THE DOOR OF THE LAW
February, 1978 + Wellington, Maine
A cadre of Wellingtonians was fighting our district school board, who insisted our small community school should be closed. This meant our children would be bussed over perilous dirt roads to a larger school twenty five miles away. During Maine's seemingly never ending winter, this was fraught with danger. We all loved our town school, and felt privileged our children could get a good, balanced education there. Our school was a beloved Wellington institution and community center.
During the course of this struggle, it became clear we needed legal assistance, which would normally be out of our price range. Several of us sought free legal services through a public interest law firm that took cases based on the odd notion of social and personal justice. While presenting our case to one of these attorneys, I watched him closely as he made phone calls, read and handled documents, and talked to and counseled clients. A bright light suddenly lit up in my mind, like a brilliant spotlight trained on an unsuspecting sleeper. "Of course, " I thought, "I can do that." From that moment, I was all about becoming a lawyer. I had discovered my second Wellington. A new, realistic dream took hold of me: I would be a lawyer for poor folks and serve the cause of justice. I would bring my idealism into a different arena, where low-income people were effectively excluded.
I applied at the University of Maine School of law, Portland. I gathered transcripts, studied assiduously for and scored well enough on he Law School Admissions Test, got together a resume and references and read cases. I dedicated my energies to this one thing, like I had done deciphering Dylan lyrics in that earlier incarnation.
Frog may have saved Private Gill, but he threw a huge roadblock in my path to lawyerhood. My initial application was denied because my Cortland grades were mediocre, at best. My avid pursuit in the guise of Frog of what we called the Gentleman's Hook (a grade of C) temporarily put law school out of reach. It was as if Prince Harry's youthful indiscretions with Falstaff barred him from becoming Henry V.
I was told to take two semesters of law-related courses at the University of Southern Maine (USM), Portland. This school was directly across the street from the Law School. I enviously watched law students coming and going from that building. I longed to be one of them. Following the USM results, I would be re-evaluated for admittance.
I performed well enough to be admitted in 1981. In 1984, if all went well, I would receive a Juries Doctor (JD) degree. Doctor Frog! Who would ever believe it? Certainly not that irate Dean who passed judgement over the Domino's piss drinking escapade! That Dean notwithstanding, I would take the Maine bar Exam and become Raymond Gill, Esquire. All went as planned.
I had made it to The University of Maine School of Law at last, after several years of preparing for, nervously taking, and passing the LSAT. I had gathered transcripts from three colleges, one in California, applied, and taken a year of classes at USM. I had to prove I could understand the most arcane of legal concepts, such as promissory estoppel, replevin, and trover.
I was put through background criminal checks by Officer Very Friendly, fingerprints and all, to show I was not a murderer or other felonious ne'er-do-well. I passed this most unwelcomed ordeal, the San Fransisco drug tank notwithstanding. I scrounged up credible, yet decidedly lukewarm references from unenthusiastic well-wishers. I demonstrated my dazzling verbal interview skills, even stopping to the transparent expedient of dropping the names of various heavy-duty literary and philosophical figures like Dostoevsky, Satre, and Kant, who mystifies me to this day. [See? Like I just did right here. I'm incorrigible]
I was in. I cynically chuckled a bit. I thought that Frog and his capacity for successfully manipulating thick smoke and carnival mirrors to get over would have exasperated that Cortland Dean. Who could have foreseen that piss-drinking incipient alcoholic was headed for law school and the profession rank of Juries Doctor? "I can go anywhere," I thought, "as long as no one clears out that smoke or correctly adjusts those mirrors."
Our family was to pay a heavy price for this. The untold story is that Linda and I were living apart, she in Wellington and I in Portland. We were then about one and a half hours from each other. As the three years of law School unfolded, we grew steadily more estranged, living as we were in two separate worlds. For this and other reasons Linda and I lost sight of each other.
What about Sarah? My law school endeavor added strength to her feelings of abandonment. With good reason, she felt I was leaving her and going my own way with little or no thought of her. There would be several other incidents of this in the following years. A painful reckoning was to come before she and I resolved these feelings and reconciled one to another. Sometimes absence does not make the heart grow fonder.