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Been There, Done That

August 04, 2004

Alfred Jenkins doesn't have an office or a government grant or a mandate from any education group or social service provider. What the retired Los Angeles prosecutor does have is a commitment to helping prepare the next generation of lawyers and a growing list of successful attorneys who owe their careers, in part, to his selfless dedication.

Times staff writer Joy Buchanan profiled Jenkins on Monday. He spends nine hours a day, five days a week, for four months each year providing one-on-one tutoring at his dining room table to black law school graduates preparing to take the bar exam. His students range from the young Harvard-educated son of a judge to middle-aged single mothers with years of unsuccessful attempts to pass the bar. He charges nothing -- "You couldn't get me to work this hard for money," he says -- and demands total dedication from his pupils.

The lessons they learn are not just about the law. He preaches discipline and perseverance. He encourages by example. He inspires them to reach out to others.

A Harlem native, Jenkins enrolled in Loyola Law School in his 40s after a stint on jury duty left him fascinated with the law.

A self-described "drudge," he passed the bar on his first try -- but he studied 18 hours a day for months to do it -- then spent 15 years working as a deputy district attorney before retiring to devote more time to his students.

Jenkins never set out to run a tutoring service. Motivated by a Loyola professor who tutored him through difficult passages, he began working with struggling classmates, and word of his success spread.

Now his students have gone on to tutor others.

Law school grads certainly aren't the only ones who need help, and Jenkins isn't alone in having something to offer. In schools, group homes, sports leagues and youth centers, opportunities abound today for tutors, coaches and mentors, who, as Jenkins says, "take the mystery out of success" with their own life lessons.

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