Dianna Cannon applied to law school as a back-up plan.
After finishing her undergraduate degree, Cannon longed to go to graduate school for art history in 1989. High tuition for the program she was interested in at the time stopped her.
Her plan-B, however, quickly elevated into what she realized should have been her plan-A from the start. It turned out Cannon and law school were the perfect fit.
“When I applied to law school, it was my back-up plan. I initially intended to go to graduate school in art history, but the cost was exorbitant (three times the amount of law school). So, I deferred graduate school for one year and started law school instead. I thought that if I didn’t like law school, I could always attend the expensive graduate school later,” said Cannon. “Within the first week of law school I was hooked. Although it was intimidating at times, I felt like I had found my people.”
She graduated from the University of Utah College of Law in 1992. Today, Cannon is the managing partner at Cannon Disability Law in Salt Lake City where she specializes in Social Security Disability Law. She also represents clients seeking black lung benefits, railroad retirement disability benefits, and long-term disability benefits. Cannon is an adjunct professor at her alma mater, where she teaches disability law.
She has served as president of the Women Lawyers of Utah and as a contributing editor to the Utah Trial Journal. She has stayed connected to the law school community in her role serving on the college’s Board of Trustees, an advisory board of alumni who provide recommendations and feedback about the college’s direction, programs and initiatives.
Cannon said many of her classroom experiences during her time in law school prepared her to be the attorney she is today. She was a note and comment editor for The Journal of Contemporary Law when she was a student. In particular, she recounted an independent study she enrolled in with now-retired professor Debora Threedy as being a pivotal educational experience.
“Having a one-on-one class with someone as smart as she is required a lot of work from me and I loved that. I learned from her that there is always a deeper way to look at the law or any subject. She had an amazing ability to see all the layers and nuances of any issue. I think that experience made me a better attorney, because I realized that being a good lawyer requires creativity,” said Cannon.
“Sometimes, you need to think outside of the box to be successful. Professor Threedy recently retired and I feel bad for future students (that they won’t get a chance to learn from her) because she is such a great teacher. I will always be grateful to her for taking me under her wing,” she said.
Cannon said she’s enjoyed spending the past 25 years practicing disability law, although the work can be challenging. Interacting with clients and feeling like the work she does can make a difference to some people’s lives is rewarding, she said.
She noted she’s excited to continue her service on the law school’s Board of Trustees and to see where the future of law education is headed.
“I feel very honored to serve on the Board of Trustees. It has been exciting to be involved in the creation of a new building for the school. Hundreds of people have donated money, time, energy, and ideas to bring the new building to fruition. Every time I drive by or step into the beautiful building I am so proud of everyone’s efforts. I have always been grateful to the law school for giving me such a good, interesting career and for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the careers of other students by volunteering and teaching,” said Cannon.
“The Board of Trustees cares about the future of the law school and is working hard on issues such as student and board diversity, alumni participation, scholarship and endowments, and creating a community of lawyers that will be involved in the school throughout their careers. Every graduate of our law school should take advantage of the many opportunities the school gives us to give back to the legal community and help others become successful lawyers,” she added.