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Law student becomes triple Bearcat before 25

by Cindy Cromwell,

Karina Salzberg headshot

After job shadowing at Stoel Rives her senior year of high school, Karina Salzberg knew she wanted to become a lawyer. With a lifelong interest in government and history, the career field is a good fit.

Salzberg came across Willamette University in her college search process, and after a tour, fell in love with the beauty of the campus and the kindness of the community.

She enrolled as a politics major and took a law-based class with Professor Rachael Carella. After speaking with several attorneys, she decided to focus on business law and explored the BA/MBA program with the Atkinson School of Management.

To Salzberg, the program was a perfect fit. She knew she wanted to practice law, but she felt a background in business would help her better understand the needs of clients and maybe even help her manage a law firm. She added the MBA to her plan of study and began the program in Fall 2017.

Pursuing bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees would typically take nine years, but Salzberg aimed to complete them more quickly, using the options to pursue some coursework concurrently. So, she applied to Willamette Law to become a JD/MBA student.

Shortly after beginning her first year of law school in Fall 2018, concerns arose about the feasibility of her being able to complete both the JD and MBA programs. Former Law Associate Dean Norman Williams and JR Tarabocchia, then Assistant Dean of Law Recruitment and Student Activities, made a case on her behalf to show how she could complete the requirements for both programs with careful scheduling.

"I knew I would have to be incredibly careful in planning my courses and work extremely hard to keep my GPA up to not fall into additional law school class requirements,” Salzberg says. “Dean Williams worked with me to prioritize which classes to take and when to take them based on my interests, degree requirements and schedule restraints. With his help, I crafted a plan for each semester of classes until graduation."

Balancing the scheduling of her courses, clerkships and full course load was daunting. But Salzberg says she counted on the support network of family, friends and others who consistently encouraged and reminded her that it would all be worth it in the end. In finishing her course of study, Salzberg completed three degrees, two MBA internships and two law clerkships, all before the age of 25.

Reflecting on her journey, she says it was initially overwhelming to push through seven straight years of substantial coursework. But the different programs have allowed her to use different parts of her brain, and she likes that, despite having fewer electives and less free time than her peers. Salzberg says even though her path was accelerated, all of her experiences have helped her feel prepared to enter the workforce.

"In law school, we are taught to be passionate advocates for our clients, but we have to remember that it is also incredibly important to be a passionate advocate for yourself,” Salzberg says. “It is so important to make the most out of your situation, experiences and opportunities, and that is what I have done at Willamette by blazing new trails, even when things became complicated and stressful."

She says she learned not to be afraid to ask for help, as well as the importance of organization, planning and time management to achieve her goals.

Williams, who helped with her course schedule, says she is the first triple Bearcat to take on the 3-1-3 joint degree program.

“She is a pioneering student with an incredibly bright future,” Williams says, “and the College of Law is delighted to have had her as a student."

After celebrating her graduation in May, Salzberg will take the Oregon Bar Exam and join the law firm of Saalfeld Griggs in Salem as an associate attorney. She hopes to become a managing partner someday.

"The world is full of uncertainties right now,” she says, “but I think my crazy experience with all of this has better prepared me to handle whatever comes next.”

About Willamette University College of Law

Willamette University College of Law was the first law school to open in the Pacific Northwest. Building on deep historic roots, we focus with pride on educating the next generation of problem-solving lawyers and leaders. Our location in Salem, Oregon, directly across the street from the Oregon State Capitol and Supreme Court, cannot be matched in the region. Our thought-leading scholars advance and promote our shared responsibility to make a difference in society, placing justice, fairness, and equality at the heart of everything we do.

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