Lunch with Joby Ryan: The Original New Shiny Thing

Kim Hopkin '19
Columns Editor

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

It’s hard to find a more enthusiastic believer in UVa Law than Joby Ryan, Development and Advancement Officer for the UVa Law School Foundation. Some Law Weekly Staff were lucky enough to catch up with Ryan over lunch and ask him about his time at the Law School, his litigation experience, and why he chose to come back to UVa Law.

Ryan loved his time as a student at UVa Law. He had always been drawn to UVa and almost came to UVa for undergrad like his sister did. Instead, he went to Harvard and earned his A.B. in Government. Ryan was considering staying in Boston for law school, but changed his mind during Admitted Students Weekend (ASW). “Everyone seemed to fit here,” he recalled. When he talked to prospective students at other law schools, they weren’t as excited to attend. His mind was set on UVa after asking students a simple question. “When I asked people [at the UVa ASW] where they would go if they could go anywhere, they said Virginia.” So, he decided to join his dad as a UVa Law graduate. 

Ryan certainly didn’t regret that choice. He described the learning opportunities at UVa Law as “an embarrassment of riches.” The class that best prepared him for the future was his Socratic-style 1L Contracts class taught by Professor Kraus, but his favorite was a course called “Biology and the Law.” It brought up new issues that Ryan had never fully considered before including parental rights over inseminated eggs. Ryan also took courses by Professors Coughlin, Ortiz, and (now Dean) Golubuff. His one regret? Although Ryan participated in a myriad of extracurricular at the school, he wishes he had participated in more law related activities. While some of us have experienced Ryan’s entertaining performances during the Libel professor rebuttal, his favorite UVa Law tradition is actually Feb Club. He said, “It’s something unique to UVa Law, and it’s about having fun together.” 

As his time at UVa Law came to an end, Ryan had to decide between the Atlanta and the D.C. firm markets. The Atlanta market seemed like a comfortable choice that Ryan would have enjoyed, but the D.C. market opened a sense of ambition within Ryan. Like gravity, the desire to really challenge himself pulled Ryan towards the D.C. market, and he joined Hogan Lovells in 2005. Ryan pushed himself to work hard during his years in private litigation, but he always felt isolated by the type of work lawyers do in actual practice. So, after his first year he joined the recruiting team and got the chance to get out of his office to talk to people. “It was the one thing I do well,” Ryan joked. Soon thereafter, the market crash changed the focus his recruitment. “It changed the entire paradigm of firm practice,” he explained, “because companies had to trim the fat, and legal bills were some of the first things to go.” Still, Ryan persisted and found new growth opportunities. 

About seven years into practice, Ryan was having a discussion with some of the partners at his firm about his career projection. While everyone at the firm was supportive of Ryan, the list of accomplishments he would have to achieve in the next eighteen months brought a sense of dread to Ryan. “They were doable, but my palms started sweating—I realized I didn’t want this,” he recalls. Serendipitously, a position at UVa Law Career Services opened up within two days of that wake-up call. Ryan had always wanted to come back to Charlottesville; this combined with the prospect of working with Kevin Donovan made the job undeniable. “It felt like that same sense of ambition when I decided to go to D.C.,” Ryan explained. “Getting to work on a team with that energy and commitment” was what drew Ryan back to UVa Law in 2013. “It’s the best team in the country,” Ryan says.

When asked what he thought his biggest accomplishment was, Ryan first joked about being the namesake for a goldfish before revealing his more personal triumph. “The relationship I built with students and helping them . . . [During OGI], we won more than we lost.” Ryan beamed when describing this. He did credit the fact that “UVa Law students are more three-dimensional, and inherently easier to market to firms” for his success. Ryan then transitioned to the Law School Foundation becoming a Development and Advancement Officer. Ryan describes his job as talking to alums and “encouraging their philanthropic endeavors.” Ever the investigative reporters, we asked if this meant fundraising. Laughing, he agreed that, yes, it involves fundraising, but it gives him the opportunity to fill alums in on what the Law School is doing now and why they should continue to be proud of their alma mater. He describes his job as “making friends and being a resource [for those friends.]” Overall, his job is essential to the Foundation, which is responsible for managing the Law School’s funds.  

Ryan asserted earnestly that the Law School community is what sets UVa apart. Speaking as a former Peer Advisor (PA), he urged current PAs to welcome and invite 1Ls, LLMs, and transfers to the community as gatekeepers of this tradition. “You start this [tradition] for the school each year,” he explained. For 1Ls, Ryan encouraged them to “dive in” and diversify their interests. While he thinks you should try as hard as you can in law school, Ryan also stressed the importance of not “doing it at the expense of your life.” As for his remarkable resemblance to a certain LRW Professor, Ryan laughs at all the times people would mistakenly call him the wrong name in the hallway. While he doesn’t take offense to the confusion, he joked that he would like the Law School to know that he “was the original new shiny thing.”