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Septuagenarian Law Grad an Oldie but Goodie

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

At the ready age of 71, John VanBuskirk graduated from law school.

Although he was the oldest student in his class, he was ready to take on the world. When he took the bar exam, however, a rumor started that he had passed.

"That's too bad," a classmate said. "I really liked the guy."

By "passed," he thought VanBuskirk had died. Of course, that's not the story.

Old School

VanBuskirk passed the Texas state bar exam, adding to the accolades of a lifetime of service. He had served in the Army, but regretted not joining the judge advocate general corps.

Four decades later, he grabbed the opportunity when a low-cost law school opened. Again, it was about service for the Army vet.

He volunteered at a local legal clinic, giving 800 pro bono hours by the time he graduated. He also learned there were 41 other veterans in his law school, where the average age of students was 33.

It is an example of a maturing demographic in law schools. Like VanBuskirk learned: old law students don't die; they just pass.

New Generation

Second-career students have filled the ranks of law schools for a long time. They often go to second-tier schools with alternative programs because of work or family obligations, but top-ranked schools value them also.

It's about life experience, which can lead to job opportunities. Harvard Law School, for example, advises older students to market to public interest employers.

"Public interest employers often do not have the resources private firms do, so having someone with prior work experience who is able to step in and handle a great deal of responsibility without a great deal of supervision can be advantageous," the school teaches.

For "old school" vets like VanBuskirk, his life experience was a perfect fit for legal service. After all, he wasn't born yesterday.

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