June 28, 2016

Member Spotlight: The Hon. James Riehl

Photo of James RiehlTell us a little bit about your career.

As a son of a high school principal, I grew up preparing to be a teacher. After college I taught for one year before going to law school, followed by seven years of private practice. In 1982, I ran for election as a countywide judge in Kitsap County in Washington. I served for 32 years until I retired in 2015.

Is it what you had planned when you started law school?

I knew I loved the law but was uncertain where my law degree would take me. I knew I wanted to continue teaching in some capacity and was fortunate to spend considerable time as a judge teaching attorneys and judges throughout the State of Washington as well as nationally.

What has been the highlight of your career?

As a judge, the highlights of my career fall into three categories. First is my work locally in my community where I had the opportunity to organize the first Domestic Violence Summit bringing members of the community together to address the issue of domestic violence. Second is my work on a statewide basis as a member of the Interpreter Commission and the Commission on Gender and Justice. In addition, I served as a co-chair of the Board for Judicial Administration, which set policy for the judiciary for the entire state. I was fortunate enough to serve as the Dean for the Washington State Judicial College. My work as a judge was recognized in 2014 when I was awarded the Outstanding Judge of the Year by the Washington State Bar Association. Finally, I am proud of the work I have done on the national level. I served as the Chair of the National Conference of Specialized Judges and currently serve as the District 9 representative. My work with the ABA allowed me to serve on the Board of Trustees of the National Judicial College, allowing me to continue with setting policies regarding training and teaching judges throughout the nation.

If you could go back to the beginning of your legal career, would you have done anything differently?

I have been incredibly fortunate to have had wonderful opportunities in the legal profession, both as an attorney and judge. I would have to honestly say I would not change anything.

What advice would you give to someone considering law school today?

I believe the most important factor for anyone considering law school is to take time to consider how you want your law degree to assist you in your pursuit of a career that you truly enjoy.

What were the biggest changes you saw in the legal profession over the course of your career?

Obviously the use of technology is one of the greatest changes I have seen in the legal profession. In addition, the economics of the profession, from the cost of law school to the cost of practicing law and the cost for the public to access the legal profession.

When did you first become a member of the ABA and why did you decide to join?

I joined the ABA in 1984 because some experienced members of the bar and the bench who were already members encouraged me to join. I soon learned of the incredible opportunities the ABA provided in working nationally with so many interesting and excellent attorneys and judges.

What has been the highlight of your work with the ABA?

I would have to say the most rewarding experiences with the ABA were my work as a member of the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence for six years and my work with the Judicial Division, including chairing the Editorial Board of the Judges Journal.

If you had not become a lawyer, what do you think you would have done?

Considering my early background in the teaching profession, I would say I would have continued as a teacher. Fortunately, I have been able to combine the two over these many years.

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