Nelle Bauer balances being a chef and restaurateur with law school

February 27, 2017 - Tamara Williams

Non-traditional students bring perspectives and insights from their careers to the classroom. Most have strong time-management skills, maturity, and a drive to succeed. Some are master jugglers, balancing the additional responsibilities, challenges and joys of having a family.

Nelle Bauer (Class of 2018) is a chef and restaurateur and will continue that career with a law practice after law school. She shares her story about why she chose law school, what her experience is like at UNM, and offers advice for other non-traditional students.

This is the second in a series of articles titled Non-traditional students bring career experiences to the classroom.

Nelle Bauer

Nelle Bauer (Class of 2018) is a chef and restaurateur and will continue that career with a law practice after law school.

Nelle Bauer (Class of 2018) is a chef and restaurateur and will continue that career with a law practice after law school.

Why did you decide to pursue law school?

We had a legal situation at the restaurant that required us to interact with lawyers. At one of the meetings with our attorneys in September 2014, one of them said to me, "You'd love law school." (Both our lawyers are UNM alumni) and I went, "huh, that might be fun."

I registered for the LSAT (took it December 2014), applied to UNM (got accepted January 12, 2015), and spent the next 8 months figuring out how to do both law school and run a restaurant. It wasn't until orientation that I figured out it was a full-time thing...I wasn't just going to be able to take a few classes in my free time.

What do you plan to do with your law degree?

I plan to focus on Intellectual Property law, elder law, business law or all three. I'd like to join a medium size firm and work collaboratively to help people, just like my lawyers helped me, who don't really know what they need me for.

Was going back to school difficult?

Not at all; it has been so much fun. I'm like a super absorbent sponge just sucking up all this stuff! I love getting to use my brain (cooking is really more physical labor). The most difficult part is honoring my obligation to my co-owner and partner in the restaurant. And making sure I use all 24 hours in a day.

Tell us about a normal day in your life.

Stop by the restaurant around 7 to listen to voicemails or check on things, be at campus in time for class by 8:30, have class until 2:30 (except Wednesdays when I don't get finished until 6:30), then go back to the restaurant for dinner service until 10ish, then to the gym for an hour or so, then home for reading.

I try to get 6 hours of sleep, but sometimes that's tricky. I spend my Sunday reading for the week, so I can do my second reading the night before class and it's like a mini-review. I also read on the treadmill at the gym, so that gives me five extra hours, and I read from 12-1 on the Hart Wing Patio while I eat lunch. Multitasking is key.

Do you feel your background adds value to your experience as a law student?

Yes. Having been in the real world makes the learning of law that much more interesting. And, having been adulting for the last 20 years, I have learned to prioritize, manage my time, and recognize what is important. Law school is important, but it is also important to spend time with my dog and my partner because that keeps me sane, and take care of my restaurant because it pays my tuition.

I feel like non-trads just have a better sense of what to do and when and to not just do homework and reading. I have been managing my time for twenty years. I didn't have to learn that skill AND try to learn the law.

Any advice for other non-traditional students?

Balance. Don't take yourself so seriously. Love what you are learning and doing. If it feels like work, it probably isn't something to keep doing. It should enlighten you, not bog you down. And, get some fresh air. That's important.