It's true: you can go to law school even if you don't want to be a lawyer.
A JD can turbocharge your career prospects and teach you incredibly versatile and in-demand skills. Just ask Dina Megretskaia '23, a full-time financial planner and now part-time student at New England Law | Boston. Here, she shares her story and advice for others in her shoes…
Is law school just for aspiring attorneys?
In the millions of articles sharing advice about whether to attend law school, the majority seem to speak to one audience: younger people (in college or newly graduated) who know they want to embark on a grand journey to becoming a lawyer.
I want to speak to an audience those articles seem to ignore: people who want to go to law school but not to become a lawyer.
People already established in careers they enjoy who want to earn a JD to amplify their potential and strengthen their skills.
People who aren’t striving to become an attorney but who (along with their employers) can benefit from additional legal knowledge and education.
These are my people, and many of us attend New England Law | Boston’s part-time evening program.
How can a legal education tie into other professions?
I work as a fee-only financial planner, helping couples and families navigate questions like, “When can I retire and how much can I spend?” or “Can I take big trips for the next five years while I’m healthy, or will that impair my dignity and independence in 25 years?” My work requires reading the tax code with precision and understanding how Massachusetts’ estate tax would apply to my clients’ estates. I’ve reviewed more tax returns and wills and trust documents than most folks who aren’t accountants or attorneys—and I truly love it!
In the first semester of law school, professors lead students through the process of reading, understanding, and applying the logic in cases. The law can be frustratingly unclear, but lawyers use precedent from past cases to understand whether a court is likely to rule in their client’s favor. Even though I’m still fairly new to law school, I can see how the foundational courses build the skills needed for deeper learning in electives taken in the final two years.
Of course, as a financial planner, the allure of becoming better at my job and gaining knowledge in tax and estate planning by attending law school would have entirely lost its appeal if it came at the expense of my financial security. Fortunately, I was eligible for New England Law’s Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Honors Program. Students in the honors program, whether enrolled in the day or evening program, receive a full-tuition scholarship for the duration of their studies.
Other scholarships put law school in financial reach as well, especially for those of us who may not be directly leveraging a JD into a different job upon graduation, and need to fit classes and studying into a life that includes full-time work.
What's law school like for a working professional?
On the subject of fitting law school into an already busy schedule, I’ve found Parkinson’s Law to be true: that, paradoxically, constraints can be accretive to innovation, and time to complete a task seems to shrink or expand to fit the available block on our calendars.
That’s the best way to describe what it’s like to work full time as well as attend law school, because on the face of it, it seems potentially impossible! And sure, I’ve had weeks where I’m a ball of stress. But I’ve also felt more professional clarity and a strong drive to get everything done, with a whole lot of support from my fellow evening students, since we’re in this together.
Before starting at New England Law, I had doubts about how I’d manage my time. Well, actually, I had a lot of hubris about how efficient I would be, followed by mild panic once classes began. I grew concerned about how I’d stay on top of everything with my job, academic career, and spending time with friends and loved ones.
But, I’m reporting from the other side of law school admissions to say that I, and you, can make it work, just as the students who came before us did. One incredible piece of my law school experience—which I couldn’t appreciate until I started—was how fun it can be to learn alongside other working professionals!
From the journalist who covered the Boston marathon bombings, to the paralegal with stories from working at a personal injury firm, to the court employee full of anecdotes about current cases, the evening group is a dynamic bunch. We may have too much on our plates, but we’re doing okay and have a lot to say.
For anyone interested in part-time law school (and particularly if you’re looking to apply to New England Law), our community is happy to help you evaluate your options and ultimately welcome a new class to the fold!
Where's Dina now? At the end of 2021, Dina was promoted to the position of wealth manager and made a shareholder at Modera Wealth Management, a fee-only financial firm here in Boston. As she takes on a greater leadership position she looks forward to participating on the firm’s financial planning committee and continuing to nurture client relationships, all while applying what she's learning during law school in her new role. “In particular, I’m gratified that the estate planning classes I have taken have provided tons of insight into how attorneys approach the process of drafting documents, and this knowledge will help me in working with my clients and their attorneys to revisit and update their estate plans in order to seek out better outcomes and manage taxes.”
To keep up with Dina, connect with her on LinkedIn.