The Big Q

What was the biggest hurdle you had to jump in your journey to attorney?

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Steve Inman

Law Offices of Rita Ann Kahlenberg Encino, Calif.

My biggest hurdle was the bar exam. I knew I had to pass to make my student loan payments, so I told my­­self, “Just pretend that you are taking the test in a country where, if you don’t pass, they kill you.”

As if that didn’t make me anxious enough, I then saw several people leave after reading the first two ques­tions. That night the guy in the hotel room next to me was taken away in an ambulance; I had no doubt it was exam-related. By the end of the third day I had acquired a great respect for everyone who completed the exam, regardless of wheth­er or not they passed.

Susan McIntosh

Byrnes & Keller


When I decided to go to law school, I had to overcome 15 years of telling peo­­ple I never would. To see how much ridicule I’d have to suf­fer, I asked a co-worker, “What would you say if I told you that I’m going to go to law school?” I thought this individual would be sym­pathetic since he’d just been admitted to Colum­bia. His reaction was a soft chuckle that erupted into a loud guffaw. “It’s per­fect,” he said, “and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

I learned never to say nev­er and that one can always change one’s mind. After all, the only constant in life is change.

Catherine Irwin

McPeters McAlearney Shimoff & Hatt

Redlands, Calif.

My biggest hurdle to becoming a lawyer was deciding it was OK to be one. In my college years, I was very involved in television and radio. I liked documentaries and news. I was accepted at a prestigious postgraduate institution to pursue television. Law—especially the study of law—was not alluring. Worse, at the time, esteem for lawyers in an opinion poll fell just below garbagemen who had recently been on strike in New York City and let the place stink up. Who would sign up for that?

However, I did notice that a law degree (along with an MBA) seemed to be a credential for becoming president of a television company. I thought, “Why not shoot for the top job? I’m young. I have energy. I should probably get this boring stuff done now before I’m old and tired.” I opted for law school.

Turns out, law was an invitation to picture and analyze events in ways I had not imagined. It was an adventure. It had great components—history, tradition, power, good and evil, nobility, beauty—and some darned interesting stories. Only when I graduated and reviewed my options—law or television—did I finally determine (realize?) I wanted to be a lawyer—and first, not incidentally.

Now, 24 years later, I haven’t forgotten about becoming president of that company, but it’s not time. I still enjoy and appreciate the benefits and challenges of the practice of law.

<i>---edited by Chris Zombory</i>

This month’s answers came from responses to the Question of the Week feature in the ABA Journal eReport. Sign up for the eReport at It’s a free member benefit.

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