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Black gives fellow students a different perspective

74-year-old back in college

May 7, 2010
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer

At an age when most folks are reliving past memories, Jim Black of Alta is creating a lot of new ones.

Black, 74, is a student in the paralegal studies program at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville.

Black was motivated to enter the program because his daughter, Joan, needed help with her law firm in Iowa City. After working a number of years in youth services, she apparently became upset with the juvenile court system to the point that she returned to college for her law degree. She's been practicing for three years now and specializes as a court-appointed attorney ad litem for kids.

Article Photos

Iowa Lakes Community College legal studies assistant professor Mark Gruwell and Jim Black of Alta in the college paralegal studies classroom. Black, 74, has returned to college to obtain a paralegal A.S. degree so he can help his daughter, Joan, with her Iowa City law practice.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

"It's up to her to represent the kids' interests in the court," Black said. "Probably that's her greatest satisfaction."

Joan called her father about two years ago, asking if he would consider moving to Iowa City to help her out with her practice. He certainly has the background to be a big help. He worked 22 years as a Farm Bureau field adjuster and underwriter then finished his degree in political science in 1969. He then worked his way up to division sales manager before buying his own agency.

While he prefers life in a smaller town like Alta, he was certainly willing to take on Joan's trust account books. He goes to Iowa City every three months to pick up account books.

About a year and a half ago, Joan suggested he return to school to become a paralegal so he could help her with research. Since his father had been a lawyer, as well as his daughter, it seemed only natural that the profession should run in the family.

"I may have retired but I certainly didn't have the money to retire," Black said frankly.

So after selling his agency, he decided to go back to college.

So what was the hardest part about being out of college then returning after over 40 years?

"Keeping up with kids that are 50 years younger than I am," Black said. "They were raised with computers and I was not. And that was a real challenge."

Black already has an internship lined up with a Storm Lake law firm. Once he receives his associate's degree, he plans on doing his research for his daughter's firm on computer. He'll also have access to the Buena Vista County law library.

Iowa Lakes legal studies assistant professor and coordinator Mark Gruwell and Black's fellow students love having him in the class. He offers a perspective the students haven't lived through yet.

While he has two grown daughters, and his other daughter, Jill, has three girls, Black and his wife, Janice, are content to just stay at their home in Alta while he telecommutes to his daughter's law office in Iowa City.

You could probably say their next case is just a mouse click away.



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