Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I created this blog so that my friends and family can be updated as I spend the summer in Europe studying, and finish up my remaining two years of law school.
For those who don't know me well, I begin with some background information about what has gotten me to this point in my life. I'll try to be fairly brief and skip all useless childhood information about how I was tormented and permanently scarred by being the youngest of four sisters.
I am a 38-year-old law student at the University of Washington. I had been a paralegal for over a decade when, in 2003, I decided to go get my own law degree. I had wanted to be an attorney since I was seven years old, but, for various reasons I might go into later, never made that happen when I was younger (I guess it is mostly because I had no idea how to prepare for SATs, pick a college, pay for school once Dad's savings ran out, etc.). After getting pregnant at the ripe old age of 21 with my daughter, Marlo, I became a paralegal instead in order to get working and provide for her. I worked hard and rose up in the field. By 2003, there wasn't many more rungs to climb and my head was bashing against a glass ceiling, both financially and intellectually. Top of my field, still struggling to make a decent living as a single parent, and bored out of my mind.
I'd love to say that my passion and drive for the law is what finally pushed me towards law school, but it wasn't. Frankly, it was my cat dying. Princess Kitty, adopted the Christmas just after Marlo turned five years old, died because I couldn't afford to take her to the vet at $500 a pop, when the vet couldn't figure out what was wrong with her. Finally, she died of liver disease. That same day, my boss (don't take this one wrong - he's a fantastic man and attorney) needed me to give him cash from his account to go buy a new pair of Vuarnet sunglasses at Costco. My cat dying and my boss buying his fancy sunglasses was the last straw. I got off my duff, did a little research, came in and told him that I was going to get my own law degree.
So, in 2003, I began the trek to get my own law degree. I only had about a year's worth of college credits that would apply towards a Bachelor's Degree from my paralegal studies, so all in all, it was going to take me six years to get my law degree. I returned to school full time, while still working part-time for my boss. He was fantastic and allowed me to work around my school schedule. I returned to Highline Community College to finish my Associate of Arts.
Highline Community College is this dumpy 1960/1970's based cement pebble architecture school in Des Moines. All but one of my professors were fantastic, committed and knowledgeable. Many of the older, returning students were likewise very committed and intelligent. The young, running-start, baggy-pants, loud and obnoxious teenagers made it the longest year and a quarter of my life. For example, in the cafeteria, they would eat and then leave their trash on the tables. Where were their parents growing up? If I ever find out Marlo acts like that outside my view, I'm shipping her to some horrible boot-camp for wayward teens.
Anyway, I finished my AA in December 2004 and began work on my Bachelor of Arts at the University of Washington, Tacoma. BEST SCHOOL I HAVE EVER BEEN TO. Simply fantastic. My major was "Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences" with a concentration in "Politics and Values" (which is a cross between Political Science and Social Justice), with a minor degree in International Human Rights. As my major states, it takes an interdisciplinary approach (psychology, sociology, political science, historical, etc.) towards each subject. Like at Highline, all of my professors, except one, were fantastic, committed and knowledgable. My favorite professors/classes were Rachel May (International Human Rights), Robert Crawford (Post-911 Cultural Studies; and Nazism and the Holocoust); Chris Demaske (Communication History and Communication Law); Peter Bacho (Minorities and the Law; and Environmental Law); and Turan Kayaoglu (Contemporary Geopolotics and International Interactions). A special shout-out to Katie Baird who actually had me understand some economics, which is no small feat (Economics as a Way of Thinking). Fantastic professors all.
So, while finishing up my Bachelor's degree, I take an LSAT prep course through Kaplan and take the LSAT in December 2005. I score a 163, which on that test cycle was in the 89.6th percentile. So, I'm thinking that is pretty good and, coupled with the sob story of how I got off welfare as a single mother, I should be able to apply and get into some really good schools. NOT. I'll tell you, there is nothing like law school admissions (except the first year of law school itself) to make you wonder how you managed to navigate your life sucessfully thus far. On the one hand, I applied to and was accepted into the UW School of Law (#27 in the US News & World Report rankings) in - get this - SIX DAYS. I was thinking that was a really good sign until I received one rejection after another from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, New York University, Georgetown, Cornell, and Duke. I was waitlisted at Notre Dame. I felt really crummy about myself until my good friend Karol, who has so many degrees the UW finally forced her to graduate, and scored something like 173 or 174 on her LSAT (99th percentile) told me that she was declined at Stanford, waitlisted at Harvard, but was offered deferred enrollment at Yale. So, she finished up a masters in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard before heading off to Yale to get her law degree - all with a five year old in tow. I figure if she got declined from ANYWHERE, then it really wasn't that bad that I got declined.
All in all, only getting into the UW was a blessing in disguise because my law degree would have ended up costing me $40,000-70,000 more. I was a finalist for the first William H. Gates Public Service Law scholarship, but didn't get it. So, with Marlo heading off to college the year I graduate from law school, makes me pretty happy that I got into such a good, yet cheap, school.
I'm not going to write very much about my first year of law school right now. It's still too raw. Continuing the pattern set in my undergraduate degree, I had fantastic professors - all except one. Unfortunately, this one was in the position to completely ruin the law school experience for me and all the other people in my section. He was approached by students, the deans, the Student Bar Association and other faculty, but persisted in assigning work disproportionate to the number of credits of his class. All of the members of my section are fantastic, intelligent and motivated people so we just kept plowing in the hours it took to do his work, at the expense of our health, families, and other classes. In all fairness, however, I'll concede that this professor probably seemed that much worse to us because we hit the jackpot and got WONDERFUL professors for the rest of our classes. He really suffered by comparison.
The good news is that I survived my first year of law school. They say that it is downhill from here. Typically 1L students work their first summer of law school, practically for free, to get legal experience. Well, with nearly 15 years of experience, I wasn't about to work free for anyone (OK, I'll have to next summer to get internship credits). So, I figured out a way to study abroad this summer. It has many pluses. I'll earn 18-20 credits. I'll be in Europe. Marlo will be with her Aunt Kelly. Oh, and did I mention, I'll be in Europe. :)
So, that's where the background ends and this blog begins. Leaving July 4, 2007, I'll arrive in Amsterdam on July 5, 2007. I'll be there until August 5, 2007, studying International Human Rights through the Tulane Law School. After that, I'll spend two weeks in France with Jacqueline & Pierre Bureau, the family that I lived with for a year when I was 16 years old. Then, on August 21, 2007, I go to Rome to study Comparative European Law, Politics and Society through the UW School of Law and Law, Societies & Justice department. I'll be back in Seattle on September 22, 2007, a few days before my 2L school year begins.