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Overcoming the odds: Former teen mom becomes attorney

POSTED: December 23, 2013 12:32 a.m.

Jennifer Thuy-Tien McCall had her first daughter at age 16.

Her mother cried when she found out about the pregnancy, but reassured her daughter that teen motherhood wouldn’t stop her from achieving her dreams.

“She cried and said that she was sad for me because things would be a lot more difficult, but that she still had faith in me that I could still do well and excel,” McCall said.

Now 32 and married with three kids, McCall is an attorney, working for the Corso Law Center in Gainesville.

She was president of her law class at Georgia State, where she received her degree this past spring.

“I was always a good student,” McCall said, adding with a laugh. “I was a goodie-goodie besides the whole teenage pregnancy thing!”

Her writing skills and interests seemed to always point toward being a practitioner of law, she said.

“I was really active in debate in high school, and so everyone always assumed I would be a lawyer,” she said.

McCall graduated from the University of North Georgia, and although her parents offered to continue to help her through law school, she was determined to be self-reliant.

“I felt guilty. My parents were already helping me so much,” she said. “When I graduated college, I felt like I needed to get on my own two feet.”

She settled into full-time work and married life with her husband Josh McCall, a fellow English major.

But life brought her another hiccup — she was pregnant with her youngest daughter, Abby, when she lost her job in 2008.

“That was difficult,” she said. “I was just continuing to apply for jobs. I worked some temp jobs, not making very much but making something.”

Her husband convinced her to seize the opportunity and try law school, promising her that taking the LSAT would be a secret between the two.

“He said he knew I would do well,” she added.

She described some of the unique challenges of being a student and a mom, including backstage Nutcracker duties, which fell squarely during exam week.

“I would have to study for finals and juggle ballet responsibilities, which is challenging and something most law students don’t have to deal with,” she said. “Most law students, they go into their own cocoon during finals. They don’t work, they don’t do anything but study — that’s not an option when you’re a mom.”

But McCall’s daughters offered her support in their own way at times, too; the morning of her first class, and seven years removed from the last time she was a student, McCall’s nerves set in.

“The morning of orientation, Mia climbed in the bed with me and told me she was proud of me and knew I would do well,” she said, adding with a smile, “She’s a good kid.”

McCall said she looks forward to helping people — her interest in law was always colored with compassion.

“Whether it’s criminal defense or personal injury, I like being that comforting presence when someone’s facing the legal system for the first time — and it’s scary,” she said.

People ask her the secret to how she juggled motherhood and law school, and her answer is simple — no TV.

“It’s funny, a lot of times people will ask me how I was able to do law school, and I’ll say, ‘Well, I didn’t watch TV for three years,’” she said. “Mia, my oldest, said ‘I think they’re looking for a more profound response.’”

But that sacrifice hits at the deeper concept of priorities, she said.

“It is a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice, but when you really want something, you make time and not excuses,” she said. “It is difficult, but it is doable.”


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