One year ago, first-year JD student Kevin Bernstein’s life looked very different than it does now.
He was living on a small ranch in Montana, still experiencing the after-effects of a traumatic brain injury and other injuries sustained while serving one tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan as a Ranger-qualified Airborne Sapper, with all the inherent dangers that come with jumping out of planes and searching for unexploded ordinances. At 33, he was semi-retired, he said – making a good living from a technology company he founded but feeling like there had to be more to life.
That’s when he decided to start prepping for law school.
“When you come out of the military, you lose that sense of purpose, and you gotta find it for yourself,” said Bernstein ‘26. “I need to continue to drive, keep trying to have an impact on the world. How do I leverage some of these other skills that I didn’t know that I had?”
Bernstein, who dropped out of school in ninth grade and earned his GED in order to join the military, started learning about the LSAT and taking practice tests with support from his family and the local VA. His scores got better and better, and ultimately he was accepted to Loyola Law School’s day program class of 2026.
He wasn’t sure how his unique life experiences would be received by his professors and classmates, but said he’s felt nothing but unconditional support on campus.
“As not just a combat veteran, but also a kid that grew up getting into a lot of trouble, I’m now on the complete opposite side of the spectrum where I’m trying to help other people that were like me growing up, and you never know how you’re going to be received,” Bernstein said. “Loyola has been just a wonderful atmosphere to be a part of, and it’s been a lot better than I could have even imagined.”
Loyola Law School has a long history of welcoming veterans. After World War II, many veterans came to Loyola on the GI Bill; the Lynn D. “Buck” Compton Veterans Law Association is named for Compton, who served on D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge at Bastogne and graduated with his law degree in 1949.
Bernstein’s military experience has helped him take the workload and stress of law school in stride, Bernstein said. He lives by the mantra of only focusing on what he can control – his time management, study habits, and learning as much as he can from his classmates and professors. He’s still exploring all the career possibilities and opportunities that law school has to offer to determine how he can make the biggest impact as a lawyer.
He may be a little older than many of his classmates and taken a different path to get here, but Bernstein believes it’s all prepared him for a future he didn’t even know was possible.
“I didn’t realize that the world was priming me for an opportunity that would come later,” Bernstein said. “I needed to have certain life experiences to know what kind of value I could bring, but also to better understand my personal mission and the mission at large so I can be of service to my community in a more impactful way.”