It started with Army chef. Then violin teacher. Later my destiny was chasing tornadoes, after I’d become absolutely obsessed with the American classic Twister. I never made it to the army, I never touched a violin, and I never climbed into a truck with Bill Paxton to chase after a Category 5 tornado in the middle of Kansas. Somewhere along the line I watched Twister for the last time and traded those dreams in for something new: law school.
I recognize that, compared to my other dream careers, law school did not offer the same excitement and glamor, but, after reading a few too many “You Be the Jury” books, I was absolutely hooked. Maybe law school had always been my destiny because I was good at arguing, mostly in that I was always ready to argue not in that I often won. Maybe it was because my kindergarten teachers sent me home with a note telling my mom that I was “clever.” (Which I still believe may have been a compliment.) Whatever the reasoning or motivation I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer and I knew I had to figure out how to make that possible.
Coming from a family of engineers and teachers, I didn’t exactly know what I should be doing as a kid to further my legal career. I didn’t even know if there was something I could do – that is, until we got our phone book delivered in the mail. I had just turned fifteen, the legal age of employment in South Carolina, and I had an idea. I should probably mention at this point that my ideas are rarely what one would expect and not often terribly successful (see tornado chasing). But when I grabbed that phone book I knew exactly what I was going to do.
I carried the Lexington/Columbia area phone book outside with our cordless home phone and settled in. I flipped through the crisp pages until I found the section I was looking for: Lawyers. I dialed the first number.
“Yes, Hello, my name is Clair Hollingsworth and I am interested in becoming a lawyer. I’m fifteen years old, and I’d like to come work for your office.”
I dialed and dialed and left message after message, always repeating the same thing. Around my tenth call, I realized something that many of you may already know. Successful marketing often means that when placing an ad, in the phone book or anywhere else, you may have more than one. Unfortunately for the offices that did market themselves wisely, they received my calls over and over again.
I kept calling until I ran out of numbers. Then satisfied that I had done everything within my power, I closed the phone book, put down the phone, and waited.
After hours of sitting by the phone I began to wonder if law offices actually would want to hire a fifteen year old girl whose resume consisted only of babysitting experience to work for them. It was around then that the phone rang. It happened. A law office in Lexington called me back and asked me to come in for an interview.
To make a long, but wonderful story short, I interviewed and was offered a job with a young attorney and his wife. I worked there for the rest of my high school career, and they taught me everything that they knew. They became my virtual aunt and uncle. They were my first call when I got in a car accident my senior year of high school. They helped me with my mock trial competitions and college applications. They essentially created a scholarship in the Lexington County Bar for mock trial that I applied for and received. Later, they wrote my recommendation letter for law school.
When I finally walked through the doors of the University of South Carolina School of Law, I knew I had many people to thank, the least of those being the mailman who dropped off the phone book that day.
I spent the next three years attempting, and often failing, to be successful law student, mock trial competitor, and law clerk. But now, as I complete the last semester of my law school career and begin prepping for the bar exam, I am faced with the prospect of having reached my goal.
It is pure bliss and utterly terrifying that in the next six months I might step into a courtroom, put my legal pad on the desk, and greet the judge as an attorney. That finally, after dialing all of those numbers out of the phone book, I am almost there. I may never have chased a tornado but I did chase a dream.
And you know what? I still think Bill Paxton would have been proud.