In August of last year, I embarked upon my own “Vision Quest” of obtaining a Juris Doctor degree. Seven years prior I had become motivated to make a true difference in this world and believed the best way to approach that goal was with a law degree. Suddenly life intervened- with twins! Of course, these bundles of joy rocked my world and law school seemed to be in the rear-view mirror.
By 2017, my twins were 4 years old and my oldest daughter was heading to college in the Fall, so I again began to consider law school. I had my cheerleaders (some people call them mentors) encouraging me to take the leap of faith and apply to a part-time program. I nervously broached the conversation with my manager at work and simultaneously found myself another cheerleader! Now, I had to face possible failure and apply. After I took the LSAT and submitted my application, there was the long wait until I eventually received my acceptance letter to Campbell Law School.
I was admitted to Campbell Law School's Flex program, which allows working professionals to attend class during the day with regular full-time students. Upon my acceptance, I assembled my cheerleaders for a moment of celebration and turned to readying myself for the journey ahead. My leaders at work have been supportive and flexible at every moment to allow me to chase this dream.
Now that I have completed my first year as a part-time law student while working full-time and serving as a mom to three children, I would like to share a few personal realizations:
1. You can never hear a yes if you are too afraid to ask the question. One of my law professors said it best: “so you have no questions today, then I suppose you know all the answers.” I was admittedly nervous when I approached my management about pursuing my education and their willingness to be flexible with my work hours. I look back on it and I am not sure why. I suppose asking for help is a hurdle for most employees. My questions were met with overwhelming encouragement to pursue my goals.
2. I can do law school because I am a mom, not in spite of being a mother. Working moms are underestimated. We spend our days juggling the importance of our jobs with the expectations and needs of our children. We are masters of time management and hold ourselves to a higher standard than anyone else ever could. We also understand that sometimes there must be self-sacrifice to get to our desired goal. There have been many days when full-time students, most of whom are much younger than me, ask me how I manage law school, children and work. I explain to these unseasoned souls that when I go home and kiss my children and take them to the playground, or get a successful outcome with a case at work, I forget about the pressures of law school. It’s balance in life that makes for happiness.
3. Self-doubt is a waste of time. After sharing experiences with other women at law school and in the workplace, I have found that we are incredibly guilty of convincing ourselves that we can’t do something. The first step to success is convincing ourselves that we can be successful. Give yourself permission to succeed! Law School has been full of firsts for me. The first time I wrote a legal memo, the first time I had to stand up and be on call, the first time I took a 4-hour exam, and so on. Make it a personal policy to tell yourself all the ways you will succeed instead of the possibilities of failure. Don’t shy away from all those wonderful firsts in life for fear of not being perfect.
4. Find your cheerleaders and hold them close. My department at Public Consulting Group is full of strong and smart women and men. There have been days I have walked into the office looking exhausted (and I was), but their words of encouragement carried me through the day. These same cheerleaders would also offer help at a moment’s notice. Additionally, the other flex students, who are mostly working parents, are a tight network that looks out for one another and celebrates each small success. For us, just being in law school is a major success! I also can’t leave out my ladies’ golf group, who sent me messages before every final exam: “You Got This!” Finally, there is my husband and sister, who are my biggest cheerleaders of all. In turn, it’s important to be a faithful cheerleader to others trying to achieve something special in their lives. Kindness costs you nothing but can mean everything to the recipient. To all my cheerleaders, thank you. I would have not made it through the first year without you. I hope in the future to serve as your cheerleader.
5. We invest too much stock in the concept of “Talent.” My experience in going back to school while having a career tells me “talent” is a mythical concept. Success is derived from hard work, preparation, and an unwillingness to accept failure. Talent didn’t tell me to spend hours preparing for class or days preparing for an exam. It wasn’t talent that got me up at 5:30 a.m. every day to start work. It wasn’t talent when I poured my efforts into my job when I was exhausted. Talent certainly isn’t what drove me to go to as many of my children’s events as possible or to rush home from studying so I could tuck them into bed. In the end, talent is really just another word for hard work.
Mysty Blagg, RDH, BSDH, JD Candidate