And so I began, in desperation and complete ignorance, the task of applying to law school. Nobody in my family had ever even graduated from college. I knew nothing about the process. I just knew that all of my cop relatives considered being a lawyer a step up in the employment pecking order. (They were wrong, and exhibited the exaggerated humility of old school immigrants.)
First came the LSAT. No prep course (naturally) so I performed with splendid mediocrity, as I had on the SAT. Being a sub-neophyte, I believe I then forwarded those scores to Columbia and NYU, because I figured they were, you know, pretty good schools, and close to home. They were also schools to which I had ZERO chance of acceptance. I probably applied to Harvard as well, being a UMass grad, I can’t recall.
After being unanimously rejected from each school to which I applied, I got more realistic the next time around, set the bar a bit lower, and was accepted to a few schools. So Albany it was. I have to be delicate here; not everyone at Albany Law School was completely despicable, but I had the feeling that the people who ran the place must have watched “The Paper Chase” as often as I’ve seen “Tombstone.” The whole seating chart thing, calling on students and humiliating the unprepared. A few of the teachers seemed like decent people, but many seemed to me to be vicious runts who enjoyed the opportunity to play bully. As for the students… I’ll just stay on the high road here and forget things like the pages from cases–which were the object of a legal research assignment–being razored out of the law books once you finally found them; again not everyone, but enough.
Fortuitously, I stumbled into one of ALS’s finest traditions–rugby.
I have reason to believe that the only reason I was accepted to ALS was that 1/3 of the Admissions Committee was the legendary and late Professor William Watkins, the club’s “advisor.” It was amazing how many college athletes happen to wind up at ALS, and on the rugby team. Football players, soccer players, lacrosse players, and even a few rugby players. I was one of at least three wrestlers. We would actually beat up on college teams.
If you’ve looked at the page entitled “An Incredibly Exaggerated Rendition of the Pissed Off Prosecutor’s Career by a Law School Classmate” you will be reading the fiction of another ALS rugby legend, Bill “Buckwheat” Pulos. He and a few others have held the group together all these years. In fact, the club’s 50th anniversary will be celebrated in gala fashion in April 2015, thanks largely to Buck.
In truth, I wasn’t much of a rugby player. Perhaps I was a decent “prop,” which requires some weight and strength, but I was as slow as molasses. I did, however, excel at the post-game keg parties. ‘Nuff said.
There was another perk that went along with playing rugby. The team was dialed in to John DeMatteo, the head custodian. We all got part time jobs cleaning the school at night. My assignment: Room 17, a lecture hall, and the William McKinley Moot Court Room. (Big Mac was also an Albany man.) I like to tell people I spent more time in the Moot Court room than any other student. Only it was mopping floors, not arguing. That would have meant reading statutes and cases, preparing, etc.. No thanks.
Here’s a bit of irony for you. When John, whom many of us called “Dad,” passed away a few ago, we learned from his family that he was an honest to God war hero. He received the bronze star with two oak leaf clusters for his service in the Korean War, including the Chosin Reservoir. So cleaning and maintaining the law school for the little army of (mostly) arrogant future attorneys toiled a humble custodian, whose jock strap we were not fit to carry.
And Ken Doyle–another prop who seemed like a nice guy–turned out, to my shock, to be a priest! He presided over John’s funeral, as he had my wedding, and so many other Blessed Sacraments of our rugby family. Fr. Doyle, another Albany Law Rugby Legend.
This could have been an exceedingly long, tedious, and negative entry. So let me end with this. Following my second year, I took a semester off. Long, ridiculous story, another of my life’s many SNAFUs. So I graduated mid-year. I blew off the graduation ceremony. Backing up my contention that I had no desire to become a lawyer, I put no effort into preparing for the New York bar exam, and consequently did not pass. To the shock of my buddies, now starry-eyed young attorneys, I did the unthinkable and skipped several exams (it is given twice a year). It was only when I learned that my wife was pregnant that I enrolled in a bar review course (and a good one–Pieper–the best), attended the sessions, actually studied after class–and passed. In the meantime, I had done some landscaping, was a moving man, and for a time emulated my man John Lennon and played house-husband. John and I were way ahead of our time in the late 70’s.
Just after passing the bar, the Suffolk County Police Department finally called, and without a thought of a career in “law,” off to the Academy I went.
A rendition of my brief but somewhat colorful police career will follow. It is far more interesting than my law school days and I learned a whole lot more.