THEN: Even though Yazmin Wadia didn’t do much research into the legal job market before enrolling in law school, the aspiring public interest lawyer understood that a juris doctor carries no guarantee. “It definitely does scare me, knowing that you’re competing in the job market with Ivy League graduates from Harvard and Yale,” she said in 2010. “But it doesn’t hurt to try. What’s the worst that could happen?

NOW: Wadia graduated in May but hasn’t put down the books just yet. She is studying for the February bar, having failed the July exam — a result she attributes in part to some personal distractions that inconveniently cropped up around test time. She hasn’t let that dampen her enthusiasm. “I really did enjoy law school,” she said. “I enjoyed the mental marathon that it is, constantly pushing and questioning. It was a good period of growth for me. I was 20 when I started. I’m 24 now and just seeing how much I’ve grown is remarkable.”

Wadia toughed out a bout of pneumonia her first semester, opting not to take a medical leave.”I’ve never been someone to give up. When it’s something that you want, you find a way,” she said.

There were plenty of highs, including the summer she spent advising migrant farm workers on employment law matters, moot court, and heading fundraising efforts for public interest law fellowships. For now, Wadia has a part-time job in Willamette’s placement office that helps pay the bills while she studies for the bar. She acknowledged that her “low six figures” in student debt is “daunting” but is confident she’ll manage when the payments come due in November. “I’m very realistic in the fact that I won’t find that perfect public interest job immediately,” she said. “But I do feel that with time and hard work, I’ll be able to find that niche in the Oregon community for me.” — Karen Sloan