Happy 2018! Since this is my first guest blog, I thought I might introduce myself a bit as a Marquette Lawyer, as the Dean likes to call us.
2018 marks the ten-year anniversary of my graduation from Marquette University Law School, a fact that I am reminded of by the flurry of communications sent by the law school to “Save the Date” for the upcoming tenth reunion in June! I attended law school as a “non-traditional” student, having graduated from my undergraduate college in 1981. I began as a part-time student, but I switched to full-time for my second and third years once I realized that, if I didn’t goose this along a bit, we would be paying for two children in college on top of my law school tuition! But, although I started as a part-timer and could have attended the evening classes designed for the part-time students, throughout my tenure at Marquette, I almost always took classes during the day with the more traditional – and by that I mean younger – students. I did so primarily so I could be home in the evenings with my husband and three children, who were in middle school and early high school. I wanted to be available for homework and swim meets and choir concerts and school plays and all the other activities attendant to children of that age, and my (then) part-time job was flexible enough for me to attend day classes.
I really enjoyed taking classes with those energetic and earnest 20-somethings, many of whom were in undergraduate colleges and universities just the semester before starting law school. A story I’ve told often over the years illustrates the age difference between me and my cohort: One of my first semester law school classes was Criminal Law with Professor O’Hear and we were scheduled to take our first midterm exam. I hadn’t taken an exam of any sort since my senior year in college, and I was slightly anxious but, hopefully, prepared. I sat down in class and turned to my neighboring student, a smart and nice young man named Luke whom I’d sat next to throughout the semester. I told Luke that I’d realized earlier that morning that it had been 23 years since I’d taken a midterm exam. Luke’s eyes opened wide, and he exclaimed, “That’s how old I am!” I laughed (and have enjoyed the memory ever since), but it brought home to me just how long my “pause” had been between college and law school.
I ended up doing just fine on that midterm, and, in doing so, I realized that my brain still worked and, as importantly, I could manage the rigors of law school with the demands of my family life. Often, when I told friends and acquaintances that I was going to law school, they would tell me that it was very “brave” of me. While I never doubted the sincerity of their sentiment, I thought they were wrong about that. I entered law school at a time in my life when most of the big questions of life had already been sorted out. I knew where, how, and with whom I wanted to spend my life; I knew, in the important ways, what I wanted to do with my life. The decision to go to law school had been mine, and my family supported me whole heartedly. In fact, my husband absolutely delighted in my going to law school and found all the case law and doctrine fascinating. He always said he got to go to law school without writing the papers or taking the tests! And I thought I was so lucky to get the opportunity to learn about the law. Yes. . . .I was a real law nerd.
So, no, I wasn’t brave, but I felt that my young classmates were, to the extent that they still had to navigate through life’s big milestones while incurring mountains of additional debt, unsure if this – becoming a lawyer – was even something that they really wanted to do. They perhaps didn’t see it that way. One of the lovely things about youth is that one tends to be blissfully unaware. But I was impressed with them, and I am sure that 10 years later they have become successful Marquette Lawyers and successful adults. I can’t wait to see them at the reunion!