Lights, Camera, Graduation: Zack Weinstein Father, Actor and Harvard Law Grad

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on June 30, 2021 # Lifestyle

How many indelible moments is it possible to string across a single season? Zack Weinstein welcomed his second son, tackled final exams and graduated from Harvard Law School over the course of a couple of exuberant months this spring.

Now, Weinstein is studying for the bar from home brimming with the energy (and exhaustion) that life with a four-year-old and newborn brings, about to embark on a surprising new career as a litigator for a Boston law firm.

"Who knew I'd be really interested in healthcare law?" he says with a laugh.

Weinstein, a former Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation ambassador, applied to law school in 2017 after spending nearly a decade working as an actor on an array of hit television shows, including "Glee," "NCIS," and "Criminal Minds."

Acting had long been Weinstein's dream. He'd grown-up a classic theater kid, taking dance lessons from the age of 7, centering his life around school musical productions, and eventually pursuing a theater major at Skidmore College.

The summer after Weinstein's freshman year, while working as a camp counselor in Maine, he and some friends went canoeing on their day off; while horsing around during a stop along the river, a friend flipped Weinstein over his shoulders. Weinstein struck his head underwater, sustaining a C6 spinal cord injury. The accident changed his life but didn't erase his ambitions.

"I was devastated and upset, but I was also determined to figure out what it would take to live," he says.

Weinstein spent a year completing rehab at the Shepherd Center and adjusting to the injury before returning to Skidmore to resume his studies. After graduation, and newlywed, he moved to LA and steadily built a career as an actor.

"I was too stubborn to allow nearly dying to stop me from what I wanted to do because I had lived," he says, adding, "I was not the most successful actor using a wheelchair, but I was one of them."

But when his first son was born in November 2016, Weinstein, and his wife Anna-Maija reassessed. The presidential election had left them unsettled and feeling like some aspect of their life needed to shift. Weinstein decided to apply to law school.

"I had the sense that law would offer me the opportunity to find a way to engage with the world in a way I felt connected to," he says. "It offered a way of being of service to other people."

At Harvard, Weinstein dove into his studies and worked hard to remind those less familiar with disabilities that he was someone "using a wheelchair as opposed to someone who is in a wheelchair."

"It's not the thing that's enveloping you. It's just the thing that's under you," he says.

As president of the Disability Law Student Association, Weinstein helped advocate for accommodations and build a professional network among lawyers living with disabilities and lawyers working with disability rights.

But mostly, he simply juggled life as a father, husband and student—navigating the same challenges every student has: "Time management, actually remembering the things they try to teach you. Things that have nothing to do with whether you have a spinal cord injury."

The injury, Weinstein says, is the "worst thing that ever happened to me."

"It’s just not the only thing that has happened to me,” he says. “And a bunch of the other things have been good.”

Weinstein is eager to start his new law career, but is keeping his agent, too; why limit what the future might hold?

“My goals were always to find a way to be connected to the world in a way I felt was doing something of value,” he says. “And I think I’ve found it.”

The Reeve Foundation offers the services of a college transition counselor for people living with paralysis. The Reeve Foundation offers three hours with the counselor at no charge to the client.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.