• Bereza Photography

Law Student Confidential: The Coyote Who Chases the Sun

Updated: Feb 5


The second chapter in a project witnessing and learning more about fellow law students and their motivation behind moving their life & family all the way to Missoula, Montana to pursue their legal education. Meet Austin Wallis.​

Austin's Story

I have never been one of those people with a clear vision about what they want to be when they grow up. I envy my friends who seem to have a crystal clear view of their path. I’ve always felt like a spastic butterfly flitting from idea to idea. I’ve held bunch of colorful jobs- freelance writer, substitute teacher, photo-booth owner operator, public relations coordinator, yoga instructor, bartender, host, catering manager. The years after I graduated from the University of Nevada in 2012 were a meandering puzzle of work, play and travel - with a constant undercurrent of questioning “what am I doing with my life.” For the longest time, that question felt like a quagmire I couldn't escape.

Moving to Montana in 2015 was life-changing. I have deep family roots in this state, and when my beloved Grandma Jean fell ill, I made the decision to move into my Aunt’s basement in Bozeman (thanks Aunt Christine!) to be closer to my grandparents. It was a no-brainer to make the move for my family, and in that decision I felt like my spastic vision for life narrowed into sharper focus. I moved to Bozeman with the hopes of finding a job that could integrate my decade’s worth of service industry experience into something with more substance. Honestly, I wanted a job that I could be proud to put on a resume. As luck would have it, I found that job in the catering manager position at The Emerson Grill. For two years I worked for a passionate businesswoman, Robin Chopus. I helped manage her amazing catering business, art gallery and restaurant. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to learn from that powerhouse of a woman. Her mantra of “don’t f*** with my dream” is a constant reminder to stand up for the best version of yourself and your business always; haters be damned. If not for the 2016 election, I’d probably still be working for her.

Enter - the 2016 election. You saw what happened. It was a real dumpster fire. And it’s the reason why I applied for law school. I found myself thinking yet again, “what am I doing with my life.” Over those depressing winter months I was constantly inspired by the work of lawyers who were standing up to the new president. The activists were/are incredible, marching and protesting are always valuable, but I felt like the lawyers were doing some monumentally important, tangible work through the legal system to block Trump’s policies. Like those lawyers, I know I want to be a powerful voice for my community. Back in the day of those wide-eyed-puppy years after high school graduation, I had this thought that maybe I should be a lawyer. Well, ten years later, our wild political climate re-ignited that idea, and I applied to ABIII. Here I am.

So, all that being said, one year deep into this education & still I wonder “why law school?” Many people I know are effecting change in their communities through activism and political involvement, or they’re starting businesses and pursuing careers (making money!) while I’m digging deeper into student debt. However, amidst the anxiety, I find moments of extreme clarity when I think to myself: there is no place I’d rather be than in this class, listening to this brilliant professor, learning about this issue, hearing my smart peers answer tough questions. In those moments I feel validated and excited about this profession I’m getting myself into. I hold on to those moments and carry them through the insecurity. Wallowing in the “what if” doesn't serve anybody. Although sometimes I feel like everyone works harder, is smarter and more articulate then I am – I show up every day in my own way. I am committed to being a voice at the table, to learn how to assert myself as a powerful, thoughtful, and uplifting presence in the room. I don’t think I’ll ever know the answer to “what am I doing with my life,” but I know that with every decision I make, I am creating the most passionate, playful and empowered life I can dream up for myself.

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