This is a story of how I ended up in law school. In high school my mom made me take a typing class during the summer. My mom, as always, knew what she was doing. I got really, really, good at typing.
I started working as a typist while I was still in high school. When I went to college, I got a job at a law firm in a typing pool in downtown Denver. I worked in the evenings transcribing depositions. After college that same law firm hired me as a legal typist. They promoted me to legal secretary. And that’s what I thought I was going to do for a living.
One day, an attorney named Brooke Wunnicke, a legal trailblazer who had graduated law school in 1945, took me into her office there and told me I should consider law school. I did consider it. About seven years later, I finally applied. Brooke wrote me a letter of recommendation.
I got a scholarship. I went to law school at night. I worked full time during the day as a paralegal. I graduated. I took the bar exam in 1994. I failed. I stopped trying. I went back to work as a legal secretary and paralegal.
This is a story of how I ended up becoming an attorney. After I failed the bar exam, I gave up on the idea of being a lawyer because I had never failed at anything before. So I figured it was not meant to be.
Years went by. I raised two beautiful boys. I moved from Colorado to California. Along the way, I met and worked with smart, kind attorneys who encouraged me and mentored me. One day, I was sitting in my friend Julie’s office, an attorney, and she said to me, “You really should be sitting on this side of the desk.” Another friend, Trey, at time the dean of the local law school, told me, “You really should take that pop quiz again.”
I took the California Bar in 2012. I failed it. This time I didn’t stop. I took it again in 2013. I passed. And I became an attorney almost 20 years after graduating from law school.
I am grateful for the lessons- some of them painful- that brought me here. It has not been an easy path. But nothing worth sustaining comes easily or without constant and loving effort. Talent without hard work and practice is just a noun.
On some hard days, the bravest thing we can do is to get up and keep going. Maybe hard days make for braver backbones. Maybe with braver backbones and plenty of laughter, we can achieve just about anything. Maybe the evidence is already around us: people are fighting cancer and winning, books are being written, bar exams are being passed, music is being played. All over the world in small moments and sometimes unseen ways, peace is finding its way into the world through the work of justice, love is finding its way through acts of kindness.
One of my clients recently told me, “I’m so glad you took my case. You carried me when I did not know what to do or who I was, at one of the lowest points of my life.” I truly believe the best work that we can do is help someone be the best version of themselves. To see people for who they are, not the story we want them to be.
Today, I get to pay it forward. Because of people who saw in me what I couldn’t see in myself. Because some amazing people took the time to help rewrite the story of a small-town girl who thought she was just a really good typist. Here’s to your story. May it turn out much differently and more wonderfully than you ever expect.