A veteran lawyer recounts his decision to return to school to earn a doctorate in law.
At 72, after about 45 years of practicing as a lawyer, Hopkins (Nonprofit Governance: Law, Practices, and Trends, 2009) made a decision that bewildered and frustrated his colleagues: He went back to school. He had already obtained the only two other academic degrees in law available: a JD and an LLM, the equivalent of a master’s. In pursuit of his dream, he enrolled at the University of Kansas Law School, where he was teaching a course as an adjunct (it sometimes happened that a student or two was also a classmate). Hopkins’ charming remembrance splits into two narrative threads: his career as a lawyer before his decision to return to school and his coursework in pursuit of the doctorate. His professional life is a study in the marriage of disciplined hard work and happenstance. He was tasked by his employer with keeping notes on the congressional hearings devoted to the Tax Reform Act of 1969, which not only led to his legal specialization, but also opportunities to teach, lecture, and publish. (Hopkins has written more than 30 books.) He provides an excruciatingly detailed account of the coursework he completed prior to his dissertation work as well as a minute account of the dissertation itself. The author graduated in 2016 and includes written sentiments from friends and colleague as well as poem (of sorts) reflecting on the experience in its completion. Hopkins is an experienced writer, and so it’s no surprise that his prose is consistently clear, though it’s also companionably informal and lighthearted. It’s not clear to whom this recollection is addressed—while his unusual experience is likely to be instructive and inspiring to other lawyers, the microscopic account of his coursework won’t win wide appeal. He quotes his course textbooks frequently and seems driven by a desire to achieve exhaustive comprehensiveness more than readability. Some will find his reasons for his peculiar decision wanting as well—he wanted a challenge—especially given its centrality to the book.
Despite its many virtues, this memoir is simply too idiosyncratically detailed to be of general interest.