Inspired by Son's Description of Law Classes, Dad Pursues Degree at Rutgers, Too

Updated: It isn’t unusual for a son or daughter to follow a parent into law practice, even attending the same law school. But Bill Popovich and his son have followed that program in reverse.

Talking with his son, also named Bill Popovich, about what he’d learned every day in classes at Rutgers University inspired the father to attend law school there, too. Now 53, he is graduating, four years after his son, a university press release recounts.

In a telephone interview, the father tells the ABA Journal he has just learned he passed the Pennsylvania bar, and is awaiting his results in the New Jersey bar. If he passes, he expects to set up his own practice in New Jersey, focusing on education and employment law. Someday, he says, he may practice with his son.

Initially, Popovich says, he followed his son to Rutgers for “for the experience alone,” since “education is something that can’t be taken from you.” He enjoyed everything about law school, thought the faculty and students were great, and says the only negative was the lack of parking.

His plan was to pursue another graduate program in romance languages once he earned his law degree from Rutgers. However, after he was laid off last year after more than two decades with the East Windsor School District, his legal education suddenly had a practical purpose.

“I really wasn’t going into the law as such but this kind of pushed me,” he tells the ABA Journal. His wife works as a nurse at a hospital in Princeton, so he doesn’t have to turn an immediate profit in practice to make ends meet.

He expects to represent individuals in law practice, and is looking forward to helping them move forward with their lives. “There are a lot of newer rights that have been established for students,” he says. “And I’m a big fan of them and I’d like to help people get what they deserve.”

The economy, he notes, is a challenge for members of the younger generation, as well: Among a half-dozen friends of his son at Rutgers, only one has a full-time legal job, he says, “and we’re considered the top school in New Jersey.”

A good student who skipped grades in elementary school and hence was the youngest student in his college, Popovich says he believes he was the oldest student at his law school by the time he completed the evening program.

After getting a high LSAT score he had no difficulty getting into law school. And, even though he initially was taking his classes at Rutgers only to learn about the law, he also did well there, getting the highest grade in two of the first classes he completed and graduating with a grade-point average just below a 3.5.

“I think I surprised people when I got good grades in my first couple of classes. They think older students are not there to do the work or even capable of doing the work,” he says. “Not that I was there to prove anything but it gave me a sense of satisfaction when I did well in my first class. … When I got an A in the first class and an A-plus in the second class it kind of opened their eyes.”

Related coverage: “Law Grad, 59, Looks Forward to Decades of Practice” “Woman, 79, Finishes Law School, Lands 1st Job in Practice”

Last updated on April 29 to include information from Popovich interview.

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