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What happens to dismissed law students? They still exist — theoretically. Alaina Alexander exists in practice. “Most law students just fade away after being dismissed. I refused to do that.” Instead she created a Web site — www.dismissedlawstudent.com– for dismissed law students who, like her, found themselves out of law school without a lawyer’s job, weighed down by student debt and cut off from the place that was supposed to be their ticket. “When I was dismissed, I went into catatonic shock. But life went on, even without me. So I started to rebuild my life. I searched online for a site to help me reorient but couldn’t really find one. So I made my own. Instead of feeling depressed whenever I talked to my 2L friends about the classes I thought I’d be taking, I put my energy to use and felt better.” Come May and June, many suddenly former law students find themselves out of the institution they were building their futures around. They needn’t commit to a comeback immediately, but the site offers three paths back to law school or a new legal career: 1) With your BA, you only need one year of study to become a paralegal, as Alaina is working towards now. Some paralegals can earn more than starting lawyers (who weren’t after or couldn’t get firm jobs). Paralegals, without previous legal experience, can pay off debt from an inchoate education uncertain of ever providing fruit, gain experience and so help their way back into law school should they so desire. 2) Any kind of legal work experience short of being a defendant indicates to a law school that you are serious about learning and staying in the field while preparing for a more successful foray as a law student. If a lawyer’s career’s worth of salary is your long-term goal, taking a short-term hit through volunteer work — if that’s what it takes — is worth it. 3) Reapply. The ABA requires you wait two years to reapply to any accredited institution, one if it’s unaccredited. The rule is designed to make the dismissed contemplate what went wrong but also to offer them time to improve themselves both in substance and in the eyes of law schools. In addition to purely practical advice, Alaina’s site also reminds those who are where they feared or never dreamed they would be to maintain a positive attitude. This clich� is really the only ticket out of the depths of despair. Year-long legal classes usually weigh the second semester final much more heavily in order to allow those who ate crow the first time around to improve, and to give the cantankerous carnivores incentive to keep at it. Now that you’re out of law school, you must count on yourself to give yourself incentive. You can get back to your J.D. by telling yourself that you are worth it, that you are your own incentive. Law school alienated even and especially those who fit in. Yet many of those who failed academically could not crack the cliquish commode of study groups where everyone shops at the same stores, eyes the same firms and kisses the same asses. Those dismissed feel like isolated failures. By fostering a community of former law students trying to make their way back, the site facilitates its own advice. Those who failed alone learn to support each other to success. “You can’t let anyone, especially yourself, convince you that there’s something wrong with you, that you don’t belong in law school. I may have been dismissed, and I take responsibility for that; but I assure you there are many fools populating law schools around the world. Being in law school doesn’t mean you belong any more than being out means you don’t belong. What you do right now will determine where you belong. “I don’t believe in the stigma. If you failed the bar, no one cares once you’re a lawyer. If you struggled in law school, no one cares past your first job. If you failed out of law school, no one will care once you have your J.D. If you focus on your failures, you don’t get past them.” Once it is time to reapply, your personal statement will have to explain why you were dismissed. You’ll have to do better than wax tautological and indicate that your GPA was too low. The site reminds you not to make excuses. Even if your civ pro prof really did have it in for you, they don’t care — they may have one worse than him just waiting for you. Focus on the positives: how you have improved; what you have learned from your experience; how you will take advantage of your second chance in law school. To be safe, says Alaina, “check with admissions to determine your angle. What is this law school’s approach to dismissed students seeking admission?” Dismissed students are not dismissed for life; they are taken back for a reason. Just as with cases, you can appeal. What matters is how it turns out in the end. How the end turns out is itself decided by when you decide the end has arrived. Free-lancer Mitch Artman is a frequent contributor to law.com. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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