Interest in law remains after gap year turns into gap decade


– Photo courtesy of Jennifer Fahrenholt

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal NewsB

When Jennifer Fahrenholt graduated from Indiana University in December 2008, she faced a huge employment challenge thanks to the Great Recession.

Having fallen in love with New Orleans on a previous vacation, she decided to move to the Big Easy, which was still recovering from the 2005 devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Her plan of taking a gap year before law school turned into a gap decade with the start of her family. In the meantime, she worked her way up to a finance manager position in a large automotive dealership, and before moving into a real estate career.

But Lady Justice still had a hold on Fahrenholt, who had an interest in the law from an early age. In high school in her hometown of Kingston, Ontario, the Canadian native participated in a program where students could spend a week on the Queen’s University campus, learning about their desired fields of study.

“I spent a week in the life of a law student. It validated my desire to follow this career path, which I felt would allow me to apply my analytical skills, my love of writing and research, and my desire to help others,” she said. She has enjoyed returning to school at Detroit Mercy Law.

“I love the friendly atmosphere,” she says. “I’ve actually been able to get to know a lot of my 1L professors on a personal level, rather than just be seen as a random student number. The faculty and staff that know I have a daughter frequently ask about how she is doing as well.”

There are pluses and minuses to the life of a mature student, she notes.

“I think having real-life experience is beneficial in that things like writing a resume, networking, interviewing, are all things I’ve already done and therefore they seem less stressful. On the other hand, it’s been quite a while since I’ve had to study or take an exam, so that has been a bit of an adjustment re-entering academia.”

Fahrenholt is in the Dual J.D. program with Detroit Mercy and University of Windsor law schools; and serves on the Dean of Law Search Committee for the University of Windsor. 

“I’m a dual citizen and honestly couldn't decide where I wanted to practice law after law school,” she says. “My family and I wanted to move to Canada, but I also wanted to learn about the U.S. side of things to leave that door open. I don't recall how I stumbled upon the Dual JD program, but I remember thinking, ‘This is perfect!’”

Fahrenholt, who hopes to participate in a UDM Clinic before graduation, is currently doing a summer externship with the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) in their Detroit office, with most of the work being done remotely due to the pandemic.

“I'm grateful that was able to proceed,” she says. “So far I’ve been able to finish several legal writing projects and observe a hearing via telephone.”

A junior member of Law Review, Fahrenholt is looking forward to enhancing her editing skills, a necessity in her future legal career.

“I’m a bit of a research nerd, so I will thoroughly enjoy writing my note for Law Review over my 2L year once I choose a topic that interests me,” she says.

The pandemic has presented a few challenges such as unreliable Internet at times—“And just the ability to remain focused during a 3-4 hour online lecture,” she says.

“Overall, the faculty has been accommodating and understanding. I do miss being able to see everyone in person, but UDM has made the transition to online as smooth as possible for us.”

Like her fellow students, she is also coping with home front challenges during this pandemic.

“I'm just glad my daughter is now finished with her school year because teaching 5th grade math is not one of my strengths,” she says with a smile.

“I’ve learned to make time for self-care as needed, whether that’s a glass of wine in my backyard after an evening class or some quiet time with the Calm app.”

At home in Windsor, Ontario, Fahrenholt enjoys cooking, gardening, watching football and hockey, and spending time with her husband, daughter, dogs Jackie and Hermes, and a cat named Zen.

A lifelong Detroit Red Wings fan, the Motor City has always had a special place in Fahrenholt’s heart.

“My husband and I actually traveled from New Orleans to Detroit to watch the final two games at the Joe Louis Arena in 2017, an experience I’ll never forget,” she says.

“In the pre-pandemic world, it was nice to be able to cross the river from Windsor to Detroit to catch a sporting event or concert, grab a happy hour burger at Roast, or some pastries from Astoria.”


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