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Turning a Setback into a Comeback
Alaina Alexander

"Wow, what are going to do?" came the simultaneous reply from three recent law school grads.
I had just broken the news to my friends about my law school dismissal. I was speaking so softly that they had to lean in closely to hear my reply. (My voice was hoarse from my two days of sobbing uncontrollably.)
"I’m going to get my Associates degree in Paralegal Studies at a local community college."
Silence permeated the air. The idea of attending a community college was beyond their comprehension.
"Get your MBA." Someone chimed in. The rest of the group nodded in agreement. (I had thought about pursuing an MBA, but I had nixed the idea because of the expense and the fact that I wanted to stay in the legal field. If that meant attending a paralegal program, then so be it.)
" What went wrong?" Someone else asked.
Hmm. There were a lot of possible answers to that question. The first answer that popped into my mind was my mother’s unexpected illness right before school started and dealing with a spirited younger sister.
Perhaps, it was working 2 jobs to keep a roof over our heads. Those issues were only a fraction of what the real trouble turned out to be. I wasn’t taking care of my physical, mental or spiritual health. I was emaciated and constantly on the edge of nervous exhaustion. I had also given up a love of classical music and essay writing, because I mistakenly assumed that there was no longer room in my life for those cherished activities. I didn’t want to bog the group down with stream of consciousness thoughts and musings about my life. Especially, on a warm June Minnesota night. (Warm nights in Minnesota are more of the exception and not the rule!)

A couple of months later, I was sitting in my first paralegal class trying to hold the tears back. I was also working as a receptionist in a small law firm. I have to admit that it was a humbling experience to go from law school to answering phone and pouring coffee. I lost touch with people who I thought were friends, but no longer had time for me because our lives were going "in different directions".
Translation: I had fallen a few rungs below them on the success ladder. In this country (the USA), we put a high premium on the appearance of success.

Eventually, I got over my dismissed law student stigma and I started to look for ways to reach out to others who were in a similar situation. I created, exactly 10 months after I received my academic dismissal letter. There is a blog on the website, in which I discuss my feelings and adventures as a dismissed law student. I am in the process of writing a guide for other dismissed law students, who are reapplying to law school.

I am reapplying to law school for the 2003-2004 school year. However, this time around I won’t look to law school to shape my identity or fulfill my well-being. I will stride through the doors with a sense of self-knowledge that I had previously lacked.

© "Alaina Alexander" email:

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