Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

Student Profile

Ivan Chebotariov

SCALE® Program

It's hard to earn a law degree in two years. And be a good husband. And speak English as a second language. But SCALE student Ivan Chebotariov has weathered national and cultural changes with unwavering persistence throughout his life.

He grew up curious about the United States as he read books by Jack London and O. Henry, which had been translated into his native Russian. His love of language and struggle to learn English eventually brought him to America.

Chebotariov was raised in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, which was a part of the Soviet Union until it became an independent country in 1991 when he was 14. His family hung onto their Russian citizenship.

"I was a Russian minority in Kazakhstan," Chebotariov said. "We eventually moved to St. Petersburg - where I went to the university for one year - and my parents and three brothers still live there."

Although he started to learn English in the fourth grade, lessons focused on translating text rather than speaking and understanding. During his last year in high school, Chebotariov got the chance to get more intensive language training at a private school. It was a long shot, but he got accepted and was allowed to study for free.

"While I was there, I developed a close relationship with one of the teachers who gave me additional help," he said. "She worked at The Master's College in California - she had spent three years in Kazakhstan - and helped bring me to the U.S."

He came to California in 1995, attended The Masters' College, a private Christian Liberal Arts school where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies and then earned a Master of Divinity from the Master's Seminary. Though he originally planned to return to Russia, he met his wife, Susan, while in school. His family couldn't come to their wedding, and his wife just met his parents when they traveled to Finland last Christmas, the first time Chebotariov had been near his homeland in 10 years. He got a job as an insurance adjuster and worked with a lot of attorneys to settle injury claims. This work rekindled a long held interest he had in the law when he was growing up.

Although he says it's difficult to achieve "a fine balance" between doing well in school and married life, Chebotariov managed to make Law Review and re-establish the Christian Legal Society on campus.

"I came to law school thinking I wanted to do insurance defense, but I've realized there are other things I'm interested in that would be a greater service to society, like being a criminal prosecutor."

And that's why Chebotariov chose Southwestern's SCALE program, to get him to that point sooner.