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June 01, 2011

June 2011: David Estrada, Esq.

Attorney with paraplegia sought challenge and found satisfaction from his law degree.

For some, including David Estrada, Esq. of Boston, Massachusetts, law school is the ultimate academic challenge. Attaining a J.D. can provide one with advanced reading, writing and problem solving skills, in addition to the discipline required for meeting deadlines and working long hours. After seeking that challenge, and then completing it, David has turned his law degree into a tool to help him work three different jobs—all of which provide him with great satisfaction.

David, a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law, was originally a cadet for the Boston Police Department; however, in 1995, while riding his motorcycle home from the police station, he was struck by a car and paralyzed from the chest down. “Going from having no disability and being a very active, able-bodied individual to not being able to walk was a huge physical and psychological blow,” he stated, “but the stress of learning to cope with my disability prepared me for taking on the stresses of law school—an endeavor that I saw, and turned out to be, my greatest academic challenge.”

After law school, David turned down a position at a law firm. “I already swore off the 9 to 5 work day prior to law school and my injury,” he said, “I knew coming out of law school that a job behind a desk all day was not for me.” So he kept the position he had before law school working nights with the Media Relations Office of the Boston Police Department. For this job he uses his knowledge about the Freedom of Information Act, state criminal laws and municipal ordinances. By day he is the full-time Director of the Greater Boston Chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. Knowledge about the Americans with Disabilities Act and its corresponding state and local laws help him when advocating for those with physical disabilities. David's third job is the Disability Coordinator for the Boston Athletic Association, helping recruit disabled athletes from all over the world to come and compete in the Boston Marathon. The more practical skills regarding organization and attention to detail that he accrued during law school help him with this position.

After being placed on a non-traditional path to career satisfaction, David took a non-traditional approach towards earning and utilizing his J.D. “A law degree is a universal one,” observed David, “it is a tool that has enabled me to follow my passions and, in a way, be my own boss. Individuals with disabilities should not be afraid to enter law school with intentions of working outside of the typical law firm environment. If you push your limits in what you want from a career related to the law, you can certainly make the most of your legal education.”

If you want to learn more about David and his unique story, along with the stories of other attorneys with disabilities, see the ABA publication, Lawyers, Lead On: Lawyers with Disabilities Share their Insights.