From dreamer to doer: Law school at age 41

“I don’t have time.” “I’ll do it when the kids are grown.” “I can’t do it now – it’s too late." 

Those phrases probably sound pretty familiar. We all make excuses, and we all have obstacles in our lives that stop us from following our passions – whether it's pursuing a different career path, writing a novel, running a marathon or even just volunteering more.

Rachel_LawyerMeet Rachael Ingram, J.D. She went back to school – law school – at age 41. She and her husband welcomed their fourth child while she was in law school.

Let that all sink in for a moment. 

It wasn’t always easy, but Rachael persevered, graduated and now works for a local law firm in Columbus, Ohio. She wants to share a simple message – it’s NEVER too late to follow your dreams.

Here’s how it happened for her:

Five years ago Rachael was living a typical suburban life. Married to firefighter Chris, they had 3 boys and were busy with baseball practice, friends and family time. Rachael worked in communications and was happy and contented.

She had just finished up an all-consuming freelance project at a political communications company when she thought, “I’ve always wanted to go to law school, maybe I should try it. I love the justice system. I love how the law works. How it’s entangled in everything we do.” 

She applied and was accepted into a part-time program at Capital Law school in Columbus, Ohio.

Was she nervous about this new path? Yeah, of course she was.  

“The worry and reality of law school didn’t set in until about two weeks into classes,” she said. “I thought I could do school part-time, work part-time and care for my family. But that’s not the case. Law school’s a full-time endeavor, even if you’re only part-time.”

So, how did she get past her anxiety?

“To push past the worry there was a lot of – crying,” Rachael said with a laugh. “And I came to the realization, if I really want to do this – if I was serious about getting a law degree – I needed to put school first, which was a big change.”

Although it took some getting used to, Rachael is thrilled she stuck with it and made it work.  

“Going to school when you’re 41 with people who are predominantly coming out of undergrad was a huge learning curve,” she said. “Socially, I was interacting with millennials who were now my peers. Plus I had to learn how to study again and manage a household on top of being in law school.”

Oh, and then she learned she was expecting another baby.

“I entered law school with 3 children, and at the end of my first semester, found out my husband and I were going to have a baby!” she said.  

She took one semester off but continued her dreams even with 3 children and an infant. “I thought, ‘what more could happen?’”

Rachel considered quitting law school, but she learned that having people to lean on during the tough times was key.

“At the end of my second year, I was at the point where I didn’t think I could do it anymore,” she said. “I was worried if I didn’t do well; I was going to let so many people down. And that overwhelmed me."

“I went to the dean, told her I wasn’t finishing exams and I was going to drop out. Thankfully she talked me out of it. I also leaned on my husband and he talked me off a ledge. My cousin, a pastor, sent me a Bible verse and said she was praying for me.”

Rachael believes the supportive network made her feel like everything would be OK.  And in the end, she knew she really wanted to continue following her dream.

“I love the law. I love democracy. Being able to read the law and apply it to a situation you never thought would happen is fascinating. It never gets old. So quitting wasn’t an option for me,” she said. “And at some point I was doing it as much for all of my friends and family – who supported me – as I was doing it for myself.”

So, what advice does Rachael have for anyone wanting to follow their dreams?

“You’re not too old to do it,” she said. “I applied to law school at 40. Whether you’re 40, 50 or 60, if you want to do something – do it!”



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TAGS: Personal, Professional