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Ex-Prison Guard, Mom of 4, Looks Forward to Legal Career Helping Underserved Populations

Posted Aug 8, 2010 10:40 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough

Mindy Rush Chipman took an unusual path to law school. In need of work, she took a steady job at age 19 as a maximum security prison guard in Nebraska.There, she worked her way up to the prison law library where she was expected to help prisoners navigate library resources to work on their appeals, divorces and visitation petitions.

Rush tells the SoloCorps crew, in a six-minute interview at the Nebraska Solo & Small Firm Conference, that she became frustrated with her lack of knowledge about the justice system.

“As a young female knowing nothing about the law, I felt like I was doing them an injustice with me trying to train the legal aides—not knowing enough myself—serving these men with huge problems that would affect the rest of their lives,” Chipman says.

So Chipman decided to go to school, first getting a degree as a legal assistant, then going on for a bachelor’s and working as a paralegal. And, on a whim, she took the LSAT.

Throughout all of this schooling—she’s wrapping up a master’s in library sciences—Chipman continued to build her family. Her fourth child came not long after she graduated from law school. But now she’s looking for a way to bring her experience full circle, to help the people she met while working in the prison law library.

“I just want to kind of get back to my roots, helping the people who need the help the most,” she says.

SoloCorps Interview - Mindy Rush Chipman from Carolyn Elefant on Vimeo.

SoloCorps, a video storytelling project aimed at chronicling anecdotes and perspectives of lawyers throughout the country, launched Aug. 1 in Minnesota. SoloCorps founders Carolyn Elefant and Lisa Solomon wrapped up their trip Aug. 7 in Omaha, Neb., but plan to continue their project as they travel to present at conferences throughout the country.

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