letter for all law students other than those at Yale, and maybe Harvard and Stanford.

  • We all would be at better schools if our LSATs had been higher.
  • All law schools use scholarships to buy some students who could go to better schools.
  • Professors and bosses all over are jerks!
  • Several people have found this web site by doing a 'net search on the phrase "law school sucks."

From a 1st year at a 1st tier in the West,
two letters sent in late January 2001:
Alice,
I am in my first year and do not like the school I'm at. I am sticking it out for the academic year to avoid financial problems. I do want a law degree, but not here. I wonder if another school will take me, or if they will they consider me a failure. I don't care if I have to start over; I just want out of this school. I was accepted at a better school and wait-listed at an even better one -- both national schools. In March, when the acceptance letters were coming in, my wife found out we were expecting. The school I'm at offered me a full tuition scholarship and a monthly stipend, so here I am. I don't think this is the school for me or my goals. I plan to call other schools to see what their policies are for accepting students who have previously attended some law school, transfer or not. My grades are just below a 3.0. We are just starting week 3. ... I don't want to be stuck in this area. The school I'm at is a good school, but a regional school. ... A funny thing is that my son was born right in the middle of finals. When I took one exam, my wife had started labor, and we had been up all night. I could have postponed the exam, but I did not. That was my lowest grade, a C+. I don't think it made a difference, but it is a little excuse I can throw in. My other grades were a B- and an A-, but altogether my average is just below a 3.0. I just want out.

A week later, he wrote this:
I quit law school today. I still really want to be a lawyer, and I don't know what this will do to my chances. After numerous meetings with deans at this school and phone calls to deans at other schools, I decided to take my chances at starting over. When I reapply, I will have to show that the reason I quit was not because of the law and not because of my grades, but because of the school, the environment, and the circumstances. I would rather take my chances with that than my chances of a transfer.

Alice's response:
Let me translate this for the uninitiated:
First semester grades had just come out, and this man was surprised. His undergrad grades and LSAT were good enough that he got in at one of the top 25 schools and got wait-listed at an even better one. (The top 25 schools are the "national" schools. All other schools are "regional," with some having bigger regions than others.) ... His "numbers" were good enough that one of the lower 25 first-tiers bought him with not only a full scholarship, but a monthly stipend. He was at a school where his "numbers" said that his grades should have been among the highest, but he pulled under a B average. ... To transfer to another school, normally a student needs a B average. ... His grades shocked him, and he realized that, if he finished the year, he might not be able to transfer out of the regional into one of the nationals, but he'd be stuck finishing at a regional. ... Likely, his plan had been to get the first year paid for thru scholarship, get high grades as he competed against students with lower numbers, then transfer to one of the national schools. ... Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men go awry.


From an older woman student at another law school:
Alice,
If I could do it over, I would go part time, but I don't have that option. I think law school would be more enjoyable in smaller classes with more mature students. We have a lot of "children," and even some of the older students are surprisingly immature.
Our school recruits non-traditional students, but they don't really do anything after they get them, which is why it is so disorienting to be around kids who want to go out and get drunk every night. Are other law schools like this? But we do have a tutoring program for every subject, and that has helped.

Alice's response:
Two points:
FIRST, my experience has me saying that Catholic also will admit non-traditional students but does not know or care how to handle them. ... (No consideration in section formation. Profs who feel awkward with older students. No experience by placement staff in placing older, returning homemakers. No mentor system. No academic support programs.)

However, in some cases, what was needed was not a "study skills" class, but advice on what to do if your teacher couldn't or didn't teach. That happens. Successful students had solutions. One solution was to find out from students in other sections who the best lecturer was for the subject, go directly to that teacher, and ask for permission to sit in on his/her lectures, silently. (Several students did this for one class.) In another class where the students claimed that the professor didn't like the students and wasn't attempting to teach, the smartest students ignored the class, the prof, and the case book; found the best "teaching book" on the subject, and prepped for being tested.

Regarding the specific non-traditional group of older, traditional, Catholic moms, I saw CUA's law school particularly failing them. One such mom who now has her JD from Catholic said that the "moms" as a group do not do well academically at Catholic. C's are the typical grades, giving them no margin for error. This woman feared that a higher than usual percentage of them fail the bar.

She had her own complaints about CUA's treatment of mature returning moms. She told of going to a male professor for help and having the professor "talk down" to her. He said, "Let me put this in words you might understand. I'll give you an example of a patchwork quilt." He had no reason to suspect the woman had ever done any quilting, and he gave no suggestion that he knew anything about quilting.

The same woman had words about women law professors at CUA. Her long description could be boiled down to her claim that CUA's women law professors tended to look down on mature returning homemakers. She told of arranging a research position with a professor. The woman professor looked at this woman who had reared several children, run a household, managed her family's stock portfolio, and been her husband's helpmate, but hadn't drawn a paycheck in many years, and the woman professor said, "Isn't it nice? You finally will have a real job?" The woman law student said to the woman professor, "I don't think this arrangement will work."

I had expected that Catholic moms would have a special "fit" with the law school. I found quite the opposite: Genuine returning homemakers were few in number, but as a group they did not do well at the law school. They tended to be the just-hanging-on C students, not really part of anything. We were over 40, female, and came in with LSATs in range with the other students. However, as a group, we did poorly. If any other minority group did poorly as a group, some might wonder how the law school failed to service those students.

However, it may be that my opinion of Catholic has little to do with my having been a "non-traditional." A lawyer who graduated from CUA in about 1970 and who was a law student at a more traditional age said, "Catholic has never been student supportive. There has always been a 'sink or swim' mentality at Catholic. Many old-school law professors pride themselves in that attitude."

SECOND, yes, I saw many kids at Catholic who drank to excess. There is a self-help group called "Lawyer's Assistance Program," or LAP. It "recognizes that addiction and mental health problems significantly impact a person's ability to function in the practice of law." LAP claims three main purposes: protecting the interests of clients from harm caused by impaired judges and attorneys; assisting impaired judges, attorneys, law students and their families in recovery; and educating the legal profession on issues of addiction and mental health. ... LAP will also help with law students who are drunks, and my time at CUA has me saying that some CUA students need such help.


From a law student whose mom
studied law as a returning homemaker:
Dear Ms. Beard (or Alice, I'm not sure which you prefer):
In the mid-1990s, my mother (then in her late 40s) went back to school after having been a homemaker for 17 years. During her first-year law school courses, I remember her feeling, at times, very angry, sad, and frustrated about being the second oldest person in the class. She, too, was often asked why she was doing this after all this time, being a "housewife and all." And her treatment by the younger law students was less than polite. For what it's worth, I think motherhood is a wonderful career choice, and becoming a lawyer is a great second career. Thanks again for a wonderful read. Best wishes.

Alice's response:
If a first name is good enough for Jesus, it's fine for me too.


From a One-L in the West:
Alice,
I'm 44. I too considered dropping out after my grades (some of which were actually good). Very shocking. Very demoralizing to think that kids, babes, were scoring higher than me even though they couldn't write and didn't know basic stuff about our society and culture. Also, I too have found it impossible to set up a study buddy or group. I actually tried...and was rebuffed.


From a One-L west of the Rockies:
Alice,
I am a non-traditional student returning to law school after 20 years of being out of school.
My law school has 10+ women over 40 in my entering class. The professors are very deferential to us and I have barely been called on in class, but the young kids are definitely doing better than I did last semester. I really need to connect with people like me - who lived and know the 70's and 80's.

But the young students and law school culture do have a debilitating effect on my over-40 group. It is hard to have done things and been places and find they don't count for much. I recently told my 47-year old classmate that making the decision to return to school with all these young people (risking a new transition, challenges, etc) is a sign of courage that any job recruiter should welcome. She was despondent over her grades. Our school has a lot of young kids with great grades with no social skills and less tact.

Alice's response:
"Deferential" as you describe it is NOT a positive. If they aren't calling on you, chances are good that they don't care to teach you. Some professors do not know how to act with students their age or older.


From a law student west of the Rockies:
Dear Alice,
I'm a 3L. Our 2nd year we started a group called Older and Wiser Law Students (OWLS) for what we call "2nd career students". Membership is self-identifying -- no age limits. It is mostly a social group. This year (its second year in existence) we sponsored a get together for incoming 1Ls before orientation so they could meet each other and have a familiar face when they arrived at orientation and were surrounded with those fresh young faces. The first thing we did was start a mentoring program matching 1Ls with upper division students. We've had great support from the faculty. We get referrals from them and from the admissions office of people looking at law as a career change. One faculty member regularly comes to our meetings and our social events.


That same faculty member is the one that had the pep talk with me after 1st semester grades came out. After the 1st semester of 2nd year, my grades really did improve. As the "support" prof said, I had spent the last 20+ years thinking in a way that was very successful for me -- and now the law profs were telling me it was wrong. Before I could learn their way of thinking, I had to unlearn what the last 20 years had taught me, something the 20-somethings don't have to do.


From an old girlfriend who sat on the bench:
Remember - you can't get shot out of the saddle unless you had the guts to get on the horse in the first place! Hang in there girlfriend!


From a professor with One-L's:
Alice,
The 1L students in my program were unusually quiet for our first meeting a couple of weeks ago (after the first-semester grades came out). Most of them were depressed about their grades. They wanted to talk about how to keep going when the costs (financial and otherwise) were so high and increasing, and any benefit seemed further and further away.


From "an old Hoosier Pal" prosecutor:
I just read your "Thoughts," and I realize how fortunate I was to make law school just a continuation of the preceding 16 years of study! I remember taking the Bar Exam ... and thinking: "Thank God! That's the last test I'll ever take!"


From a Three-L down south:
Dear Ms. Beard,
I am a 44 year old retired Navy office who went back to law school as a 42-year-old. I desperately searched for some clue as to good grades after the first semester's results had been posted. I found the following:
- started sitting up close - I felt more connected to the class
- lived on both the textbook and emanuels/gilberts
- the top grade getters could not explain how they got good grades
- practiced writing out the exam from samples approx three weeks before the end of the semester
- started organizing the material by the topics in the index of the textbook (helped me see which items were sub-issues of the big topics)
-
organized the material into pictures (actually slides in Microsoft Powerpoint - couldn't remember the topics as well as I could a picture)

Alice's response:
Organizing ideas into pictures is an ancient and forgotten skill. It's called "building a memory palace." Catholic Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (1552-1616) is credited with having taught the system in China. Jonathan Spence's 1984 book
The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci tells of building memory palaces: Ricci's A Treatise on Mnemonics, written in 1596 for a political leader in China, explained the medieval European idea of a memory palace -- a place created inside your mind and furnished with things that help you remember. As a young man, Ricci briefly studied law before turning to math and physics.

The snippet below is from Eden Muir and Rory O'Neil's 1995 "Architecture of Digital Space":

The art of memory was a necessity before the era of cheap paper and printing. To a Greek or Roman orator, memory was power, and the most powerful memory techniques were spatial. The ancient technique of spatial memory is surprisingly straightforward. One systematically plants memory objects in memory locations along a familiar route that can be visited in the mind's eye. Later, these objects are recalled in sequence, forward or backwards, as one mentally revisits the route. Precise instructions for constructing a personal memory palace appear in three classical sources: Ad Herrennium (anonymous), Quintilian's Insitutio oratorio, and Cicero's De Oratorio.

From a woman lawyer "down under":
I was 42 when I started law in Australia, and I recall towards the end of first year finding written on my library carrel "Old women shouldn't be here!" I persevered.

Despite the panic (and maybe by dint of being one of those diligent types who did read every case and the odd academic article) I not only persevered, I thrived. I graduated three years later (1984) with marks good enough to earn me a postgraduate scholarship which set me on the road to a PhD. Having begun the law with every intention of entering legal practice, I somehow got "derailed" into academia - and became one of those "dratted professors." Despite the "wisdom" of those who said I was too old and that a woman my age would never make a career in law, I have somehow made it to the top of my chosen profession. I've never regretted my choice. Law became a calling not merely a job.

Alice's response:
How you were treated reminds me of the day the young female student at Catholic chastised me about being in law school at my age. Older, returning students need to know in advance that they may come up against such treatment.


From an older student in New England:
I see snottiness of the younger students towards the older students. A woman in her 50s who I started with transferred to day [classes] and says she hates the young day students. I spent a day there and hated it too.


From a lawyer who graduated from CUA:
Hi, Alice,
Ah, yes, I remember the first exam terrors. Vernon X. Miller taught torts in his own unique way, pounding facts, and it was sheer misery learning how to regurgitate the facts on the exam to make the lawyer noises he expected. I took the UCC from Dean Rohner, and I have to say that it is still a mystery to me. ... The student loan dilemma is a real problem. I shudder at the idea that people are in the law for money rather than public service. ...
Now, as then, I sense that the case book method is a mystery. I would read the cases to try to figure out what in the heck the chapter was about, and the horn books and outlines didn't seem to be much help. I like to shock people by saying that it's really quite simple: (1) Decide the right thing to do and make the decision. (2) Look up the law. (3) Make the law fit what the right thing to do happens to be. Holmes.


From another Catholic Law grad:
Dear Alice,
I remember well the crunch of that first semester in law school. ... The stress of too little time and too much to do continues throughout law school, and even into the practice of law. ... In my days, the first semester first year exams were only "practice exams," since the courses were all 2 semester courses, and all mandatory. This meant that the second semester exams were even more stressful. Everything rode on them.

Alice's response:
In some ways, that practice continues. If a student has a poor first semester, everything is riding on the second semester exams.


Subject: "One-L v. Satan, cert. denied":
Seven years ago tonight I was slaving away in my dorm, creating my course outline for Civ Pro. It was my "small section" class and it was taught by an old line "stand and deliver" professor who happened to be blind. He had no pity for himself and certainly none for us. I was made to look foolish on a regular basis in his class. On the one occasion when I performed the required legal analysis and argument flawlessly, I smiled to myself at the conclusion of my final statement. As if on cue, my blind professor looked directly at me and said "Is your argument based on the reasoning set forth in the fifth and sixth lines from the bottom of page 764 in the text?" ... Eventually all first years come to the realization that they are fighting a Panzer division with a plastic fork.


From a lawyer in California:
My own obliviousness in the first year was to the fact that the testable skill in law school is knowing what issues are raised by a fact pattern. The only way to get good at this is to take one practice test after another, and have someone explain afterwards what you were expected to spot and discuss. The way law profs create a curve among whole student bodies of smart folks is to complexify the exam fact patterns such that students who haven't been directly practicing the testable skill (by taking numerous practice exams per subject) will overlook enough issues to receive 65s and 70s.

Where 90% of first year law students go "wrong" is by studying the law excessively, and paying much less attention to the testable skill of seeing how legal issues present themselves in complex fact patterns. (The case method is a very awkward heuristic exercise for this purpose; it is much better accomplished by studying raw fact patterns alone, i.e. those embedded in practice exams.)

If I had to do it over, I would obtain stacks of practice exams in each subject, and start taking them at least 2 months prior to the real exams. If I had it do again, I would mark the half-way point of the semester on a calendar, and make that an absolute deadline for learning all of the legal rules in the subject. Use those bar review tapes for a general orientation, and then use outlines to refine your knowledge. Then spend the entire rest of the semester taking practice exams.

Finesse whatever is going on in the classes themselves. They are a huge imposition on your valuable time and a distraction. Nothing relevant to testable skills is taught! Don't be among the naive majority who dutifully "prepare" for class, and think it translates into exam readiness. That is the surest route to a middling law school academic record. Class work is over "here"; exam readiness skills are over "there." The prizes go to those few who see through the misdirection and create their own regime for practicing the testable skills. Law schools are run this way b/c it is the only way to create a curve among very intelligent folks who are almost all willing to apply themselves to the material.


From a woman who went to law school
when her children were young:
Dear Alice,
I, too, was a retread. In 1971 I went back to law school. My undergrad degree was in art. The job I had was designing paper napkins. I had a husband and two little children, ages 4 and 6. The decision to retread was the best I made in my life. I intended to enroll in an MFA program to get out of napkins and into teaching when I approached the university. Teaching positions for MFAs were scarce to nonexistent at that time. The dean of admissions talked me out of incurring debt and loosing income for three years with scant prospect of future employment in my location. I contacted my younger brother, who was then a law student, and we sloshed through several quarts of beer at a local pub discussing (he discussed, I whined) my professional future. He repeatedly suggested I enroll in law school as that was the only graduate degree possible for folks with "questionable" undergrad degrees. I staggered across the street and picked up an application to humor him. We filled it in, while sitting at the sticky pub table. That was the degree of analysis that initiated my new career.

First and foremost, you must have what I call the "grocery-store" mentality. Not only are you paying for this education, you have opportunity costs. You're not working, you're probably incurring high incidental expenses by eating out instead of in, transportation, etc. DEMAND YOUR MONEY'S WORTH! Set your own agenda. Learn what you need to know. Question until you're a pain in the ass. (They don't give Miss Congeniality awards at graduation.) Get out of classes with profs who can't or won't teach well. Educational institutions, like grocery stores, have "bargains" and rip-offs. I was so abjectly impoverished when in law school I was desperate to pull as much useful information out as I could in the shortest time. I found "bargains," professors who had real world experience, who understood the skills that were needed for the successful practice of law. I made them my friends. They provided research projects in my fields of interest and afforded me the opportunity to research and write FOR CREDIT to shorten my stay and to accumulate a portfolio of useful papers when seeking employment.

The second suggestion is to be flexible in determining your ultimate practice areas. The law affects most areas of social endeavor. I ended up practicing environmental law, an "unknown" niche at the time I was in law school. (I thought labor was my field as Title IX was in the congress at the time and Title VII was just then being enforced as to women.) I found "women and children's issues" jobs in my location very routine (same case 200 times, scant impact on the source of the problem). That may have changed, but I remember an old '70s radical saying the public interest lawyers need to "go after the wringer, not defend victims ass by ass." Figure out where you want to end up before you spend much more time or money, then train for the job. You are a consumer of educational services; act like a consumer. You shouldn't be frightened or cowed by the institution.


From a law student taking time off after two years:
The legal profession needs to look long and hard at the 1L experience, especially how stable, healthy people are turned into depressed and sometimes suicidal first-year law students. I know it must sound a bit hollow as the semester winds down and the exams begin, but it will get better. To be honest, I'm not sure it really did get any better for me. I just became used to it. After (or maybe it was during) that fall semester, I became emotionally numb. It took me another year to realize the effect this was having on my family and myself. I decided to take a couple of years off and rediscover why I went to law school in the first place. So now I'm plugging myself back into my marriage and the outside world. I'm hoping that I'll be able to maintain this perspective once I return to law school in August. All I can say is that I wish I had kept a better grip on my family, the outside world, and the reasons I wanted to become a lawyer when I was a 1 and 2L.


From a law student south of the Mason-Dixon line:
Dear Alice,
I'm a 38-year-old-law student. I became a law student after 21 years working as a dental nurse. Felt need for a career change, so against advice of family & friends I enrolled at the Law School. I, too, had to face the challenge of having younger students as my class-mates, but we'll make it! Tell your prof. with the cowboy boots that his advice helped me! Have a Blessed Christmas!

Alice's response:
The professor with the cowboy boots advised, "You've got to believe that whatever got you to this point will get you the rest of the way."


From another Southern:
Dear Alice,
I arose at 4:30 am on Sunday morning to begin studying for my Con. Law exam. This will be the last of five that I have taken in six days. I went back to law school later in life (forty-two). I have spent 20 years working. ... I left my evidence exam on Friday night and got into my car to make my two-hour commute home with no intention of returning.
After about an hour I had convinced myself that making a "D" was not the end of the world. By the time an hour-and-a-half had gone by I was trying to figure out the bare minimum needed to graduate. I am not part of a study group. I have a hard time asking for help from anyone 15-20 my junior. I am tired of answering questions that have no answers. I want to stand up and shout, "Just answer the QUESTION, please!" If it were not for a few lawyer friends that tell me that practicing law is nothing like law school, I probably would not have made it this far. They tell me it's a right of passage. Where do you put that on your resume?

Alice's response:
The trouble with a D is that you need a C average to stay in law school.


From the original "One L":
Dear Ms. Beard,
Good luck and enjoy it if you can.
Scott Turow


From a lawyer in Israel
commenting on my fear of failing civil procedure:
Not to worry. I managed it in the second round, barely! What a boring subject. They forget in Law school and the Bar Association that computers do this work much much better. This is only for the sake of plain memory. It has nothing to do with the real litigation where one has to test brains and the spirit of Law.

Alice's response:
Here, I disagree. The rules of law are often where cases are won or lost. (No, I didn't fail the class. I got a C+.)


From a law professor west of the Mississippi:
Dear Alice,
Never fear--Civil Procedure was THE MOST DIFFICULT course I took in law school. I've tried to convince our faculty to move it into the second year for that reason. A few years ago, I ran across my first year outlines. Although all were bad, my civ pro outline was definitely the worst. Paging through the 50-or-so pages, I saw only about 1 page of material that was at all useful!


From a lawyer soon to clerk for a Federal District judge:
I was an older student (37 when I started, 40 when I finished), and I had trouble myself during my first year of law school with Civil Procedure, but managed to squeak by on the exam. I'm now six years out of law school and will be clerking for a federal district judge beginning in August. I haven't been practicing law since I left school in 1993 so I'm planning to bone up on procedure, and evidence, and the big movements in current case law and fed statues. I want to feel that I've got a working vocabulary in the basics, so I'm going to read the nutshells, and the outlines, and maybe, just maybe, I might read through my fed courts or con law hornbooks. I bought them all during first year, and barely cracked their spines. I also bought case notes, and blonds, and gilberts and emanuels. ... It was quite a shock to study for the bar exam and learn everything about all those courses all over again -- in just 15 hours of speed-writing notes-scribbling lectures per subject. ... The key is to feel confident as your understanding of the law grows, that the concepts repeat themselves from subject area to subject area, with small twists and nuances, and that most of what you really need to know to pass the exams in school, or the bar exam, for that matter, will have little or nothing to do with what you'll really need to know to practice in your own specialty. Except, of course, either criminal or civil procedure. And even there, what you really need to know is your own state's take on those subjects, and its rules, neither of which you are likely to encounter in law school.

Let me recommend the only thing I found useful for civ pro when I was a lass of 37 -- The Buffalo Creek Disaster. The entire story is about the civ pro tactics and torments of a trial lawyer running a class action suit. The narrative was gripping, and it made the concepts stick in my mind more clearly than anything else had done.

Alice's response:
The Buffalo Creek disaster was a Logan Co., WV, coal mining disaster: "In February 1972, 125 persons were killed when a mine dam broke at Buffalo Creek in West Virginia. ... The 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster, for example, occurred after the mine had been assessed over $1.5 million in penalties, 'not one cent of which had been paid.'" Justice Blackmun's words from Thunder Basin Coal Company v. Robert B. Reich, Secretary of Labor, 510 U.S. 200 (1994).


From a someone who found his own way to pass Civ Pro:
I graduated from CUA Law School in 1985. In my first semester I was so nave that I didn't know it was okay to look at old exams for guidance, and I thought that study aids were in some way dishonest.  And my grades showed it. 

By second semester I'd caught on a little. Four days before the Civil Procedure exam, I went to the store to get a study aid for Civ Pro. My professor was the future dean Bill Fox, and Fox favored an open book final. He told us the only thing we couldn't bring to the exam was an actual lawyer.

I asked the clerk for a Civil Procedure study aid.  She said, "We've been sold out of everything for weeks."  I panicked.  "I have a test in four days!"  I must have looked pitiful, because she said she'd look in the stock room.  She returned with a shiny black book. "This is from a brand new publisher.  It's called Sum & Substance.  It's all we have."  I paid the $15 and rushed out.

I had only a limited time to study, but the study aid looked pretty good as I skimmed it.  I enjoyed Civil Procedure, had participated and done well in class, so I wasn't overly anxious about the exam.  The day of the test I took in my casebook, notes, group outline, and Sum & Substance.  The proctor passed out the exams, and we began.  I read the first question, and it looked familiar.  I flipped to the model questions in Sum & Substance, and there it was, followed by a model answer.  I read the second exam question.  It was the second model question in Sum & Substance, with a model answer.  The test was five questions identical to Sum & Substance, and I had all of the model answers. 

Had I hit the jackpot?  Was I cheating?  Should I copy out the answers? Should I report myself to the dean?  What a quandary!  Finally, recalling Professor Fox's admonition that this was a totally open book test, I plunged ahead and started copying the model answers into my bluebook.  At first, I tried to change every 7th word, worried as I was about a copyright violation.  Then I simply gave up and copied wholesale.  I added a few points here and there, but mostly I copied. 

The test was four hours long, but my copying only took about 40 minutes.  I sat for another five minutes deciding what to do next.  In for a dime, in for a dollar, I thought.  I stood up, took my bluebooks to the front and passed them in.  The proctor thought I had to use the restroom. No, I was done.  Most of the class was watching me, stunned.  I smiled weakly, and left.

Grades came out a few weeks later. There, next to my code number was my grade -- 100 on the test, 4 extra points for class participation.  A 104.  The next highest grade was a 93 or 94. 

A few years later, I ran into Bill Fox at a reception and I told him this story.  He laughed so hard he cried.  "I remember that!  I signed up with a publisher getting into the law book business.  They needed an editor for their Civil Procedure text.  When the book was done, I was preparing test questions for your class.  I called the publisher, and he assured me that the book was embargoed until well after the exam date.  So I used the questions that I'd written for the book as the questions for your test.  When I saw your answers, I knew someone had gotten hold of the book.  But, a rule is a rule.  You took the advantage given to you."


Note from Alice:
"Every dark cloud has a silver lining." The silver lining to the dark cloud of my one-hell year is that, after serving my time in hell at Catholic, I got into a first-tier law school. Sometimes God has a sense of humor, but it was one hell of a way to get into a first-tier!

For the first entry in my journal,
CLICK HERE

Off-site links:



Alice Marie Beard, 1999
Alice


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