For Kim Luhn, the jump from teaching to law had a lot to do with furniture.
Making $13,000 a year, she couldn't afford to buy her own, and she was tired of sitting on borrowed stuff.For Nelda Bishop, the issue was energy. Teaching wore her out the first time, when she was rearing two toddlers and putting a husband through medical school. Thirteen years and three kids later, she was eager to work again, but not with bulging classes of rowdy teens. "Even though I love teaching, it absolutely leaves you drained," she said.
So, at age 45, she went to law school.
Only a few years out of law school, each woman has been honored for her service and compassion, gifts they say teaching helped them to develop.
In May, Luhn received the Scott Matheson award for outstanding service to law-related education from the law-related education and law committee of the Utah State Bar. Bishop was honored in July by the Utah State Bar for her pro bono work in domestic law.
Luhn coaches high school mock trial teams each spring and teaches daylong classes on law to junior high students once a year.
"I enjoy kids. I enjoy their enthusiasm. I like teaching. I think it's a little bit of the showman in me. I like standing up in front of 30 people who are in trouble if they don't listen to me," Luhn said.
Luhn opened an office with a friend last spring. Their small practice gives her the freedom to jump from the courtroom to the classroom, a dance she plans to do for the rest of her life.
Bishop likes mothering. Once she mothered scores of teens. Now she mothers frightened clients, mostly single mothers unable to afford an attorney.
"I have so many clients who don't know how to make the wise decisions that will keep them from ending up in the same mess again," she said. "You can just read their future."
Bishop is married to a physician, so she doesn't have to earn money, she said. "I can afford to give my time away."
People who can afford an attorney can find an attorney. It's the others she worries about.
Bishop seeks enough paying work to pay her bar dues and postage, she said. After that, she practices "human touch law."
Being a teacher has made Luhn a better lawyer, she said. Her training in communicating with youngsters helps her communicate better with jurors and clients. "I think I take more time to explain what's happened and why it happened. Clients are sometimes afraid to ask how the law applies to them. I break it down into layman's terms better than I would have done if I hadn't been a teacher."
Both women are glad they made the switch. Luhn's money worries are gone. She bought her own furniture, then she bought a condo to put it in.
Bishop discovered that worrying about clients can be just as draining as worrying about students. But hey, it's a different kind of tired.
Sometimes, that's all you can ask of a career.