Law School Makes a Difference for Women – Vicki Dienst ’90

Law School Makes a Difference for Women – Vicki Dienst ’90

Interviewed by Sophia Gourley ’19

SG: What have you done since leaving Trinity?

VD: I graduated in 1990 and I went right to law school.

During law school I worked for the Food and Drug Administration for a little bit, and then I went to New York and took the New York bar, and I worked for a small litigation firm doing general defense. Then I went to work for Rudy Giuliani as a deputy general counsel for Youth and Community Development Association. I stayed there for about two years and then moved to a large firm and went into antitrust and white collar regulatory investigation. I stayed there for a couple of years and had a set of twins in 2000. I went back to work for a little bit, which was a little bit overwhelming. Then had another child 18 months later. Took my maternity leave, went back to work, and then it became too hard to manage with three kids under the age of two and working. I started working again a couple of years later part-time for a securities litigation firm on the plaintiff’s side. Doing large class-action securities cases, which then led to switching over to working for my old boss, which is now my current firm. For the last six years, I’ve been at a large firm in their white collar group doing regulatory investigations. It’s been great.

SG: That’s awesome.

VD: I love it.

SG: Are you working in New York City?

VD: I do work in New York City, at Skadden, which is a big firm.

SG: Tell me about your family.

VD: I have three kids—a daughter and a son at Colgate, and another son who is a rising senior in high school.

SG: That’s exciting. Does your son want to go to Trinity or is he still deciding between a few schools?

VD: Trinity is his first choice! He really wants to go there.

SG: Another question came up as we were talking—what was the transition was like for you going straight through to law school? A lot of my friends are considering it now and the big debate is whether you take a gap year or go straight through. What that was like for you?

VD: I have mixed feelings. I think that it’s great to take a year off if you can and do something interesting, as long as you’re the type of person that doesn’t lose momentum to go back. It’s really hard to get back into the groove. I was one of the few that went right to graduate school after college. I majored in political science at Trinity and I got really lucky in my sophomore year. I took a class with Professor Walker Connor who taught a really cool class called super imposition of maps and how they affect indigenous peoples. He basically studied how maps, like geography, are superimposed on each other and the way it affects people’s legal rights. I ended up studying that and worked closely with him as his teaching assistant for a couple of his classes, as well as a teaching assistant for Professor Gastmann’s international law class. I ended up writing my thesis on the legal right to self-determination for the Kurds and the Basques and the peoples of the Baltic republics. And it was really cool.

Law school, especially for women, is a great degree to have. It gives you the opportunity to work and then have kids and then be able to go back to work. It’s also a great way to train your mind to think and learn how to write. I’m a huge advocate for it. I hope my daughter decides to get a law degree, even if she doesn’t become a lawyer, just to go to law school. I actually really liked law school, but my first year was really a struggle grade-wise because I was still in “have fun” mode and you can’t be. So that’s what I would say—it is nice to take a break after four years of college and have a little bit fun because right after you graduate you have to sit down for the bar and it’s pretty tough to take a year after that to take off. I was in my third year in law school, and my really good friends from Trinity and I lived together in D.C. We backpacked through Southeast Asia for the summer, which was like our getaway.

SG: What would you say are your proudest accomplishments since graduating Trinity?

VD: Outside of having kids and a family, probably continuing to work in a large firm and being able to use my skills that I learned at Trinity. I was really lucky to be able to have such close relationships with professors. You learn critical thinking at Trinity and that gave me an edge in the long term. My biggest accomplishment is obviously my children, having three healthy smart nice kids, but also being able to use my college degree and continuing to use it.

SG: I’m so happy to hear that the degree came to use because I know some people here are majoring in things where it’s hard to directly translate into a career. There’s a clear connection between what you majored in and kind of what you’re doing now.

VD: Yes, absolutely. When I went to law school, they were focused on economics. I only took statistics at Trinity.

SG: That’s great! Do you have any hobbies or passions or anything else beyond work and your family that you wanted Trinity to know?

VD: I do go to yoga, it’s actually very therapeutic. I wish I had gotten my dog to be a therapy dog because it brings so much benefit to children’s hospitals and the elderly. One day maybe.