Former Army Colonel & 2L Making the Most of Her Time at Miami Law

BY:  
CREATED:  

When Alice Kerr first met Dean Patricia D. White, it was as the bearer of bad news. Kerr was the program manager of a project on which the law school was embarking and Kerr’s department was shutting down mid-way and would not be the ones shepherding it to completion.

The 23-year IT employee was meeting with White to assure her that a good manager would be stepping in. White had other ideas.

Alice Kerr, 2L

“Have you thought about law school?” White asked.

“Have you looked at my undergraduate grades?” Kerr replied, laughing uproariously.

“I have!” White countered, pleased with her retort.

Straddling Military and Civilian Life

And so, the story of the self-named “Broad on the Bricks” began at Miami Law. But the adventure of how the 53-year-old, interested in cybersecurity and veterans’ rights, came to be a 2L is far more interesting.

Born into a military family, Kerr grew up on the move and all over the world. As a headstrong 6-year-old, she set her sights on West Point. Though they didn’t yet allow women, “they will,” she would reply to anyone who asked.

She did apply to West Point and was waitlisted. In the meantime, an ROTC scholarship diverted her to Hofstra University and a bachelor degree in industrial engineering. Upon graduation, she went into the active duty United States Army, starting with boot camp at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and learning how to jump out of planes at Fort Benning, Georgia.

For the next 30 years, Kerr served the Army in various leadership positions, rising to the rank of Colonel. For 25 of them, she straddled the lanes between military and civilian. She deployed for combat overseas twice: the first Gulf War and again in Iraqi Freedom.  She started as a coordinator at the Miller School of Medicine, rising to an executive director of Project Management on main campus, with stints of what she calls “playing Army,” when her country called on missions lasting from weeks to as long as a year.

From Military to IT to Law School

After her meeting with Dean White took an unexpected turn, Kerr remembered something she had heard decades ago: “The answer is always no until you try,” she says. “All I have to lose is the LSAT testing fee.” She scored well enough and applied to six law schools; she was accepted at four, and waitlisted at the other two.

“My heart has always been with Miami – I got my master’s degree here 20-something years ago, and I spent decades working here,” she says. “After a quarter century at the U, I’m pretty much a ‘Cane for life,” she says.

Miami Law is everything Kerr would want, and more.

“When I first started thinking about law school as a tangible thing,” Kerr says, “I knew I would be going one of two ways: either cybersecurity because I had been involved in that with the Department of Homeland Security or veterans’ advocacy. 

“It’s no secret that veterans need some help and that the administrative bureaucracy that was put in place for the World War II generation veterans is ill-serving our veterans from the Vietnam generation and forward.”

Her interest in veterans advocacy garnered her a fellowship for the veterans' legal corps Equal Justice Works/Americorps JD program as well as a HOPE Summer Public Interest Fellow where she worked at Legal Services of Greater Miami in their veterans’ advocacy project; a focus she would like to continue after graduation.

Law School from Perspective of Seasoned Veteran

But for now, Kerr knows she brings a different playbook to the game than most of her classmates, but she sees it as a double win. “Miami Law is a great school and what I’ve found as I’ve traversed the Bricks and survived my 1L year and almost half of 2L, is that there is a place here for older students. With age and experience comes a sense of calm. A lot of my younger classmates get ‘wrapped around the axle’ over things that they should probably ignore. My locker is right in the middle of a big 1L section so I’ve kind of feel like their den mother. 

 “On the other hand, I feed off their energy, their wide-eyed optimism; it’s my daily breakfast,” she says. “I should start my own org on the Bricks – sort of an Ask Us meets Legal Grounds meets deep breathing—hey, maybe we can call it Ask the Old Broad on the Bricks.”
 
Miami Law is hosting a Veterans' Appreciation Luncheon on Monday, November 12 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Contact Jessie Howell (jhowell@law.miami.edu or 305-284-9907) for more information.

More on Veterans’ Rights Advocacy at Miami Law 

More on Miami Law Services for Veterans