An excerpt from Karen's winning essay:
I have wanted to become an attorney since I entered the legal profession 15 years ago but had no college education and realized that, at my age then, even if I could obtain a loan to pay for school, by the time I graduated from law school, I'd be at the stage of retirement. I would have to earn my Associate Degree, Bachelor's Degree, then my J.D. and attend school on a part-time basis in the evenings in order to continue working full-time during the day to support myself.
I am currently 39 years old (single, divorced female) and still have no degree, which is very disappointing. I now have 15 years of experience as a paralegal, and it has been so difficult for me to continue to work only in that capacity when I know there's so much more I could do to help others if I was licensed to practice law.
I get such great pleasure in helping others and feel that there are way too many people in this world (including attorneys) who take advantage of others. Once I become a licensed attorney, I plan to give those who are less fortunate free advice and assistance to help them in legal matters... especially the elderly and/or disabled who are unable to afford legal counsel.
About a year ago I found a college that I could actually afford (low down payment and very low monthly payments), which offered distance learning, so I enrolled in the school (which I am currently attending) to obtain my Associate Degree in Criminal Justice. I was so excited that I was finally going to be able to at least obtain some sort of degree during my lifetime. Neither of my parents or grandparents have a degree, so my mom, dad and one remaining grandparent alive, were just as thrilled when I told them the news.
A few months later while I was researching a licensure issue in a case in which I was assigned, I learned that I would be eligible to take the State Bar exam with only an Associate Degree and J.D. (with no Bachelor's Degree requirement). I was absolutely ecstatic, as I was already halfway finished earning my Associate Degree. I then spent several weeks trying to find a law school that offered the J.D. program without a Bachelor's Degree as a prerequisite, via distance education, and regionally accredited and approved by the ABA for bar exam eligibility. I finally found one and confirmed this school's credentials through various government agencies and visited the school in-person, as it's always important to check these things out.
Now I am more determined than ever to obtain my law degree and am doing everything I can to try to make that dream a reality; however, money is certainly still an issue.