GPSolo Magazine - July/August 2006

How I Got Through the First Year of Law School

After several months of listening to my classmates talk of nothing but the law, I decided I needed a distraction. I found it in an adult education catalog: a Saturday class for people interested in musicals. I love musicals. I sat through multiple screenings of That’s Entertainment . Shortly before I started law school, Gene Kelly invited me and my family to his home. I sat in his living room listening to him (and my father) talk about, what else, their World War II experiences and playing hockey as kids. So, a musical comedy workshop. What could be better?

There was one slight hitch: I cannot sing or dance. But I did not let that stop me. And the class description specifically stated that experience was not necessary. I showed up the first Saturday to a room filled with 30 people, singing and tapping. Turns out I was the only person in the class without experience.

The class project was to put on a show loosely based on A Chorus Line. Each person would sing a solo and participate in a dance audition. Okay, now I started to worry. Remember, I’m the one who cannot sing or dance. Taking pity on me, the director, John, proposed a compromise: I would be part of a trio, singing “Together, Wherever We Go” from Gypsy. It’s a great show. My fellow trio-ites were experienced performers, so I was in good hands.

The day of reckoning grew closer. I bought dancing shoes. (Did you know they are supposed to be two sizes smaller than your regular shoes? Neither did I—they hurt!) I practiced my song with Brian and . . . well, I can’t remember her name. I invited my classmates to the show.

The week before the show I stopped eating, and panic set in. What in God’s name was I thinking? I could not get on stage and sing. No way, unh unh, no how! But I had all these people coming . . . soooo, another idea: I wouldn’t wear my glasses. I figured if I can’t see them, they can’t see me.

Sunday came, it was April or maybe May; anxiety does tend to cloud the memory. I was physically ill. And my feet hurt. Then I found out I was excused from the dancing segment—because I had no idea how to do jazz, ballet, or tap steps. So, all I had to do was sing with two other people. I could fake that; you know, move my lips without sound. I did that playing the clarinet in my high school marching band. Worked then, will work now.

I took the stage with my compatriots on either side. The audience was a blur, though I could hear them (too late for earplugs). The music started and I began to sing—out loud. I suddenly realized that I was the only one singing. Brian and, gosh, what is her name, forgot the words! So here I was singing my little off-key heart out. Got through the song, made it to the end of the show, and I was selected to be part of the chorus. It was thrilling. It was the start of something new and wonderful. I reflected on what had happened—how I’d grown, how I’d managed to survive musical comedy and the first year of law school—and I made a decision: As a musical comedy performer, I make a great lawyer.


Joan M. Burda operates a solo practice in Lakewood, Ohio. She can be reached at


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