“Law School Dad” Sets His Sights on Law Degree, Seat in Congress

John Dougall sits in a chair in Dineen Hall and smiles for the camera.

John Dougall L’26 is sometimes referred to as “Law School Dad” by others in his cohort, not only because he is one of the older students in the JDinteractive (JDi) program at the Syracuse University College of Law but also because he is so encouraging when others are struggling, congratulates them when they succeed and texts them on holidays. “While law school can be stressful, I recognize that the better my classmates do, the better educational experience I will have,” said Dougall.

It’s a nickname he doesn’t mind, but next year people might call him “Congressman.” He’s currently running for a seat in the U.S. Congress representing Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. Dougall is not new to politics. He served in the Utah House of Representatives for a decade, earning a reputation as a watchdog . He has been the Utah State auditor since 2013, establishing performance audits that drive greater accountability beyond just financial reporting. In 2020, he became the only statewide executive branch official to win an election by more than one million votes. He’s known statewide by his nickname—‘Frugal’ Dougall— a moniker that appears on the ballot and has been in his family his whole life.

John presenting in a class during the January residency in Syracuse.
John presenting in a class during the January residency in Syracuse.

Despite his current responsibilities, law school had been on Dougall’s bucket list for about 40 years, inspired by his grandfather who was a practicing attorney well into his 90s.

“My grandfather was the last cohort to pass the Utah State bar exam before the state required you to have a bachelor’s degree,” Dougall explains. “He always shared his ‘war stories’ about studying non-stop for the bar before the requirements changed because he couldn’t afford to go to college—but he also wasn’t about to delay his dream of being an attorney.” (His grandfather later earned that bachelor’s degree at age 81.)

John chats with fellow students and faculty during the Online MBA and JDinteractive mixer.
John chats with fellow students and faculty during the Online MBA and JDinteractive mixer.

Dougall decided not to delay his own dream any longer either and found the JDi program at Syracuse Law. A recommendation from a friend attending the JDi program only reinforced his decision.

“I needed a rigorous program that fit my schedule because I don’t have the opportunity to take three years off to go back to school full-time,” says Dougall, who also holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering, as well as an MBA from Brigham Young University. “I’m a champion of educational innovation, so I love to support this hybrid option that is part asynchronous, part live and part self-study. I’d like to see greater diversity in law school offerings.”

John Dougall stands on the stairs in Dineen Hall and smiles at the camera.

It was actually Distinguished Lecturer and former Dean of Syracuse Law Daan Braveman who caused Dougall to consider running for Congress while he was taking his Constitutional Law class. For years, Dougall stood firm that he didn’t want to “waste his time” in Washington, DC. But, despite their different political leanings, Braveman told him that there were certain problems that could only be solved in Congress and “if you want to try to fix them, you have to be willing to go there.”

“It caused me to start thinking about my unique background in fiscal accountability and the concern I have about this country’s debt and reckless spending, as well as the future of our country,” Dougall explains. “I look at my 2-year-old grandson and wonder what kind of future he’s going to have. So, I jumped into the race to try to bring some fiscal sanity to D.C.”

“For me, law school is more for the educational opportunity and the challenge than plans to be a practicing attorney. My engineering background gave me one way to look at problems, my experience in business and state government gave me other perspectives, and now law school is giving me yet another approach,” Dougall explains. “Syracuse’s JDi program is a good fit for me. I like having classmates with a diversity of work experiences who are scattered across the nation and the world. I’m focused on learning. I never look at my grades. My classmates, and even some of my professors, can’t imagine that—but that’s not what I’m here for.”