The eleventh 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 Natalie Hammond.
"Do you think she woke up one morning and said: I think I'll go to law school today. I mean, sort of. I had originally thought of going to law school in 2003. I’d returned to Missoula from Boston and wasn’t sure what my next step would be, but I wanted a job with some stability and money. I took the LSAT and received a decent score, but then I chickened out. I had never been the best student and undergrad found me more focused on Stocks, The Boardroom, The Ritz, The Iron Horse, and Al’s and Vic’s. My grades were a reflection of those pursuits and I did not think I would be able to get into law school, so I never bothered to apply. Instead I went to Missoula College and received a Paralegal Studies Certificate.
I spent the next ten years working as a paralegal and would probably still be a paralegal but for the firm I worked for imploding. For years one of the partners had been encouraging me to go to law school, but there was always an excuse. “I have bad grades,” “I just bought a house, I can’t afford it,” “I’m too old.” But the closing of the firm was eye opening. The attorneys, while stressed about finding new employment, had so many more opportunities and options. My possibilities were limited, as was my opportunity to make money and support myself. I found a new job, but it was a pay cut, not as challenging as before, and I realized that I needed to do something different to provide for myself. Forty comes faster than you would expect, as does retirement.
So I decided to give law school a shot. I took the LSAT again and received the same exact score as 2003, but this time I applied to law school, despite the lousy grades. I had lots of help and encouragement from attorneys I had worked with in preparing my application and personal statement. I’m sure my letter of recommendation carried the day. In the end I only applied to one school, UM, because I knew I did not want to move. I was accepted on March 17, 2017.
What, like its hard? Law school is a beast. Alyssa described it best, it is not so much mentally difficult as mentally exhausting. I thought law school would be fun, I would make new friends, attend lots of social events, etc. Instead it was a beatdown, emotionally, physically, and mentally. I worked hard the first semester and got okay grades (better than undergrad) but still felt disappointed because it wasn’t all As. Before law school I had put in minimal effort to school, so it was disheartening to put in a lot of effort and not get a high reward. But I talked to professors and figured out the tricks and did the work. A lot of work. I didn’t make a lot of new friends or do a lot of socializing. Instead I spent time at my same table in the library wondering why I went to law school and would it pay off.
I have a job. I’d like to say it’s because of all the work I put into law school, but mostly it’s because of the work I put in before law school and the work I performed as an intern. When I applied for an internship at my firm the interviewing attorney told me they knew me, my reputation, and my work because they were familiar with me from my paralegal days and hired me on the spot. Once I secured the internship I put in the hours and used some of the new skills I learned in law school to find ways to get the answers clients wanted.
Do I regret going to law school? Absolutely not. I would encourage anyone interested to go. The opportunities once you are finished are boundless. Yes, it will probably be a miserable three years, but its only three years and they speed by in an instant. Now that I’m done I’m looking forward to getting back to my old self. To having fun again. To laughing a lot. I was looking forward to eating out and having drinks…but the ‘rona."