Marina Shepelsky: “Adapting to change”

Adapting to change — Working remotely changed everything for the better for me and for small firms. It’s now totally acceptable to work from home, have a family. I don’t have to come to the office (though we come in a few days a week). We can do video or phone calls, and people are getting used […]

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Adapting to change — Working remotely changed everything for the better for me and for small firms. It’s now totally acceptable to work from home, have a family. I don’t have to come to the office (though we come in a few days a week). We can do video or phone calls, and people are getting used to using technology to send documents.


The legal field is known to be extremely competitive. Lawyers are often smart, ambitious, and highly educated. That being said, what does it take to stand out and become a “Top Lawyer” in your specific field of law? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law”, we are talking to top lawyers who share what it takes to excel and stand out in your industry.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marina Shepelsky.

Marina Shepelsky is female Founder, CEO, and lawyer at Shepelsky Law Group. Marina is an award-winning attorney specializing in immigration, divorce, and family law. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and TikTok. Here is her website.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law? Did you want to be an attorney “when you grew up”?

I started out wanting to do something related to medicine. I was pre-med in college, where I studied chemistry, biology, and linguistics.

In college, I had part-time work at a couple of law firms, and really started to like it. I was really good at it.

Then, I realized my skill set is a good match for law, I had just never thought of law previously because English not my first language, and I wasn’t confident in my public speaking abilities at the time. I had an accent, and didn’t think it was for me.

So, I applied to medical school, which didn’t work out. I realized that medicine was not what I thought it would be I fell out of love with it. I didn’t know what to do and people at work told me I should go to law school, so I talked to my parents and they supported me to give it a try.

In law school, I really thought I’d have to do something with science, like medical malpractice. I then dabbled in patents and trademarks and intellectual property law. But it was too dry for me.

I went out on my own, quickly, after I started practicing, and fell into immigration law.

I was good at filling out forms and writing stories. A lot of immigration cases are about writing a story and presenting your case and I always did that, even since I was a kid.

Immigration law is very complicated; there are so many rules and even more exceptions.

I had a personal connection to my clients! I always saw myself in them (and still do). Being an immigrant myself, this was a way I could really connect to their story through what my family experienced.

Similar to medicine, I feel like I’m saving lives. I’m changing my clients’ fates, lives, life journeys, and that of their families. When they legalize, they can also bring their families here, and everything changes for the better.

Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?

Immigration and family law. I started the divorce practice when I went through it myself.

With both of these practices, I lived through the experience; I can and strive to help others do the same, with ease and support.

You are a successful attorney. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Stubbornness, not giving up.

When I want to settle a case, I call the trial attorney (those who work for ICE) and say, “Come on, I have a great case, let’s agree and settle. Let’s Agree he can get asylum.” When/if they disagree, I go straight in front of the judge, and I use my voice. Just because someone thinks I don’t have a good case, I don’t give up. The uphill battle is one I’m willing to fight.

I have the same situation occur with divorces. Counsels say, “I’m a man, I’m older, I’m more experienced, your client gets nothing.” This empowers me and gives me chutzpah to keep fighting.

Optimism — believing in yourself even if your rational brain says you have a bad case. Even if you don’t win, you gave the person a chance, and you fought for them. That being said, it’s not always the best evidence or the papers that wins a case; it’s being a really zealous person and advocate for your client and what they are fighting for.

Hard worker — I’ll work with, for, and against anyone. I had to learn English and go to school and college in a second language. I didn’t even think in English then. That was hard work. I acquired a whole new culture in a short time and pushed myself. The same difficulties everyone else my age had, on top of it, I had to learn the language and culture. Overcoming adversity brought me to where I am. In America, working hard pays off. It’s fair — you work hard and it pays off. Other places are not always like that. Corruption and nepotism prevent people from this experience. It drives me to work hard so that my clients can do the same.

Do you think you have had luck in your success? Can you explain what you mean?

It’s all hard work, no luck. Pushing through, focusing on an optimistic outlook in the face of adversity, that’s what drives success.

When your logical brain says you’re not better than anyone else, why would people go to you, you’re younger, less experienced, you charge more, be confident and believe in yourself, as others believe in you. There’s no taking shortcuts.

Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?

My daughter going to college next year and I think about this a lot.

One advantage of a top tier law school is the people you interact with. Your peers will be placed in top law firms. Those people will be the ones that you went to class with and socialized with for three years. You interviewed at the same places, went to the same bars. The top schools allow you to network with good people.

Top schools also hire the top teachers, because they can. You’d be paying to learn from afford it, getting the best brains in the country. You’ll be taught by the best, and be part of a great network of peers, who are literally changing the world.

However, the top schools are expensive as hell. I’m still paying for education. If I knew I was going to be working for myself I would’ve gone for the free ride. I’m teaching everything to myself, it’s so separate from what I learned in school. My prestigious school took me to the next level, but I didn’t feel like my school helped me with getting a job.

The school you choose is absolutely not the most important thing. Had I gone to any other school, I would’ve been just as successful.

At the end of the day, companies want to hire top people. At a small practice — people don’t understand or care.

Think of it this way: even my diploma is in Latin. It’s hanging in my office and I’m proud of it. But it’s in Latin! People literally don’t know and cannot read what it says — why would they care what school I went to as long as I’m fighting the good fight for them and their families?

Based on the lessons you have learned from your experience, if you could go back in time and speak to your twenty-year-old self, what would you say? Would you do anything differently?

I would’ve gone to a free school with a full scholarship. Having debt at a young age is not worth it.

This is a good lesson for parents to talk to kids about debt. Kids may understand income but not having debt and what it means to pay for it for 30 years.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m working on interesting cases all over the USA: asylum, people legalizing in the US, divorce cases. I get excited when I see clients legalizing when they were previously abused. So many of my clients have become teachers and doctors and accountants and lawyers.

I also love being on social media: TikTok and YouTube are two examples. I never thought of myself as a creative person or a performer but now that I’m doing it, it’s a lot of fun. I get to come up with new ideas and be creative. At first it was really hard. I was stressed about being shy and self-conscious about my accent.

Where do you go from here? Where do you aim to be in the next chapter of your career?

Thinking about my children, one is going to college. I’d like to be on some sort of TV show one day. I also dream about having multiple law firms, though I’d be happy to stay with one office.

I could add another area of law to my practice but right now I don’t have time to learn something new. I would welcome someone new with experience who wants to be on the team. I could imagine opening an office on the West Coast or Florida, but then again, Florida is too relaxed. Everyone is chilling there.

Now, I’m thinking about my legacy because i would like to have somebody to continue what I started and would love for my three daughters to go to law school and become successful, female attorneys.

​​Without sharing anything confidential, can you please share your most successful “war story”? Can you share the funniest?

I won many MALE abuse cases. Many people think a woman usually is a victim of domestic violence or abusive situations in a marriage. I’ve actually represented quite a few men, overcome denials of appeals, those who were previously were denied because nobody believed their abuse case; I got it done. This is called VAWA — the violence against women act — and it applied to men, too.

Ok, fantastic. Let’s now shift to discussing some advice for aspiring lawyers. Do you work remotely? Onsite? Or Hybrid? What do you think will be the future of how law offices operate? What do you prefer? Can you please explain what you mean? How has the legal world changed since COVID? How do you think it might change in the near future? Can you explain what you mean?

Working remotely, small firms like mine get a lot more power. It gives us a lot more reach and opportunity. It never would’ve crossed my mind to go on social media and say, “Hey, my office is in New York, but if you live in Hawaii or Nebraska or Kentucky I can still represent you!”

Working remotely changed everything for the better for me and for small firms. It’s now totally acceptable to work from home, have a family.

I don’t have to come to the office (though we come in a few days a week). We can do video or phone calls, and people are getting used to using technology to send documents.

I can represent people anywhere, which gives us a lot more opportunity and reach power accessibility. This offers a much better profit for small places.

Based on your experience, how can attorneys effectively leverage social media to build their practice?

I now use social media for the bulk of my business development. It has been an incredible tool for me to reach audiences across YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and across social networks. You can find me on all of those networks: Marina Shepelsky Law / Law Offices of Marina Shepelsky.

Excellent. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law?” Please share a story or an example for each.

Stubbornness, not giving up.

When I want to settle a case, I call the trial attorney (those who work for ICE) and say, “Come on, I have a great case, let’s agree and settle. Let’s Agree he can get asylum.” When/if they disagree, I go straight in front of the judge, and I use my voice. Just because someone thinks I don’t have a good case, I don’t give up. The uphill battle is one I’m willing to fight.

I have the same situation occur with divorces. Counsels say, “I’m a man, I’m older, I’m more experienced, your client gets nothing.” This empowers me and gives me chutzpah to keep fighting.

Optimism — believing in yourself even if your rational brain says you have a bad case. Even if you don’t win, you gave the person a chance, and you fought for them. That being said, it’s not always the best evidence or the papers that wins a case; it’s being a really zealous person and advocate for your client and what they are fighting for.

Hard worker — I’ll work with, for, and against anyone. I had to learn English and go to school and college in a second language. I didn’t even think in English then. That was hard work. I acquired a whole new culture in a short time and pushed myself. The same difficulties everyone else my age had, on top of it, I had to learn the language and culture. Overcoming adversity brought me to where I am. In America, working hard pays off. It’s fair — you work hard and it pays off. Other places are not always like that. Corruption and nepotism prevent people from this experience. It drives me to work hard so that my clients can do the same.

Adapting to change — Working remotely changed everything for the better for me and for small firms. It’s now totally acceptable to work from home, have a family. I don’t have to come to the office (though we come in a few days a week). We can do video or phone calls, and people are getting used to using technology to send documents.

I can represent people anywhere, which gives us a lot more opportunity and reach power accessibility. This offers a much better profit for small places.

Creativity — Without being creative, I wouldn’t be nearly as successful as I am today. I’ve channeled this into my social networking platforms and used them as an outlet to spread news and information, while getting an incredible amount of new business.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!


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