Friday, November 10, 2000

New lawyer can celebrate


Years of sacrifice, tense wait, happy ending

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Stacey DeGraffenreid spent the past three years juggling her roles as a single mother, an office worker and a law student.

        She gladly added a new role Thursday: lawyer.

        “I passed!” Ms. DeGraffenreid shouted moments after learning the results of the Ohio Bar Exam.

[photo] Stacey DeGraffenreid reacts as a classmate phones to tell her both passed the bar exam.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        The good news ended a three-year journey that began when the 31-year-old Springdale woman decided to change her life by taking a chance on law school.

        The Enquirer told her story last week in the series “The Test of Her Life.” The articles chronicled her struggle from April to July to prepare for the grueling three-day exam while holding down a job and raising her 6-year-old daughter alone.

        In the months leading up to the July exam, Ms. DeGraffenreid learned again to trust herself and her abilities.

        She gathered with her family early Thursday to await the results from the Ohio Supreme Court.

        But the court's phone lines were jammed with students calling in, so Ms. DeGraffenreid kept getting a busy signal. The court's Web site also was swamped.

        Her family crowded into her bedroom while she waited for her call to go through. Her daughter, Tatiana, stretched out on the bed in pink Scooby Doo pajamas, drawing pictures of her mom. Ms. DeGraffenreid's father, Claude, paced the hall.

        Finally, the phone rang. Ms. DeGraffenreid's friend Tawanda Edwards was calling to say she'd managed to log on to the Web site. They'd both passed the exam.

        “We did it!” Ms. DeGraffenreid said, again and again. “We did it!”

        Her mom, Dorothy DeGraffenreid, wiped tears. “I'm so happy for you,” she said.

        Dorothy is the one who persuaded Ms. DeGraffenreid to go to law school, the one who assured her she could be both a good student and a good mother. “She's worked so hard,” Dorothy DeGraffenreid said.

        Her daughter was among nearly 900 law students statewide who passed the bar exam. The 70 percent pass rate was an improvement over the record-low 60 percent pass rate of the last test in February.

        Ms. DeGraffenreid's alma mater, the University of Cincinnati, led the state with a 93 percent pass rate.

        With the exam behind her, Ms. DeGraffenreid said she'll take a few days to think about her next move. She took a job in August with a Sharonville consulting firm. But now that she's passed the exam, Ms. DeGraffenreid wants to practice law.

        She went to law school to build a better career, and along the way a better life for her daughter. She has choices now that she never had before.

        “I'll weigh my options,” she said. “It's nice to have options.”

        Although her life changed dramatically Thursday morning, Ms. DeGraffenreid got a quick reminder that her role as a mother will still be her first priority.

        She was supposed to celebrate later with friends downtown but wasn't sure she could make it. She had to take Tatiana to gymnastics class at 6:30.

        “That's OK,” Ms. DeGraffenreid said. “I'll celebrate tomorrow.”
       



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