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HIV/AIDS: On or Off the Application?

Part Two of "I Just Wanted to Apply to Law School"

By Thomas DeLorenzo

February 23, 2010

This blog entry is part of a three-part series (check out Part One and Part Three), in which I recount my experiences applying to Law School at age 47, from the circumstances that led me to apply right up until the schools' decision letters started rolling in.

Admitting to myself that I wanted to go to Law School was one thing -- now I had to get in. I knew it was going to be hard but I honestly had no idea what I was up against. There is that obvious moment of hell called the LSAT. Prior to that, I honestly didn't care if the oboe was picked and the saxophone was left home (logic games -- they are only logical to law students). I got to take the test twice. No, not because I enjoyed the first time so very much, but because one of my clients and very good friends had her cancer return. It was just under three weeks away from the test date, and I got to deal with the media frenzy full time -- 24/7. By the time I stopped shaking, it was five days out and any knowledge I had gained had fallen out of my head. I took it anyways, figuring it was going to at least be a great practice session, and had the score cancelled.

Now that the word was out about my desire to go to Law School, everyone started to chime in with their "advice". Question here -- how can people give advice on a topic of which they know absolutely nothing? Oh, wait, that's what pundits on TV do all day. Silly me.

One bit of "advice" I got was from a former corporate attorney. He told me to play up the Entertainment Public Relations skills and keep AIDS off the application. I was like -- "What? You mean I can get into Law School by telling them I held purses in a press line while someone stood and looked pretty?" He suggested I stress my ability to deal with clients and the negotiation skills I have developed. I stammered back, "But what about my piece in the New York Times, honoring me for my work with people with HIV/AIDS?" The best parts of my life, frankly, involved AIDS. How was I supposed to leave those out? Shouldn't I be showing off my strongest colors, not just the ones I think they want to see? He responded with, "Well if they think you are going to die soon, they may not admit you."

I said simply, "I do not want to be a part of anyplace that (1) thinks I am going to die anytime soon, and (2) does not honor everything I have come through to get here." When you have led the life I have led, keeping AIDS off the application was not just cheating yourself, but cheating all of your brothers and sisters with HIV/AIDS.

It was around then that I started to get the hint that I was going to shake some things up just by simply applying to Law School.

According to the American Bar Association's own web site, approximately 4% of their members claim to have a disability. The site goes on to state that this number is rather low, probably because people with disabilities do not apply to Law School. It is discouraged, pretty much outright, to hire, for example, a blind attorney at a major corporate law firm. All of the big firms want to say they are all inclusive, but really, take a look at when they all had their first black partner. Law firms are notorious for being behind the curve on many things, and some are even the most blatant examples of breaking a variety of labor laws. Just because you work for an attorney, doesn't mean he or she is paying attention to the laws that govern your employment situation.

Admittedly I was a bit thrown off course by this man's comment, but I did not allow this to stop me. I felt as if I was on a moving train and I was not going to have a chance to get off. It was too late. I needed to see this to completion, no matter where that might be.

I took the LSAT on December 5, 2009. I was pretty much unable to move for the next 24 hours due to the stress in my body. My boyfriend at the time decided we needed to see the movie PRECIOUS that very night. After sitting through a 4.5 hour test that they managed to extend to 6 hours, PRECIOUS seemed like a light comedy to me. I honestly could not get deeply involved with her life on screen; my head was still swirling with the saxophones and oboes.

But none of this could get me ready for the next step. The application process is another slice of hell. Basically you are creating a brief, complete with evidence as to why you should be in Law School. The basic document is your application, and your pieces of evidence are your personal statement, diversity statement, honors list, activities list, resume, letters of recommendation and just about anything else the school thinks it should see.

And AIDS was all over my application.

Read Part One and Part Three of this series.

To contact Thomas, click here.

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Who Knew So Few T Cells Could Accomplish So Much?

Until just a few years ago, Thomas DeLorenzo never would have believed he could become an HIV/AIDS activist. Before he was "officially" diagnosed with HIV in 2001 -- with 60 T cells and a viral load of 300,000 -- DeLorenzo had been living in denial. And until 2006, he was too busy dealing with the many side effects of his own HIV meds to think about helping anyone else. Then he and his doctors finally figured out the perfect med combo -- and, finally, DeLorenzo felt that he actually had a future.

DeLorenzo lives in Los Angeles with his partner and is currently attending law school at Southwestern University School of Law. His career goals include making sure all Americans have access to adequate and affordable health care. Prior to law school, DeLorenzo worked as a publicist in the entertainment industry, representing many award-winning celebrities.

In 2006, The New York Times named him an Unsung Hero in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS for his Christmas Goody Bag Project for the residents of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation Hospice. In 2008, DeLorenzo was the San Antonio AIDS Foundation's Angel of the Year. DeLorenzo's alma mater, Hofstra University, named him Alumnus of the Month in August 2009 for his work on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS. DeLorenzo was recently appointed to the City of West Hollywood's Disabilities Advisory Board.

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