With hard work, she makes grade
By Brent Curtis
staff writer | June 02,2014
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Marie Peck Fabian is sworn in as an officer of the court by Judge William Cohen during a ceremony in Rutland last week.
Preparing for and passing the Vermont bar exam might be the hardest and most grueling thing a fledgling lawyer has done to that point in his or her life.
For Rutland’s newest lawyer, that challenge was done while juggling the responsibilities of a full-time job and the obligations of being a single mother.
When Marie Peck Fabian was sworn in Tuesday by Judge William Cohen, the 50-year-old mother of two turned to a crowd of onlookers who packed the Rutland civil courthouse and thanked the group for helping her complete what ended up being a six-year odyssey.
“Without every single one of you I could not have done it,” she told an assembly comprised of friends, family members and co-workers.
Being a lawyer has been something that Fabian said she’s wanted since 1987 when she moved to Virginia, where she worked as a paralegal and planned to enter law school.
Her entry into law school didn’t go according to plan, but her work in a law office continued after the Rutland native returned home in 1991.
Work, marriage and the arrival of her first child in 1994 further convinced her that the time wasn’t right to pursue her dream.
But in 2008, after her marriage ended and her son and daughter were in their early teens, Fabian said she decided to begin taking classes.
She soon learned that going to law school and preparing for the bar exam were more than she bargained for.
“It was no easy task,” she said. “It was much harder than I thought to have a family and a job while trying to study for the bar at night.”
Fabian said she was so determined to have it all — work, family and her education — that she spent the first year of law school mixing soccer coaching and the scraping and painting of her house into her list of responsibilities.
“When I started, I thought I would have time for everything and then I realized how much I underestimated the commitment of time you have to invest,” she said. “I’ve always been devoted to my children and couldn’t take time away from them.”
For four years, she said she struggled to “go to every single basketball and soccer game” and other significant moment in her children’s lives.
But by 2012, when she began preparing to take her bar exam, Fabian knew she had to block out everything but her readings.
“By the end, I was reading 10 to 12 hours a day,” she said of her preparations for the two-day, six-hour exam that every candidate for the bar must pass in order to practice law in Vermont.
Preparing for that exam requires a minimum of 20 hours of reading and law-related work each week and the final exam — which tests a prospective lawyer’s knowledge of both state and national law — is more arduous than most.
A study conducted last year by an associate professor with Pepperdine University School of Law found Vermont’s bar exam ranked ninth in terms of difficulty in the nation with one in four test-takers failing to pass.
“I would wake up lying on my books with highlighter on my face,” Fabian said. “A lot of the time, I just wanted to give up and I had to give up everything. I sacrificed a lot, there’s no doubt about it.”
She struggled to make time for life’s necessities, such as making dinner, which Fabian said was more often being done by friends, family members and even her neighbor by the time she took the exam in February.
“I couldn’t have done it alone,” she said. “It was overwhelming and there were times when I thought I just can’t do this and I would be in tears at my computer, but I never gave up and I’m grateful to everyone who helped me get here.”