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Ryan Walsh ‘09 made Forbes Magazine’s 2017 “30 Under 30” list in the Law and Policy cat­egory. Ryan Walsh | Courtesy

After a clerkship with former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and being appointed the Chief Deputy Solicitor General for the state of Wis­consin, alumnus Ryan Walsh ’09 made the 2017 Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list in the Law and Policy cat­egory.

According to Forbes Mag­azine, its 2017 “30 Under 30” List selected only 600 indi­viduals from a pool of approx­i­mately 15,000 nom­i­na­tions, ren­dering its 4 percent accep­tance rate more com­pet­itive than the nation’s most selective col­leges, Harvard Uni­versity and Stanford Uni­versity.

Walsh named his clerkship with Scalia as one of the most dis­tin­guished aspects of his career, though he said being chosen for the position was part luck, since no one can really claim an enti­tlement or qual­i­fi­cation for that sort of position. As a law clerk, Walsh worked with Scalia on a weekly, if not daily, basis, reviewing peti­tions, dis­cussing cases, and drafting peti­tions.

He said one of the high­lights of the expe­rience was dis­cus­sions with Scalia and his fellow clerks before Scalia had decided how he would vote. Though he said he entered the clerkship worried that a peek behind the curtain might leave him dis­il­lu­sioned about the way the court worked, Scalia proved to be a man of the highest char­acter. He wel­comed his clerks to engage him in dis­cussion if they felt his decision would be con­trary to what the law required.

“To par­tic­ipate in those con­ver­sa­tions and go back and forth with him — he really wanted to fight over the issues, so he wanted you to take him on if you thought you should take him on,” Walsh said. “He really wel­comed that. To see him do that and then say, ‘Okay, well, I better vote to affirm or reverse,’ or wherever the con­ver­sation led, that was really some­thing.”

After the con­clusion of his clerkship, Walsh worked as an asso­ciate attorney at Jones Day for two years before being named Chief Deputy Solicitor General for the Attorney General in his home state of Wis­consin last spring. Now, his work entails researching and writing briefs, as well as preparing and par­tic­i­pating in oral argu­ments for the Wis­consin Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  Recently, he defended a number of Wis­consin election laws when they were chal­lenged as uncon­sti­tu­tional, and is also in charge of federal and state appellate lit­i­gation involving Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, which pre­vents labor unions from demanding fees from non-unionized employees.

He said Hillsdale’s coursework and pro­fessors helped him develop an ability to think ana­lyt­i­cally, a skill he cited as critical in the legal field.

“The whole system of the adver­sarial practice of law is built on that idea that each side should make the best available argu­ments so the court can evaluate the best available legal argu­ments and have the best infor­mation in front of them to make a decision,” he said.

While at Hillsdale, Walsh served as 2009 class pres­ident, and later served as the editor-in-chief for the Uni­versity of Chicago Law Review as a student there.

“Ryan was an excep­tional student here at Hillsdale. He exem­plifies the good char­acter and sound prin­ciples the College stands for,” said Nathan Schlueter, pro­fessor of phi­losophy and director of the pre-law program in a press release. “A real clas­sical liberal-arts edu­cation, rooted in a study of the great books, is an excellent prepa­ration for the legal pro­fession. Ryan’s success shows that.”

Outside of his legal career, Walsh said he mostly spends time with his wife and four children. He said com­mittment to family and com­munity should always come before com­mitment to career, a pri­or­i­ti­zation he said he learned from Scalia, one of his foremost role models.

“Never neglect your other life com­mit­ments,” Walsh said. “Don’t become the sort of person who’s com­pletely absorbed in their work and isn’t a good member of their com­munity or their family. Our society, and our pro­fession, needs people who are real people living humane lives ded­i­cated to others. That’s important espe­cially for people going into law, since law tends to be a pretty demanding pro­fession, and it can be pretty easy to get absorbed in it.”

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    good work ryan