Legally Brown

You've seen Legally Blonde, but did you know Elle Woods really grew up in Paradise Valley?

Stanford Law School vs. ASU Law School.

You do the math. Amanda can't.

And speaking of numbers, Jack Brown's daughter says she can't recall what she got on the LSAT. In any case, much like Elle Woods, who drives from Los Angeles to Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her Chihuahua, Amanda Brown packed her bags and moved to Palo Alto with Underdog. (One of her few disappointments with the original Legally Blonde is that the Bichon became a Chihuahua named Bruiser.)

Seems Bruiser can't get enough of himself.
Seems Bruiser can't get enough of himself.

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Photographs by Jeff Newton

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Immediately, both Amanda and Suzanne knew it was a big mistake. For one thing, the place was super ugly.

"My mother said, I can't leave you here in this aesthetically demoralizing environment,'" Amanda recalls, dead serious.

"When I went there and saw it, I was in shock. You should have seen the people there," Suzanne says with equal gravity. She remembers a gathering area on campus.

"Never have I seen an uglier room. Broken Naugahyde on the furniture and a terrible green. It was yucky."

The students were equally gross, Amanda says, recalling that many didn't shower. She didn't like the students who had come from Ivy League colleges, and had even less respect for the Trekkies -- this was back in the early '90s, when Star Trekwas still hot among the pocket-protector crowd.

With her designer wardrobe and pink legal pads, Amanda did not fit in. Nor did she care to, she insists, but that doesn't mean her feelings didn't get hurt when there were no invitations to slumber parties and keggers.

"I remember one day in the bathroom, hearing two girls -- Sarah and Claire, as they're known in the book -- and they're talking to each other and saying, I cannot believe that I spent four years at a prestigious undergraduate institution to be cast in the same intellectual cement with that talking Barbie.'"

In the movie Legally Blonde, after a similar experience (anyone who has cable and watched reruns of the movie all summer knows the scene with the bunny costume by heart), Elle Woods marches to the computer store and buys herself a laptop -- an orange iMac, natch. In real life, Amanda Brown didn't even bother to buy the books for class.

She didn't pay attention at all. Instead, she sat in class with fluff-topped pens and pink paper and wrote letters to Serena, documenting her law school experience.

"I couldn't believe it," Amanda says now. "It was literally like an anthropological study."

Suzanne sent Amanda care packages with more pens, to cheer her up, and Amanda looked for a club to join. The Ivy League-only study group wouldn't take her, she says, so she tried a meeting of The Women of Stanford Law.

There, Amanda says, she met a woman who wanted to change the group's name to the Ovarians of Stanford, with the mission of changing the word "semester" to "ovester," because she felt semester sounded too much like semen.

The letters were such a hit that soon Amanda found herself overnighting copies regularly to several friends, who clamored for more. Serena teased her that she was blowing her inheritance on Federal Express bills, but Amanda couldn't wait for someone to feel her pain. She recalls that one friend, in medical school at the time, started throwing parties for her friends, centered on the letters.

When she wasn't writing letters in class, Amanda read magazines, and her favorite, Elle, was the inspiration for her original book title, One Elle. It was a play on Scott Turow's One L, an account of the lawyer/novelist's own first year at Harvard Law.

The schoolwork wasn't so hard, Amanda recalls. In contrast to Harvard, where the screenwriters ultimately set the movie, Stanford is described as a "kinder, gentler" law school -- no Socratic method, and you can take classes pass/fail. Amanda stocked up on canned outlines, and she liked the logic games where you pretended to plan a dinner party.

After her first year, Amanda came home to clerk at Lewis and Roca, a topnotch Phoenix law firm. John Frank, the managing partner and an old friend of her father's, got her the job, she says. She calls the experience "ill-fated."

"I was so miserable and so, just, not psyched," Amanda recalls. "John was the reason that I went there. He was amazing, and a friend of my dad's, and I just felt like I wasn't right for it. I felt horrible, and I felt like I was failing him. I just, I shouldn't have been there. . . . I got out of it pretty quickly."

So why, after so much heartache and displeasing surroundings, did Amanda Brown return to Stanford for a second year?

"I didn't know what to do. I've never quit anything," she says. "I will finish anything."

More likely, given the history of quitting she's recounted in this interview, Amanda went back to look for more book material.

Either way, by the end of her second year, she'd had it. She was engaged at the time -- she met Justin Chang, who does investments, not law, on a blind date (in real life she didn't have a Warner to follow to law school) -- and was planning her wedding. Bride magazine had replaced Elle for preferred classroom reading.

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