Russell and Duenes

On Becoming a Lawyer: Thank You

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About three-and-a-half years ago, my family and I made the commitment to leave California, come to Kansas for law school, and truly, begin a new life. Having now made it through law school and the bar exam, I think most of all I feel grateful . . . and relieved.

I am thankful to my generous and loving parents, without whose help we would not have made it. They provided us with a place to live, with enjoyable respites in Kansas City each winter and Los Angeles each summer, and with much advice and encouragement over the three years. They visited us regularly and showered gifts on our children. Their visits often broke up the intensity of school, and helped me go forward. I could always vent my frustrations to them. For these things and more, I thank you, mom and dad.

I am thankful for my wife’s mom and dad. When I was two weeks from the bar exam and my wife was contending with a newborn and three young boys, my mother-in-law came all the way from Alaska and stayed with us for two weeks. I can’t imagine what my bar exam prep would have looked like had she not come and helped with the boys. Her willingness to meet their energy with her own vivaciousness was a blessing to both me and my wife. Plus, the boys loved spending time with her. We would have been hurting¬†without you, Grandma Cindy. My father-in-law has also graced us with a few visits over our time here, and has been very generous with us. My wife and I both love the Cracker Barrel restaurant, and being in law school with a family, we did not get to eat out much at all. So grandpa Aubrey’s gift cards to the Cracker Barrel (and trips to Chick-Fil-A) were always a great gift. Not only that, but Aubrey has always shown a genuine and eager interest in our well-being, seeking updates from us out of true interest in our lives. We thank you, Aubrey.

Other family members have also helped sustain us through these years. I know how much my wife has enjoyed talking to her sister in Alaska, particularly when we were going through the hectic times of school and home. My brother-in-law and his wife also consistently shared tokens of affection with us by sending cards and gifts for birthdays and other significant times in our lives. My brother came to visit us each winter, and my thoughtful sisters have prayed for us, sent us letters, set up skype sessions with us so our boys could see their great-grandma, and chatted with us on the phone. My grandma (98 years old) send us beautiful cards and supported us in her own special ways. Plus, my wife’s aunt, uncle and cousins have invited us into their homes (all night stays with the cousins during my 1L year), had us over for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, lavished our children with gifts, loaned us their car and gone out of their way to spend time with us. Space would fail me to thank other family members as well. Thank you for your thoughtfulness toward us.

Many friends, near and far, have also helped us through. I have known that I can always make phone calls to my friends back in California who have taken a constant interest in my progress in school and life. Though I was often hard to reach, they were a true lifeline for me at times, reassuring voices in the midst of much stress and anxiety. Our friends here in Topeka have babysat our boys, invited us over for meals and birthday parties, met with us for Bible study, home-schooled with us, let us borrow their cars, taken us to Royals games, introduced us to their friends and loved us in a hundred other ways. They have been spiritual lighthouses for us, and helped us to keep pursuing Christ when we were inclined to crowd Him out. They have prayed for us, brought meals to us, listened to us and made themselves available to us. We genuinely enjoy them, and are thankful for them.

I would not have made it through law school and the bar exam without the care and concern of fellow students and law school professors. I obviously never attended any other law school besides Washburn, but I cannot imagine there’s a better one. The friends with whom I took classes were always too willing to share insights, outlines, notes or other helpful information to help me do my best. One friend helped me secure a job as a student rep for the bar prep course I used, which saved us a ton of money. I would not have my current job had not my Oil and Gas Law professor steered me to it. My professors were always willing to meet with me and advise me in whatever issues I was dealing with. It is this that I will miss about law school. My best friend from law school was willing to get up early each week (well, most weeks) and meet with me and pray with me. He pushed me to keep doing my best, and has even put a little bit of love for KU basketball in my heart (except when they’re playing UCLA). I know these friends have been crucial to us getting through.

My wife deserves more praise for making it through law school and the bar exam than I do. Yes, studying was hard, but at least I got to enjoy the intellectual stimulation of school, visit with friends and professional colleagues, work outside the home and receive the affirmation of academic success. She did the things without which none of it would have been possible, the thankless and invisible things, like teaching our children, keeping up with all of the household necessities, enduring the intensity and energy of our boys, raising two infants during our time at school, and making better home-cooked meals than anyone has a right to. To come home to her each day after school or work was like coming in from the rain. I never looked forward to anything more. May her reward be great.

Finally, and most importantly, I thank my God for sustaining me and granting me grace and every bit of success I happened to enjoy. He sovereignly brought us here, provided us with stamina during classes and bar prep, gave us friends, directed me toward jobs, and provided for us far beyond what we ever needed. Each semester was a gift from Him, and I have no doubt that He was the One who kept me and my wife together during the run up to the bar exam, and the exam itself. I hope that my subsequent legal career, whatever it turns out to be, will be a reflection of his love and goodness toward me, and a grateful extension of His saving purposes in this world.

I am reminded of Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers. They all walked away from Him cleansed of their disease, yet only one of them returned to thank Him. This is my return to thank Him. Lord Jesus, you are good and merciful and faithful through every season of our lives. I thank you. You never change. You are worthy of our praise, in both our successes and failures. I’m grateful for every good gift over these last three years, none of which I deserve. Thank you for bringing us through, and may you be lifted up and exalted in our lives through this next season, whatever it may bring.




Written by Michael Duenes

September 5, 2014 at 9:27 pm

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