The Riley Legacy: The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

It’s a fair bet that Patrick Riley was the only University of Iowa College of Law student who could claim that his grandfather had been a member of the Iowa House of Representatives, Iowa Senate, and won verdicts against international corporations like Procter & Gamble and been featured in Time magazine three times.

As he walked the halls and studied in pursuit of his juris doctor, Patrick could glimpse photos of his heralded grandfather, attorney and statesman Tom Riley.

“Going to Iowa law school was a big deal for me,” says Patrick of the connection he shared with his grandfather, a 1952 University of Iowa College of Law graduate. “He was also an adjunct professor there and I could see his photos on the wall. That was especially meaningful to me.”

Long before Patrick knew that he would represent the third generations of Rileys in the firm his grandfather founded in 1980, the Tom Riley Law Firm, he relished the opportunity to attend University of Iowa football games with his grandfather as a child. “It always left an impression on me that people knew who he was,” remembers Patrick. “You just think of him as your Grandpa, but people would come up to him at Iowa games just to shake his hand.”

It didn’t take Patrick long to realize he was also destined for a career in the law. “I always wanted to be a lawyer,” he says. “There was never really any doubt in my mind. I think I knew from the time I was in kindergarten.” He remembers being encouraged by family members to pursue a career in his grandfather and mother’s footsteps. It was apparent at an early age that Patrick enjoyed logic games and had an inherent ability to rationalize.

Watching his grandfather practice law – as well as his mother, Sara, and uncle, Peter – gave him a deeper appreciation of the joys of a legal career and the understanding of what it takes to run a family law firm. “There’s more trust in a family firm,” says Patrick. “They are your family and you know they have your best interest at heart – not just the firm’s financial interest. Additionally, since your colleagues are your family members, you know their styles and preferences a bit better.”

Patrick practices criminal and family law, as well as personal injury and commercial real estate law. He understands the role he plays in continuing his grandfather’s legacy. “Every lawyer aspires to be great,” says Patrick, while also recognizing that many of the larger verdicts achieved by his grandfather, particularly in the 1980s, are not necessarily realistic in today’s society. His focus remains his daily work and his drive to continue the firm his grandfather built.

“We certainly want to continue the firm. Being Tom Riley’s grandson has been a blessing. There is always an opportunity to fill his shoes – and exceed them if possible,” says Patrick.

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