recent report by the Law School Admission Council analyzing ABA law school applicants for the years 2011-2015 found that only 20 percent of law school applicants were over the age of 30. How many of that 20 percent are moms with two toddlers running around at home? Surely a much smaller percentage. I can count myself in that smaller percentage of ambitious (or foolish, some would say) applicants. The split actuality of being both young and older has been the most unique experience of my life.
I’m only one semester into law school; this makes me young. I’m learning the language of law — the demurrers and Erie Doctrines, the parol evidence rules and Bluebook citations — just as a baby learns the language of mama and dada, Sesame Street and “Twinkle, Twinkle”. My classmates, mostly in their early twenties, mostly right out of undergrad and mostly very endearing in their perception of stress, are my comrades. Together, we stressed about the concepts of contract law, about the research for our memos and about final exams. The shared experience of being young law students has bonded us. Some of us are interested in criminal law, some public interest law, others corporate litigation, but we all must persevere through the next three years of law school together. It’s the experience of camaraderie with these classmates that makes me feel young, insomuch that I feel I know very little. I’m an immature legal scholar. With the same naive eyes and ears as those classmates 13 years my junior, I listen to my professors explain the significance of summary judgment and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. I am equally awed by the depth of their legal knowledge and the incisiveness of their instruction. Here, among this company, I’m no more than a young law student, with little more than an inkling of what my future legal career may hold.
And then I step outside. I hustle to my car so I can pick up my kids from daycare. As quickly as I put on my coat, I’m no longer young. My post-class evening routine differs so greatly from my classmates that they often look at me with bewilderment. I match their stories of 1L happy hours with daycare pickups and chicken nugget dinners. You might think that being an older law student, with limited time, kids, a mortgage and more than 8 years between degrees, puts me at a disadvantage. The reality is that I’m 100 percent efficient with the limited time I have to read and write and study. Procrastination is not an option anymore. The what-ifs are exponential with two children in the mix, and I’m constantly shuffling my study time to suffice. I cannot re-read a case many times over, or re-draft the discussion section of my memo. I can’t scour YouTube watching videos that help me better understand the statute of frauds or check out extra books from the library and practice hypos. I simply do not have the time. I trust my gut that I understand the concepts I’m being taught, that I’ve spotted the correct issues in a case and that the structure of my legal research is clear and concise.
While my stories of middle-of-the-night wakeups, breakfast cereal spills and rogue Thomas the Tank Engine books in my backpack are bewildering and humorous to my classmates, what they also cannot fully understand is the satisfying mental relief gained by playing superheroes with toddlers after a long day of learning about consideration, negligence, and compulsory joinders. When your cost of living loans are borrowed to not only cover your own cost of living, but the cost of raising other living beings, there’s an added appreciation for every cent you’ll repay. I feel fortunate that life paused my law school dreams for 10 years. I may be squinting at the blackboard a bit more than I would have 10 years ago, but my vision is more sharply in focus than ever before.
The older I get, the younger I feel. Thanks, law school. D
Bridget Mead is currently a 1L at the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Her legal interests include immigration and child advocacy law. When she isn’t playing with her kids or reading case law, Mead tries to fit in some quality time outside, running or hiking. Mead can be reached at BridgetMead@gmail.com.