Cincinnati native Lydia Hargrove wasn't about to let a setback derail her dream of becoming an attorney. Instead, she enrolled in the online Master of Legal Studies program at Northern Kentucky University (NKU).
"I'm the mom of an active six-year-old, Caleb," said Hargrove, noting that her son is her top priority.
"I found the online program at NKU so I could do that and still pursue my education. Plus, I love learning about the law. That was helpful. I anticipate going into law school in the fall."
Hargrove is marrying her fiancé, Michael, two months before she graduates from the master's degree program in December 2021. The couple is also expecting their second child three months later.
"More children, more schedules," she said. "I will be walking across the stage at NKU while seven months pregnant."
Meanwhile, Hargrove started a new position as a paralegal for a Chicago-based firm, Brown & Joseph LLC, in July 2021. The online format helps her balance her time while working full time from home in Ohio.
"I love the online format," she said. "It's kind of at your own pace. Of course, we have due dates and deadlines. I can manage my time — especially after my son goes to sleep after a long day of first grade. I put him in bed, then do my homework.
"I can interact with my classmates a lot more than I expected going into the program. I have met a diverse group of people, which is incredible. We email each other as we go. We get excited about being in upcoming classes together."
On the Docket
Hargrove developed a keen interest in the law while in high school. While in the Law & Leadership Institute Program of Ohio, she participated in a moot court and mock trial and interned at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP Law firm. In her last year and a half of her undergraduate degree, she also worked for a prestigious law firm, Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co.
"Professors…[from] NKU taught us there, so I got to share their journey," she said. "We learned to apply the law and change it for the better. It became a passion of mine, which I'm still pursuing. Perseverance is the word for it."
Hargrove started a bachelor's degree in psychology at NKU. She transferred to the University of Cincinnati and graduated with a degree in criminal justice and political science in 2020. Attorney friends of hers encouraged her to research MBA programs, but her interests lay elsewhere.
"I am strictly the legal track," she said. "I found the online Master of Legal Studies and reached out to NKU.
"I told them my dilemma, and how I wanted to continue pursuing my education. They reached out and said it's a new program. I love it."
Two of the professors who set up the Master of Legal Studies program, Chris Muzzo and Robert Furnier, have had a positive impact on Hargrove.
"I didn't realize how much technology has affected the law, and how much it is going to in the future," she said. "Any class I am in with them has been fantastic. We talk on a weekly basis. We have all gotten to know each other. They're very personable. I enjoy working with them.
"It's easy to reach out to them. If something is going on or you have an alteration, they are accommodating and understanding, which I respect the most. They treat you as normal humans who work full time during the day. I have reached out to them a lot."
Hargrove is glad to be back in school at NKU and working toward attending law school in the near future. She also has a strong support system in place.
"My family and friends are ecstatic for me," she said. "They know it's a strong passion of mine. My family has never been more supportive. I'm a first-generation college student. They're so proud of me."
Before landing her current role, Hargrove was a social worker. She believes being a student in the online Master of Legal Studies program is part of the reason she is back working in law.
"It has already opened up some opportunities, but I see more room for growth with everything switching to more of a technology base. We are using a lot of digital aspects," said Hargrove. She enjoys teaching attorneys who may be looking to become tech savvy.
"We do all 50 states at my law firm," she said. "It's helpful when it's online."
No matter if Hargrove is pursuing a job or a master's degree, she believes in taking the same approach to achieve her goals.
"Follow your passion, persevere, be resilient," she said. "You can do anything you put your mind to. That's all you need."
She has some advice for those who may be hesitating to go back for a master's because they feel too old, too young, or are perhaps wondering if it's the right path for them.
"You can do this! And it's very flexible."
Learn more about NKU's online Master of Legal Studies program.
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