ROBBING THE GRAVE? LAW SCHOOL AFTER 35
I am not a typical, traditional, cookie cutter law student. Nor am I the statistical, mid-twenty something with a palette for pizza and whimsical educational possibilities. I’m a mother, a seasoned mid-lifer and the opposite of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Tuh! I have written some mean case briefs, represented in class like I’m the female P.Diddy of law, and Paralegaled like a boss. I have sipped cups of caffeine into the wee hours of the night to complete interrogatories, endured sleep deprivation until I felt like my eyes would fall out from the reading legal methods, all while making sure my son went to bed on time without stepping on a Lego. If that’s not similar to pulling a rabbit out of a hat, you don’t know much about tricks. So yes, you can be older in law school and also show the spring chickens you’ve still got what it takes and then some.
Don’t ever sell yourself short because you’re blowing more candles out on your birthday than your younger counterparts. It’s never too late and learning never goes out of style. Besides, those wise-looking, prescription spectacles you’re wearing are getting you through Torts and also making you look cooler (and smarter) than your classmates anyway. So don’t believe the word on the street that mid-thirty something’s aren’t bringing something to the table. More times than not, we’re bringing more focus, life experience and professional back bone into both classrooms and into the American Bar Association—perhaps with more fine lines and wrinkles— but bringing it nonetheless!
I know as an older JD, my purpose and passion for the legal field has grown in comparison to when I was in college, oh those young and dumb college years.
Today, I find myself as more of a goal getter this time around than during those undergrad days. I’m more intensively hungry for improving and impacting extraordinary change in the legal system on a much deeper level. Levels I couldn’t fathom pre 35. After having been a pro se litigant in my own family law matter, which inspired me to become a paralegal, that ignited the fire to become a private practicing attorney. One with purpose. Purpose I know for sure I didn’t have in my mid twenties.
I believe the ingredients to success in law school begin with passion, purpose, and maybe a Coco-Cola and some Skittles to get through the late night reading. It definitely has nothing to do with what other people think of you being a “non-traditional” law student. Seriously, being able to bring those thick law books to life with real life experience is a sweet bonus. Several lawyers I have come to know typically have said the real learning is in the doing, not so much the law schooling (that doesn’t mean you can skip the study grind). You still have to put in the work.
I appreciate the substance “mature” students bring into class, which they can transfer into the legal field later. I have already tasted and digested the heart of California codes and procedures when representing myself. I’m familiar with the rush of anxiety and the courage it takes to look in the fierce and formidable eyes of Judges and opposing counsel. I have stood tall in the face of the Petitioner. I set the courtroom ablaze with persistence, poise and professionalism with minimal proper legal knowledge and got ‘err done. I experienced first hand what it felt like to have left my blood, sweat and tears of an argument in the courtroom to keep coming back, stitching up my wounds and slaying more dragons. Learning so much along the way, I thought to myself, if I could slay and spit fire in a courtroom pro per, and in a law firm as a legal assistant, I could create an inferno in a law school classroom to become a scorching practicing attorney one day too, even at the age of 38.
So here’s to the law school thirty something’s all over the world. As we continue to blow out more flames on our candles, may we leave embers of future courtroom victories when becoming the lawyers over 35 lighting the way and fueling our purpose.
Stand tall and stay the course JD candidates. Cheers!
Contributed by Jasmin Nelson
You can keep you with her on Instagram, @jazzy_nelson