October alumni highlight: Meet Rick Schwermer

Rick Schwermer graduated from the S.J. Quinney College of Law in 1986, launching a career that has been rich in public service.

Schwermer has served with the Utah State Courts since 1990, and as assistant state court administrator since 1995. Among other duties, he has served as the judiciary’s representative to the Utah Legislature; coordinated the development, funding and certification of Utah’s drug courts and other problem solving courts; and served as Utah’s Justice Court Administrator.

Last year he was  appointed as the new state court administrator for the Utah State Courts.

Schwermer spoke to the S.J. Quinney College of Law about his path to law school and legal career in a recent Q&A.

Q: What made you interested in going to law school?       

A: Like many, I had an idealistic notion of helping people, standing up for the underdog, and perhaps bringing order to disorder. Plus I loved Perry Mason (ask your parents – tough guy lawyer with a cool convertible, and the top was always down).

Q: What do you do today? How did your time at the law school shape and/or help what you are currently doing?      

A: As the State Court Administrator I think my job is to ensure public trust and confidence in the courts. We have a unique

Rick Schwermer

court governance structure. The Utah Judicial Council is the entity that our state constitution designates as the ultimate administrative authority for the judicial branch. So I get to work with all of our 200 or so judges to implement innovations and policies directed at that ultimate mission – public trust and confidence in our courts. That includes an unfortunate dose of budget and HR issues (neither of which I recall from law school). But I also bring a legal perspective to our administrative issues. Having practiced law allows me to understand how lawyers and the public will be impacted by what we do, including our rules of judicial administration, procedure, and evidence. And of those topics I do have a vague recollection from law school.

Q: What is one memorable experience from law school that will always stay with you?

A: You probably don’t mean memories of climbing/sneaking in one of the louvered windows in the old building, after midnight, to play wiffle ball in the old 1L carrel room….  What is probably more helpful is to remember and maintain the friendships from those years. Those classmates later became colleagues, adversaries (in court only – that’s important), references, referral sources, and yes judges, for whom I now work, but just as easily could be appearing before. Those relationships are important, and why civility is so essential.

Q: You’ve worked in a few different areas of law, including both in the public and private sectors. What have you learned from trying different legal specialties on your career path?

A: I really wanted courtroom experience right out of law school, not research experience, so I went to what is now the Disability Law Center for four years. I had a caseload of 600+ right off the bat, and practiced in courts all over the state. I’ve never done something more soul satisfying. Or exhausting. And I learned that for me, affecting one client or one case at a time is just a start; that policy change and issue advocacy is just as satisfying, and more sustainable.

Q: Outside of work, tell us about something interesting that you like to do? 

A: My fabulous wife and I spend every chance we get at our cabin in the mountains, looking for moose, deer, golden eagles, and the rest of our mountain friends. And while I’m not a tough guy, I do have a cool convertible, and the top is always down.