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News and Events: 2009 Alumni Encourage Pre-law Students

(This is a copy of the story printed in the Summer 2009 edition of "The Calvin Spark")

Attorneys tell law school stories

alumni attorney panelThe fact that law school is indeed difficult was a point made clear by a panel of alumni lawyers assembled during Calvin's 2009 Homecoming to give advice to Calvin students. The fact that Calvin prepared them well, however, was made just as evident among the select group.

"I was very well prepared,” said Nate Plantinga ’94, a graduate of University of Michigan law school. “I felt that I had the analytic ability and writing ability necessary after graduating from Calvin.”

That point was echoed by several of the other five panelists, including Tom Geelhoed ’79: “Law school is like liberal arts on steroids. It’s best to have a background in a lot of different areas.”

For most of the panelists, law was a profession that they did not always aspire to. Jan Winters ’77 was a special education teacher who became interested in the law as it applied to education. Mary Bonnema ’90 transferred from biology to criminal justice, eventually ending up in law school.

Steve Tuuk ’75, on the other hand, related that when asked in fifth grade what he wanted to be, he “drew a picture of a Perry Mason kind of guy, in front of a witness stand.”

No matter the calling though, all mentioned that there are a host of opportunities available for law school graduates, from a criminal defense career like Victor Plantinga’s ’83 to owning an insurance company that covers attorneys.

"After you graduate from law school there are a lot of things you can do,” said Tuuk. “Gaylen Byker is an example of that; you could become a college president.”

Senior Josh Kuyers was encouraged by the discussion. “Even though a common theme among the panelists was the difficulty and challenge of law school, they also spoke of enjoying the challenge and loving what they do,” he said. “This actually made me more excited about continuing my education at law school and affirmed my decision of applying to the law schools that I did.”

Added junior Libby Howell: “I thought the paned was a great opportunity to get a perspective on law school from people with an undergraduate experience similar to my own.”

The panel was invited by Calvin’s new pre-law adviser, professor of political science Joel Westra, in a partnership with the alumni association board.