Earning a law degree and then passing the bar exam is an extraordinary challenge. Now add in a family of four. On top of that, try being on active duty in the Marines, with responsibilities that have you working 29 straight days, with a 24-hour shift every three days within that cycle.
Now you have an idea what U.S. Marine Frank Daugherty was up against when he enrolled in CalSouthern's School of Law.
Despite these challenges, Frank successfully completed his JD program, passed the bar, and is now growing a private practice while continuing to meet his military obligations.
In the inspiring interview below, you'll learn about Frank's military career in which he was deployed overseas six times, suffered multiple injuries in combat and was awarded the Purple Heart. You'll also follow his remarkable academic journey—and pick up a number of useful time-management strategies along the way.
When did you first develop an interest in military life?
I've been exposed to the military my whole life. I was raised in a small town in rural Kentucky right outside the gates of Fort Knox, an army base that was pretty much the lifeline of our community. However, I never put much thought into what I was going to do after high school; I pretty much just went through the motions.
When it came down to the wire at the end of my senior year, I was working several low-paying jobs and realized that there was no real industry in my community that held any interest for me. I was getting into a bit of trouble at school and with the law, and I realized it was time for a change.
I enlisted in the Marine Corps on December 28, 1999. When all the insanity of Y2K was happening, I was a world away in boot camp on Parris Island, South Carolina.
Can you share with us a little bit about your career in the Marines?
After recruit training and Marine combat training, I was designated as an Assault Amphibious Vehicle Crewman. I have deployed six times overseas, including three combat tours in Iraq. I was part of the invasion force in 2003 and subsequently served two tours in Fallujah where I was wounded in action both times. I was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Fallujah in 2006.
For the last three years, I have served as the Chief Instructor for Marine Combat Training Battalion, School of Infantry (West) at Camp Pendleton California.
My career in the Marines has taken me all over the world: Thailand, The Philippines, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Jakarta, Bali, Egypt, Kuwait and, as I mentioned, Iraq.
What inspired you to return to school to earn your law degree?
All my collegiate pursuits began after I had been in the Marines for about five years. I earned a bachelor's degree in business, as well as my MBA, which I pursued because I knew it would mean I could always find a job. However, to be candid, business never really interested me.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had the desire to go back to school, and I had funding through the military. Through my research I found that California is the only state in the country that will allow you to get your law degree online and sit for the bar exam. All of these factors combined to create a golden opportunity, and I ran with it.
The JD program is extremely demanding and a challenge for anyone. You were on active duty with children during the course of the program—how did you find the time?
Yes, I was on active duty with three small children for the entire program. I worked 29 days in a row, with a 24-hour work assignment every three days within that cycle. My wife also worked full time, so we had to carefully plan our days to make it happen.
I did my reading and homework on my lunch break, early in the morning before the kids woke up and a little after they went to sleep. I pretty much put my personal life on hold for a chance to change our lives by becoming a lawyer when I retired from the military.
The best advice I can give is to plan weeks ahead and spread out your study time. I found it much easier to do a three-hour assignment in hour-long chunks; finding three uninterrupted hours to study was just not realistic for me.
One more tip for those who have young children or who have to study during breaks at work: buy some high quality noise-cancelling headphones. They pretty much saved my life when I was studying for the bar!
What were some of the highlights and challenges of the JD program for you?
I really appreciated having a clear blueprint for study, which made sure I was focusing on the right material and made it easier to schedule my time. I also liked the fact that I could have as much, or as little, interaction with my faculty mentors as I needed at the particular time.
As for challenges, my entire first year was a challenge. Legal writing, specifically, was a problem for me. All my case-study analysis from my MBA program caused me to overwrite everything. I took the Flemings Fundamentals of Law Writing Workshop and found that extremely helpful.
California requires students who earn their JD online to take the First Year Law Students Examination, or the “baby bar.” What was that experience like?
The baby bar helped me tremendously. It is literally a small-scale general bar exam. When I took a prep program for the actual bar exam, I could tell which of the other students had taken the baby bar. We all had a better grasp of how the exam was going to be given, and were more comfortable with the overall experience. This kept anxiety at bay, at least for me.
After you graduated and set your sights on the full bar exam, what were your strategies? Were you confident heading into the exam?
My bar prep course was a lifeline. I did the Flemings Fundamentals of Law Short-Term Review and took some vacation time so that I could give it all the time necessary. In fact, I took the two weeks prior to the exam completely off so that I could focus on nothing but studying.
I walked into the bar exam knowing I was ready, and had a “give me your best shot” attitude toward the test.
You passed on your first attempt—congratulations! That must've been a wonderful relief. Now that you are licensed to practice law, what are your plans for the future?
Yes, it was a great sense of relief. It was also a sense of satisfaction knowing that I had proven myself against graduates of traditional schools, many of whom did not pass; the overall pass rate was just 35 percent.
I have three years left in the military. In my off hours, I am working to grow a private practice and gain as much experience as I can. People always need documents drafted and reviewed. I also have been working with clients to assist them in dealings with the IRS. The bulk of my clients need consultations and advice on military law, which is something I am quite familiar with.