15 Years of Memories with Law School Friends
As I write this, I’m sitting in the penthouse lounge of my apartment building outside Washington, D.C. Through the window before me, I see the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol building, the Jefferson Memorial, and a wide sweep of the Potomac River.
When I started law school at Oak Brook, 15 years ago, this was the city I had in mind—the seat of legal power, where important decisions are made and where important people make them. But priorities change over 15 years.
A few days ago, I biked downriver to meet up with Jordana (’03) for lunch. I had last seen Jordana in Georgia where we and Heidi (’05) were part of a surprise birthday party for Jamie (’03). Just a month earlier, in July, Jordana and Heidi and I, with Mark (‘97), spent a week or so exploring the mountains, islands, and rainforests of Ecuador.
Between those trips was the annual Oak Brook Alumni Association meeting in Lake Tahoe, which I’ve attended every year since 2008. It’s always great to spend time with good friends and to chat with the more rarely encountered alumni who attend. I had hoped to see Chris (‘99) and my classmate Kaitlin (‘07), but their firstborn was due that week. However, we had many opportunities to meet up in June, and took advantage of it with barbecues, neighborhood runs, and coffee.
On my way out to Virginia, I stopped in Texas for a brief visit with Katie (‘09) and her family. I hadn’t seen them since a previous visit to Tahoe; it was good to reminisce about our days running the Baby Bar boot camp and putting stressful students through the wringer (for their own good, of course).
When I first enrolled at Oak Brook, I had great doubts about whether it was right for me. What I never expected was that so many of my friendships would come out of a correspondence school where the whole class meets up less than once a year.
In part, that closeness arose from my classmates, an extraordinary collection of fine people that I am honored to have studied, argued, spent late nights, eaten countless desserts, laughed, cried, and stressed out with. The Baby Bar was a bonding moment of crisis; the untimely death and subsequent funeral in Oregon of our classmate Landon (‘07) the following year brought us even closer together.
Among the alumni I met in Oregon were Seth (‘96) and Jeremy (‘97), who later employed me when I moved to the Oak Brook mecca of Bakersfield. I initially took up residence in Landon’s old digs at Win’s (‘99) house, before combining with our classmate Sam (‘07) and our esteemed contracts TA, Paul (‘04), to get our own bachelor pad. While I didn’t stay in Bakersfield, the friendships made there have prompted many return visits.
And not just visits to Bakersfield. My Oak Brook friends are responsible for my first trip to Washington, D.C., during law school; that post-bar exam cruise to Mexico; multiple trips to Hawaii; road trips in the magnificent deserts of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah; and global tours to Reykjavik, Dubai, Saigon, Singapore, Cabo, Costa Rica, and elsewhere.
I’m grateful for the education I received at Oak Brook; indeed, I had few other options, and may not have made it elsewhere. Besides enabling me to pass the bar exam and take on occasional legal engagements, the mental sharpening that law school—and my classmates—provided has been an invaluable asset, even in other lines of work.
Yet the benefit that I most cherish from Oak Brook is not the degree; it’s the enduring friendships that I’ve made, the people that I’ve spent untold hours, days, weeks, and months with: sharing the joys of an excellent menu, the experience of a beautiful location, the piquancy of a stimulating conversation, the comfort of companionship during times of loss and sorrow, the challenges of the past, celebrations of the present, and aspirations for the future.
Joel Barker is a proud member of the ’07 class. He works in both tech and law, and enjoys problem-solving to improve business operations. In his free time, Joel bikes, travels, and grapples with big ideas. He currently resides in Arlington, VA.