Somewhere I have a Dilbert cartoon where the Pointy-Haired Boss is introducing his Pointy-Haired Son. “He's young,” says PHB, “But I'm almost certain he went to college.” In the next panel, Dilbert is making conversation with PHS. “So,” he asks, “Where did you go to college?”
“Actually, I just hid in the attic for four years,” says PHS.
Sometimes I did feel that way. But I'm pretty sure I studied some, too.
Having decided to devote my life to the cause of Truth and Justice, I felt a need to learn more about them, and hence thought I should go to law school. (Naive of me, but I was only sixteen.) It seemed like the best option at the time would be to begin racking up college credits through local institutions and distance learning, and then attend law school after completing a four-year degree, at which time I would be of sufficient years and discretion to leave home long-term, if need be.
However, within a few months I received notice that a new law school was opening: Oak Brook College of Law. It allowed you to do the bulk of the work from home, and rather than requiring a four-year degree, it would take two years' worth of credits and you could get them by taking the CLEP exam. When done, you'd be eligible to take the California bar exam. So, always in a hurry to get on with things, I decided to try this option. It certainly didn't hurt that it was affiliated with the family's homeschool program.
I took the CLEP tests over the next few months. To my astonishment, I did the worst at English. (I guess they didn't care for my writing style in the essay, for I'm quite certain I didn't mess up on proofreading.) I got a nearly perfect score on math, without ever studying college math at all, although I had done some of my high school math from college textbooks, if they happened to be lying around the house.
OBCL set a minimum age of 18, but I decided to apply and see if they'd let me in anyway. They did. So off I went to the orientation week, which was held in Oklahoma City.
People are always confused as to why I attended courses in Oklahoma when it was a California school, so follow me closely here. California allows law schools not accredited by the American Bar Association to operate and take its bar exam, which few other states do. (Most don't want the bother of supervising schools themselves and defer to the ABA.) The ABA doesn't permit distance learning, and looks with disfavor on a strong Christian content to the coursework. So OBCL is a California school. Being affiliated with IBLP, it has access to their facilities at a low cost, and Oklahoma City happened to be the one that got assigned to the school.
Anyway, there I was, at the tender age of sixteen, starting law school. I loved it. Finally, somewhere that my passion for arguing could be unleashed without limit! (Well, sometimes people took my knife away when I started arguing at the dinner table.) Finally, people who really liked to hash things out!
After a week there, I went home to hide in the attic and study for a year. I had the unique challenge of not yet having passed my driver's license (an unpleasant incident on my first try had discouraged me from trying again to soon) so I had to beg rides to the law library off of friends.
I found studying independently through law school quite natural; it was what I had been doing all along. It had become my habit to study things because I wanted to know them, and to approach every new topic with the goal of understanding first, remembering second, and passing the exam a distant third. With that approach, passing was easy.
(I should note that homeschooling does not guarantee this approach to study. DOB started at the same school two years later, at 18. He spent his semesters socializing, working, and volunteering on campaigns, and crammed at the last minute. He still passed, even with famously falling asleep on one exam. Although he didn't go into law, most of his school friends did and are building successful careers despite their questionable study habits. They say your enjoyment of law school is inversely proportional to your likelihood of enjoying the practice of law.)
At the end of the first year, students in unaccredited schools must take the “Baby Bar” exam in California. I took that and passed it. I did, thereafter, finally pass my driver's exam, too. Concurrently with study over the next few years I worked part time for NATHHAN for a time and during my last year got called back to work at EFF on a lawsuit they were then engaged in against the teachers' union.
This was real, live legal work, with depositions and interrogatories and the whole works. It was fun, and good to see the actual processes of law, which is quite a different matter from the substance of law taught in law school. Nonetheless, I realized that the practice of law wasn't really my passion and never had been. I liked things a bit more esoteric; I wanted to talk about the way things ought to be, not muck about with tweaking the way they were.
After I passed the California Bar Exam, I continued working at EFF. I did legal work occasionally, but drifted more and more into public policy research and writing. Eventually I began working on a project that became Crossroads, a curriculum on governing principles for teens. This was the fulfillment of my dreams: to be able to travel around and talk about why government existed and how it was supposed to operate. I spoke to many homeschool groups and private schools and marketed my services at their respective conventions. The course is now available on DVD, if you're interested. (It was recorded last spring, while I was pregnant with D2. For the record.)
On the side, I decided I had an obligation to all future OBCL students in my home state of Washington to try to gain entrance to the Washington Bar. Representing myself, I wrote a series of letters exploiting an obscure portion of the rules of practice to argue that I should be permitted to take the Washington Bar Exam. Much to my surprise (and the surprise of the Bar's general counsel, I'm sure), the Board of Governors granted my request, and I gained admission in Washington as well.
(Although most OBCL students have clustered in California, there is now a sizeable group in Washington who have taken advantage of the rules exception. There are also several engaged in practicing federal law exclusively, and some who have found ways to get into a few other states, sometimes only after taking a couple of years' work at a conventional law school. OBCL still doesn't have the prestige of Stanford, but its California bar passage rate is extremely high, and we're starting to make our mark in the world.)
Sometime between those two bar exams, I joined up with the Oak Brook Debating Society, which conducted online debates via e-mail. My first scheduled opponent dropped out, so the president, known online as “Duke Ronald” and about eighty other screen names, took it upon himself to debate me personally. He won. I was mad. We kept arguing. Eventually we got married to do it more conveniently.
And now you know . . . the rest of the story.