As a newspaper and television reporter for about four years, Robert Rice wrote hundreds of stories about politics and Utah’s early Olympics bid. But he said he really learned how to write during his first year of law school, at the University of Utah.
“As a journalist, I had some writing skills. But I must say, despite that, maybe some of the most valuable lessons out of law school came from the first-year writing program,” said Rice. “If I have a challenging, abstract argument to make, I think back to some of the lessons I learned as a first-year law student. I apply those skills to 70-page summary judgment motions I wrote [today].”
Rice graduated from the law school in 1993, the same year he quit his job as a news reporter at KTVX. Before that, he was a reporter at The Deseret News. Journalism and the law were long Rice’s twin pulls: His mother was a journalist and his father was a judge.
“I really enjoyed the very, very interesting stories my dad, as a judge, brought back to the table every evening, a murder trial or civil motion. He really gave me a good view of what the practice of law was like,” he said.
As a litigator, Rice still practices some of what he loved about journalism: Writing, of course, and the performance aspect of presenting to judges and juries. He also helps his clients with their public relations needs. He puts his talents toward commercial litigation, labor and employment law and intellectual property law as a shareholder at Ray Quinney & Nebeker. And nearly three decades after graduating from the S.J. Quinney College of Law, he is still passionate about his time there and what law school can do for society, leading him to donate every year.
“I’m just hugely grateful for the experience I had in law school and the way in which it equipped me not only for a career but for other aspects of my life. Law school taught me a lot about the law. It also let me be a better critical thinker, and it gave me tools to think critically about current events and politics,” Rice said.
When he takes an inventory of the big-ticket items in his life, his career, his house, his ability to support his family, “there’s one institution to thank for that and it’s the University of Utah College of Law.”
At this point in his career, Rice has given back to the College of Law on multiple levels. He prefers to donate toward student scholarships at the law school because he is committed to improving diversity among lawyers and judges. In 2011, he served as a Utah State Bar Commissioner, until 2015. He was also elected by his fellow attorneys to serve as President of the Utah State Bar in 2016. He credits that experience for turning his attention to the lack of diversity and the need to find ways to include all types of Utahns in the practice of law.
“We can make speeches and talk about diversity in the law as much as possible,” Rice said. “At some point, it becomes about butts in seats in classrooms in law school.” Funding scholarships can help “make certain our law school looks like the rest of the world.”
A recent report by the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion, of which Rice is a founding board member, found that women make up just 24% of the Utah bar, and ethnic or racial minorities represent just 7% (while comprising 28% of the state’s population). Utah’s judicial bench similarly skews white and male.
“There are not enough diverse candidates in our profession here in Utah who are applying for positions on the bench and the best way to [address] that is to start at the beginning and make certain we have scholarships available to help fund as many applicants as possible in their efforts to go to law school,” Rice said.