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2L looks to use J.D., M.B.A to help others

February 16, 2016 | Students

Working as a consultant in the IT industry, 2L Natalie Salazar enjoyed the fast-paced nature of her job. She was traveling to new places every week, using her undergraduate degree to help others, and, most of all, she was good at what she did. But, despite all of it, she still felt as though something was missing.

“I realized I really liked consulting and helping people, but I wasn’t very passionate about the type of consulting I was doing. I didn’t really feel like I was making a difference in anybody’s life. It felt like to me, if I was going to be in a career that I would be in for the next 30 or so years, I should go and do something that I was more passionate about. And, because I had always thought about going to law school, I felt like now’s the time,” she said.

Five years after graduating from The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Salazar decided to go back to law school. She told herself she would give it one year. If turned out not to be for her, she would go back to her job in IT consulting. But, if it turned out to be the missing piece that she had been searching for in her work, she would move forward with a new sense of clarity and direction.

Fortunately, it turned out that law school was exactly what she had been looking for.

“I was very realistic in the sense that I still worked at PWC my first year, at reduced hours, because I wasn’t 100 percent sure law school was going to be for me. I said I would give it a year and determine if I thought it was going to be something that I was more passionate about than what I was already doing and what I had already been successful at. And it turns out it was, so I quit PWC and decided to go do the joint-degree so now I’m getting my J.D. and M.B.A.,” she said.

The choice to pursue both degrees came about after meeting with a mentor, who also holds both a J.D. and M.B.A, she had during her undergraduate studies at the Fisher College of Business,  and hearing from potential employers what an asset having both a legal and business background would be when she started practicing after graduation.

“It seems law is moving a lot more toward business, even big law firms are moving toward running more like businesses and have a lot more clients who are business savvy, which means lawyers need to be. I have found that employers find it a benefit that not only do I have my CPA and accounting degree from undergrad, but that I also have an M.B.A and a more generic business background,” she explained.

In addition to allowing Salazar to gain a competitive edge in the workforce, law school has also given her the opportunity to explore other areas of the law that she’s passionate about – like diversity and inclusion issues. Both in the classroom and through student groups, Salazar said she has been able to learn about how the law relates to issues of gender, race, political ideology, and age. She’s served as president of the Women’s Legal Society, a member of the Latino Law Students Association, and a student ambassador during her time at Moritz.

As a co-chair of the Student Bar Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee she has worked with faculty and staff to help start the process to create a five-year strategic plan for diversity and inclusion – an initiative colleges throughout the university are taking to ensure they continue to provide a supportive community for all on campus. As part of her duties on the committee, Salazar was also able to host several focus groups, which asked students at Moritz how they felt diversity and inclusion were talked about in the classroom, and in what ways they felt the discussion of these topics could be improved upon.

“We really tried to focus on what was the culture of diversity and inclusion at Moritz and how did people, especially students, feel like faculty and staff were discussing diversity and inclusion, both inside and outside the classroom, and did people feel like their views were being heard and respected,” she said. “I’ve been working with a faculty committee to begin to implement some of the really great suggestions that were brought to us.”

One of her favorite classes she has taken so far at Moritz specifically focuses on many of these issues as they relate to gender and the law.

“I’m currently in Professor Martha Chamallas’ Gender and the Law class and I think it is by far my favorite class that I’ve taken so far in law school. She does a really great job of talking about the intersection of different cultures, different ethnicities, different sexes, and the law,” she said.

And, those opportunities to explore her passions in a legal sense have been enhanced by the friendships and connections she’s made with her classmates over the last three years. Salazar said she feels lucky to be surrounded by such an intelligent, supportive group of people all focused on the same pursuit.

“My classmates are great. I was very lucky that my first year, my section was extremely close and extremely fun. We had some extremely bright people, but a lot of people went out and found that balance between work and play, and I feel like it’s very collegial here,” she said. “I just think everyone is really nice, and I’ve never felt any sort of competition, or animosity.”

Looking toward the future, Salazar said she hopes to use her degrees to practice white collar criminal law, after falling in love with the practice during an internship last summer at Jones Day in Chicago. She described it as the perfect blend of all of her legal and business skills.

“When I was at Jones Day last summer, I had thought I wanted to do labor and employment law, because I liked the idea of this kind of HR, people side, of the law. I thought that was the piece of business that I had been missing in consulting. And then, while I was there, I was assigned a project in white collar. It was an internal investigation and it was, to me, the perfect blend of everything,” she said.

“I had to understand business, because we were sifting through financial statements, which sounds super nerdy, but it was forensic accounting, which is the part of accounting that I think is really interesting, and I was using my skills that I had learned over five years in the industry. I was also interviewing all these people and trying to figure out why they maybe made an unethical decision, or committed fraud, and so there’s all this psychology behind people and reading them. It was a puzzle to put together, and I found it to be really fascinating, and I thought after it was the perfect blend of all the skills that I had and liked, and that I definitely wanted to pursue it more.”