By Inez Clark
“From Aviation Mom to Attorney” is how I was introduced at the 2018 Icons of Significance Luncheon. In Dallas, I am known for my involvement with aviation events and organizations. Along with three other women we were chosen for this incredible and awesome honor because others believed we had accomplished the extraordinary. The affair itself was intimate and sophisticated. We had great fun celebrating each other. But the affair reminded me of a commitment I made over a year ago. JentheJD, my best buddy in law school, asked me to write about my journey to and through law school and to share it with her readers. Her only stipulation was that I tell my age.
I spent nearly two decades in funeral service, an industry I literally “married” into. During this time, I was exposed to some issues families face when death approaches. Some of the families we helped, had little time to grieve, because they faced legal and financial problems related to death or incapacity. Without a power of attorney, families could not access their bedridden loved ones’ bank accounts or handle other business affairs. Often, the deceased left no last will and testament, and valuable, sometimes vast property was often lost to taxes or sat idle because the “heirs” possessed no clear or marketable title.
But when my marriage ended, I wanted “out” of the funeral industry as well. In the funeral business, I faced fierce competition and a demanding and exhausting 24 hours 7 days a week schedule. Help was erratic. At age 55, I was tired, disheartened and facing a very grave (no pun intended) situation. I was also female, African American and had been out of the job market for nearly twenty years. I was left with few options. Under these conditions, I decided to pursue a life-long dream and go to law school. I had no idea where to start. But in my journey to get there, I learned a very valuable lesson – every life experience counts, no matter how you get it.
They say when you find your true purpose in life, every door opens, but you must have the courage and the faith to step through those doors. As a test of that faith, however, six days before I was scheduled to take the Law School Admittance Test, (LSAT) my father died. Instead of sitting for the LSAT, I was sitting on the front pew of my childhood church home, grieving.
The Law School Admittance Council (LSAC) offered no refund for exam fees already paid, and would not apply that payment to the next scheduled LSAT. I thought that was a sign for me to give up. But my daughter insisted I at least test and paid for the next exam. My initial test results were dismal – 138. As you can imagine, I had few invites, applied to only one area law school, and was not admitted. I felt inadequate, and discouraged, but instead of giving up, I changed my strategy.
I decided to retake the LSAT to improve my score. The LSAT is not an exam based on memory, but rather reasoning. You must think your way through several scenarios using present facts and arrive at a logical conclusion. You can’t really “study” for the LSAT, but you can prepare. To that end, I took several free LSAT exams that simulated the actual LSAT. After each exam, I reviewed my results and worked on understanding the logics and why one answer choice was better than another. I worked on my speed and problem solving abilities.
My strategy, however, paid off Big time! At the age of a seasoned AARP membership, I scored high enough on the LSAT to capture an invitation, admission and scholarships to a law school with a top 20 ranking in legal writing.
The journey was just beginning. There were more doors to go through. The law school was out of state. The overwhelming majority of students admitted were my complete opposite – white, male and under 30. This meant leasing my home, leaving familiar faces – family and friends, putting some relationships on hold and severing others. But it all worked out.
Making the decision to just “do it” was a decision of faith and fortitude. During my four years at Bowen Law School in Little Rock, I met and befriended community icons and leaders, dined with governors past and present, met a former president at least 3 times, rubbed shoulders with prominent judges and attorneys, and attended nearly every major social and political event in the area. I spent a lot of time serving others at free legal clinics, preparing and serving meals to families of very ill children and other volunteer work. I joined student groups and through those organizations, I was inspired to do even more. I met good people, young and old, Black and White. My law school professors were encouraging and they challenged me to be bold, to utilize my life experiences and to employ them to achieve success in the classroom.
This blog post is overdue, but it would not have been complete without the “rest of the story.” I graduated in May 2017 with a very decent GPA. I passed the bar on my initial take. Within three days of learning I passed the bar, I returned to Dallas with a strong job offer from a law firm. Later, I spent several months as a United States Attorney. I moved back into my intact home. More recently, I was approached by the head of the largest African American law firm in the state of Texas. He made an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Being recognized as an Icon, I believe is a strong testimony of faith, fortitude and favor. To accomplish the extraordinary, you have to be relentless in your pursuit of your dreams. Age, gender, race and even money does not matter. What really matters is whether you are willing to go through the open door.
Inez Taylor Clark, Esquire
First Party Case Manager
Godsey Martin Law Firm