“The art of law school is largely the art of persistence.”

By: Marlen Santana Perez

Date: August 26, 2013

Three years later I still remember my father’s look when I showed him my new law student ID card. “Again,” he asked with a harsh accent. I made no attempt to persuade him about the greatness of being an attorney in America and left convinced that I could do this one more time. From that day, whenever I have to miss a drink, a gathering, a family event, to read hundreds of unintelligible legal jargon, I have auditory hallucinations saying “Again.” I am forty-four and this is my twenty third year in school. After all, my father wasn’t all wrong.

Thank you for reading my blog. This is my attempt to encourage those insane enough to pursue a law degree.

I was born in Cuba, where I was a practicing attorney for seven years. After a very difficult journey, I arrived in the US in 1999. Inspired by the staff at Metro Refugee Services and while learning a new language and a new culture, I decided to become a Social Worker. I graduated in 2006 from UT-Knoxville with a Master in Sciences of Social Work. That same year, I started working as a Social Worker/Therapist for Saint Thomas Health Services and became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I have done individual and group counseling, case management, and ER social work. All along I realized some limitations in helping others and decided to apply to NSL program for students with foreign law degrees hoping to complete 16 credits and to take the Bar exam.

To my surprise, I was told that the program was only available to foreign lawyers of some countries, Cuba not included. With no other option, I enrolled full time at NSL in 2010. I have faced many challenges in life but no other like these years of law school. For a mother of two, working full time, with English as a second language, going through law school in the US has been life-changing.

Just recently, I left my job of seven years. The stress of working in a hospital, the inflexible schedule, and the rigor of having to prepare for the BAR exam while taking last year courses became overwhelming. I am currently working for myself, doing forensic and clinical social work. As graduation approaches, is time to think about life after the classroom. I have no time to waste. I cannot wait for what the job market has to offer.  I plan to open my own law practice, preferably with a criminal law attorney, and learn along the way. My areas of interest are family, employment, and immigration law. I know it will be hard but the fact that I can speak Spanish in a city with a tremendous growth of the Hispanic population is encouraging.

As my favorite psychotherapist Albert Ellis once wrote:  “The art of love is largely the art of persistence.” To us: “The art of law school is largely the art of persistence.”  Marlen.

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1 Comment

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One response to ““The art of law school is largely the art of persistence.”

  1. Great read Marlen. As always, so proud to know you and call you friend. Now I can add lawyer friend to the list reasons why you are so awesome and an inspiration. Stay motivated.

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