Longform

Legally Brown

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"Jack was the sort of person [who] figured that, by the time that you were 10, you should figure out what you should do," the widow recalls. "He just said, Don't ever marry anybody boring.'"

Suzanne wasn't so magnanimous. She told her youngest daughter she wasn't cut out for the law. And she should know. Amanda reminds Suzanne of herself, the older woman says. Suzanne was in the second class at Harvard Law that admitted women. Even beat Jack by two points on the LSAT. But she couldn't stand it, and dropped out. During logic exercises about a man and his chickens, Suzanne says, her mind wandered -- she worried about the chickens.

Amanda wouldn't listen to Suzanne. Or anyone else.

Serena had tried to warn her friend that there wouldn't be a lot of dating potential in law school, reminding Amanda of the experience they'd already had with the legal crowd.

"Amanda and I would go to the Brown and Bain functions, and her dad would make us take out the rookie lawyers, and Amanda and I would just die," Serena recalls. "We'd be, like, What a bunch of dorks!'"

Amanda applied anyway.

"I took every LSAT class in the history of the world, and applied to like 25 schools and said, I'll go to the best one that takes me.'"

Arizona State's law school didn't take her, even though both Jack and Suzanne had been big supporters (he with Indian law programs, she with donations of artwork) for decades. But Stanford Law School did. Paul Eckstein, managing partner of Brown and Bain and an old friend of Jack's, insists there's no way anyone played favorites to get Amanda into law school, even though Brown and Bain had offices in Palo Alto at the time, and strong ties to the school.

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.)

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 Trek was 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.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.