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Graduating at 66 : Law Student Starting Out as Peers Plan to Retire

May 09, 1985|JAMES RAINEY | Times Staff Writer

Louise Lillard faced a stack of books and contemplated the hours of cramming for final exams that begin next week at the UCLA School of Law. She sighed, then laughed and said, "This is the time of year when I wonder why I ever made the decision."

Her decision was to enroll in law school more than 40 years after she received her bachelor's degree from UCLA in 1940. Since then Lillard has taught high school French, raised a family, traveled extensively and co-authored a French-language textbook.

When she receives her law degree May 26, she will, at age 66, be one of the oldest people ever to graduate from UCLA Law Schol.

No Plans to Retire

Lillard is preparing for a new career at an age when most people are planning to retire. She plans to take the Bar exam this summer and then seek a part-time job with a law firm, perhaps specializing in family law.

"I just got tired of teaching and I wanted to do something exciting," Lillard said. "I had always wanted to go to law school."

In 1941, when she left UCLA with bachelor's and master's degrees in French, she accepted a job teaching French at Beverly Hills High School. The job helped her to support a family but prevented her from attending law school.

Those dreams had not completely died when her daughter, Monique, began law school at UCLA about the same time that her husband, Richard, was serving as foreman of the grand jury. They "revived all my latent interest," the elder Lillard said. "My daughter and her boyfriend talked me into it.

"At first I thought it was ridiculous at my age. But then she brought home the application and the application for the L.S.A.T. (Law School Admissions Test). I thought I'd take the test just to placate her, but I did better than I thought."

A Lot of Work

She was accepted at UCLA, USC, Loyola and several other schools. Louise and Monique Lillard became the first mother-daughter combination to attend UCLA Law School at the same time.

The Hollywood resident said she was prepared for a heavy workload, "but it is even more than I thought. It is just a crushing amount of work."

There have been other sizable obstacles. At the end of her second year, Lillard had to undergo surgery and radiation treatments for cancer. She missed all her finals and spent the summer making them up, as well as correcting proofs on a French textbook, "L'Hexagone, C'est la France."

Her health has been fine since then.

Adjusting to student life and to her younger classmates has been easy.

"I thought there might be a little resentment," Lillard said. "Or a feeling that there are only a limited number of spaces in the school and (students might say), 'She has already had her career, and she is taking up one of the spaces.' But there has been no resentment. I feel they have accepted me 100%. I forget I'm much older than they are."

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