Nursing is an atypical training ground for lawyers, but for Marian “Bo” Mehan, her experiences as an intensive-care unit nurse were invaluable preparation for her practice today.
After graduating from Saint Louis University with a nursing degree in 1974, she worked in the field for five years before she decided to return to SLU for law school. She graduated in 1982 and joined Lewis Rice.
As a new attorney, she rotated through different practice areas and found she liked estate planning most.
“It’s a great area of law,” she said. “People have to trust you. In this era of specialization, I think the estate-planning attorney is much more like the old-fashioned general practitioner — you get so involved with families, and multiple generations of families.”
Today, Mehan is co-chair of Lewis Rice’s Estate Planning & Probate Department. Her practice is focused on advising clients on estate planning, wealth-transfer planning, estate and trust administration and post-mortem planning. She is also a longtime member of the firm’s management committee.
She said her move from nursing to the law reflects the changes in society during her lifetime, as women moved into fields traditionally dominated by men. In her own family, she said, her older sisters went into then-traditional fields such as nursing and teaching, while her younger sister went to medical school.
“My parents encouraged us all to get an education, but we sort of followed society,” she said.
Mehan said her time as a nurse continues to help in her practice — particularly with the training it provided in having tough conversations.
“When you’re in estate planning, you have to discuss really difficult things: children with drug-addiction problems and how to protect them, illegitimate children etc.,” she said. “All these hard things, they’ve got to trust you to talk about.”
One aspect of her work that took her by surprise was how much she’d enjoy assisting clients with their charitable giving.
“The exposure to people who have a lot of resources and who are eager to give them appropriately to charity — that is the neatest thing that happened to me that wasn’t even on my radar screen,” she said.
Mehan said it is hard work to ensure charitable giving is done appropriately, but it’s fun to assist clients with their giving. She pointed to the idea that donors get more out of charitable giving than the recipients.
“I get that,” she said. “I didn’t get that for a long time, but I really get it. I’ve seen it in action.”
In 2016, SLU Law inducted Mehan into the Order of the Fleur de Lis Hall of Fame, the school’s highest honor for alumni who are leaders in their communities and in their practice. In addition to her practice, Mehan has served in several leadership roles in St. Louis nonprofit organizations.
She said the award was a special honor because estate planners tend to be less visible in the legal world.
“Estate planners aren’t really known in the legal community very much because we don’t go to court — most of the time our negotiation is with the IRS and intra-family squabbles,” she said. “ . . . We’re almost always talking to clients.”
Reflecting on her career, Mehan said she’s seen a positive change in the legal workplace for women, particularly in terms of greater understanding about family issues. She said technology has been a double-edged sword, however, in that it allows for greater flexibility in some ways but creates new pressures in others.
“In some respects, you can never get away,” she said.