A Dallas native, Bria Riley (’18) graduated cum laude from the University of Houston before enrolling at the Law School, where she became our first Black female president of the SBA. With a heart as big as Texas itself, she returned home after graduation for a federal court clerkship before venturing into private practice. We caught up with the recent grad to see how she’s weathering the pandemic and what else she’s been up to.
UIC John Marshall: What have you been up to since graduation?
Riley: After graduation, I moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, to clerk for Hon, Hal R. Ray, Jr., U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of Texas from 2018-2019. During that time, I was waiting for my Texas bar results and found out in November 2018 that I passed on my first attempt. In August 2019, after my clerkship, I moved back to my hometown of Dallas for a civil litigation position at an insurance defense firm, where we defended excess carriers in multimillion-dollar lawsuits. In November 2020, I moved into my current role as Associate General Counsel for The Marketing Arm Inc. I provide legal counsel on a variety of substantive transactional and contract-related matters involving some of your favorite marketing campaigns, including the Michael B. Jordan commercial for “Alexa” and the “Jake from State Farm” commercial that features Drake.
UIC John Marshall: How has your professional life changed during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Riley: I transitioned into an entirely new role, which was different from my litigation background. I’m also working remotely from home, and we’re not scheduled to return to the office until 2022, so I haven’t had the opportunity to meet the majority of my co-workers in person. It’s an in-house position, but I’ve only met my colleagues online.
UIC John Marshall: During your time as a UIC John Marshall student, did you benefit from networking with alumni? If yes, how so?
Riley: Yes, one of my favorite alumni and mentors—Daniel Hernandez—invested a lot in me from the time I was a 1L to even today. He even helped fund my campaign for President of the Student Bar Association, which I won. And he wrote a letter of recommendation for the position I currently hold. Networking with alumni was and still is an added bonus that exponentially contributed to my success as a law student and lawyer.
UIC John Marshall: In what ways have you “given back” to UIC John Marshall as member of the alumni community? Why do you feel it is important to give back to the Law School?
Riley: I serve as an alumni mentor to a number of members of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), including reviewing resumes and cover letters, offering advice on important decisions, and participating in BLSA’s virtual mock interview workshops and meetings. This year BLSA’s Glenn T. Johnson Chapter honored me with their 2021 Ascendant Award. I’ve spoken at a number of UIC John Marshall’s virtual events, including a Fall 2020 Admitted Students event and events sponsored by the Alumni Department and Career Services Office (CSO), like the Student Alumni Exchange. I’m also a mentor for the CSO’s Alumni Mentorship Program and the Diversity Scholarship Foundation’s First-Generation Law Student Mentorship Program.
I think it’s important to pay forward the support I received in law school, and even now, from my mentors and advocates. I’m not sure I would have been as successful as a student or lawyer without the people who paved the way for me, who cared enough to lend a hand when I needed it. I want to do that for the next generations of lawyers, because it’s essential to their development and building their reputation within the legal community.
UIC John Marshall: What are some of your favorite law school memories?
Riley: Hanging in the student lobby or SBA office catching up with people, the Barristers Ball, my “Hip Hop and the Law” class, grabbing a snack at the café with a friend, and our “we need a break/walk-talk sessions” for either lunch or just to get away from the school during midterms, finals, or bar prep.
UIC John Marshall: What classes or professors do you remember fondly?
Riley: “Hip Hop and the Law” with Visiting Professor Cummings, “Property” with Professor Hunt, and “Trial Advocacy” with Tinos Diamantatos really stand out.
UIC John Marshall: What advice would you give to recent graduates?
Riley: Always stay true to self and run your own race. Be kind, be patient, be assertive, be of value, and be vocal. Know your worth and then add tax, but always remain humble and hungry.