Most law students will admit that law school is no easy feat. We all have our own set of circumstances that impact our ability to focus, navigate and ultimately succeed.
Finances, physical health, mental health, “imposter syndrome,” educational deficiencies, proximity to campus are just some of the factors I have witnessed peers having to grapple with on their journey to the Bar. Yet so many of us do not have access to help or we choose not to ask for help. Possibly for fear of being judged.
Law students are supposed to have it all together, right? Wrong.
I will never forget the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, when I finally accepted the fact, I would have to take a leave of absence from law school so I could focus on motherhood and financing our livelihood. When I became pregnant, I was a fulltime law student working fulltime; I had just returned home from a summer externship in Alaska. I had been voted into leadership positions and was selected to write on a legal journal.
I was ready to finish law school, and then, boom, LIFE happened. I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I decided we had to make some lifestyle changes. For one, I would not be able to continue working night shifts as a hotel auditor who would sometimes leave a nightshift, grab breakfast, and head directly to school with little to no sleep, just riding on fumes. That was not going to be healthy for the baby. We also decided it would be best for our family to move to a new neighborhood.
There was so much we had to factor in, so much to budget for; it became clear that law school was no longer within our budget. Although I took a leave of absence from law school, I began to work at a firm as a legal administrator so I could keep my skills sharp and stay immersed in the legal field. I never gave up on my dream of returning to law school, obtaining my Juris Doctorate degree, and becoming an attorney.
My daughter is the light of my life and my reason why. She is worth every sacrifice. Being a mother has brought me more joy than anything I have ever done in this world. Knowing that my child was with me (in my womb) as I took those bus rides to work as a legal administrator in downtown Seattle kept me moving forward. I have witnessed peers of mine graduate and ascend into the legal profession. Although it would have been “ideal” to complete my legal education years ago, it was not in the cards for me. Motherhood has taught me that we all have different paths on this journey, and I happen to be on the “road less travelled.”
As a first-generation college student, money has always been an issue.
Prior to law school, my family experienced a death that rocked us to the core emotionally and financially. Yet, we carried on because we have always carried on. Once I made it to law school, I was scrambling to keep up. I had to work extra hours just to pay for older edition textbooks and “professional clothes.” Super grateful for the law library and peers who had my back. And prayer. I would not have made it through my first year of law school without these resources.
There was a point where I accepted that I would never return to law school, and then I decided this was unacceptable because my lack of finances could never outweigh my passion for advocacy…
Manifest your dreams. Several months before I was re-enrolled in school, I began to review my 1L outlines, read case briefs, flip through my flash cards. Listening to the oral arguments in McGirt v Oklahoma “did it” for me. I had to go back to school, some way, somehow. So… I saved my money, I applied for scholarships, and I kept hope alive.
I am now back in law school. It has been somewhat challenging readjusting to the rigor, especially in the midst of a pandemic with a toddler in tow, yet I must keep it moving.
***ADVICE FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE TAKEN A LEAVE OF ABSENCE FROM LAW SCHOOL AND PLAN TO RETURN AT SOME POINT:
- Remember who YOU are –> law school does not define YOU
- Meet with a mentor to develop a plan (if you do not have a mentor, reach out to your law school’s center for professional development, your law school Dean, or a trusted peer)
- Apply for scholarships
- Build credit and look into student loans (e.g. Sallie Mae)
- Stay immersed within legal field (e.g. legal administration)
- Keep in contact with your legal network (e.g. social media, occasional email, Zoom meeting)
- Never stop reading and retaining legal material–>it WILL come in handy when you return
- Come back full throttle, but don’t forget work-life balance
—So much can change in the blink of an eye…
This time last year, I was working for lawyers, however, this year, I am working to become a lawyer.
Like so many other law students and legal professionals, my journey has not been one of perfection, rather, it has been a journey of progression. For those of you who have been caught off-guard by life circumstances, REMAIN RESIIENT REGARDLESS.
As I get ready to wrap this semester, the pressure is building up. Yet, this time I know I can and will get through it.
I hope I make my daughter proud.
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” ― Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg