SCHENECTADY — Aaron-Jason Enous thought at age 5 that he’d like to be a lawyer, but it wasn’t until age 30 that he got into law school.
The Schenectady resident picked up speed from there, graduating in two and a half years instead of three or four and then passing the February 2020 bar exam on his first attempt while more than half his fellow test-takers failed.
He’s been on hold since then, though, unable to be sworn in and seek employment amid the pandemic shutdown, unable even to return to his previous job as a per-diem substitute teacher.
“My hope is to be part of the first group of attorneys sworn in post-coronavirus,” said Enous, known to friends as AJ.
He doesn’t complain about the wait, after the long and indirect journey that led him here.
Enous, 33, is the son of the late Emma Enous and a father he never knew. He grew up in the city’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood.
With no father to provide guidance, a stretch in foster care when he was 7- and 8-years-old, and a string of behavioral problems, he was introduced to a man named Kenneth Hoffman through a mentoring program establilshed by Matilda Cuomo, wife of then-Gov. Mario Cuomo.
“He was that guidance for me,” Enous said. “He just stuck with me. He stayed right with me through middle school. My oldest son is named for him.”
Hoffman, now retired, was a Schenectady County Court officer. But that wasn’t the connection that made Enous want to be a lawyer when he was a child — it was the movie “Hook,” with Robin Williams as a middle-aged Peter Pan, grown up and working as a lawyer.
Enous was just 5 when he watched it and saw something he wanted to be. He was too young to understand what a lawyer was, but something just resonated with the role.
Enous graduated from Schenectady High School through a BOCES special education program at a time when about 50 percent of Schenectady High students graduated late or not at all.
“Everything in my environment said that I should be in that 50 percent,” Enous said.
More than a decade would pass between high school and law school.
His first stop was Bryant & Stratton College, where he was shunted into remedial classes but earned high grades and an associate degree in criminal justice. Next was Sage College for a bachelor’s in history.
His next step was working as a guard in a juvenile detention facility, nothing close to the childhood ambition of being a lawyer.
By the time he was in his late 20s, his mother was suffering from heart problems and other significant health issues that would prove fatal.
“I spent a lot of time with her,” Enous said. “She could see the toll the job was taking on me, the stress and all.
“I promised her in my heart I would get to a better place.
She didn’t get to see it.”
Friends encouraged Enous to pursue his one-time goal, as did Hoffman, with whom he remains close.
“One thing Ken did is, he never got upset with me when I kept messing up,” Enous said. “He always believed in me. He always encouraged me in that dream.”
But there was the fear of failure in law school. He rewatched “Hook” and recognized he’d just given up on his dream.
“The very thing that I’m afraid to do, what if that’s what I was born to do?” he recalled thinking.
His first attempt at the Law School Admission Test was casual and the results showed it.
He remembers someone reviewing his score: “She turned to me and said, ‘You know, you get so many points for writing your name.’”
With preparation, his second LSAT was good enough to gain admission to Albany Law School, barely.
“I was literally in the bottom of the pool coming in,” Enous said. He was placed on the four-year track for what is often a three-year degree.
“I did so well in my first semester they let me go into the three-year program,” he recalled, and he wound up finishing in just 2.5 years, in December 2019.
The divorced father of five credits faith for this achievement.
“I’m a bit of a philosopher — I definitely have deep faith-based beliefs,” he said. “Success comes from following purpose. I believe if I find the right purpose the rest will fall into place.”
He believes that his purpose will be based in the community where he started his journey, coming full circle to a place where he found barriers less in the color of his skin than in the general lack of opportunity.
“What I’d really like to do is work at the Conflict Defender Office in Schenectady. I want to help that community because that’s where I grew up.”