Thursday August 11, 2016

A Rising Star

Recognized as a Super Lawyers "Rising Star" each year since 2014, and recently named to Benchmark Litigation's "Under 40 Hot List," Erin Rhinehart '04 originally thought medical school was the direction she was headed until high school physics and chemistry classes changed her mind.

By the time she was a freshman at Miami University, she had her sights set on a degree in political science; but, being a lawyer was still not her goal. Then, one class changed her life.

“I took one of those 100-level, required courses, but the professor was also a lawyer. He taught our class the same way many law school classes are taught, using case law as the primary resource,” said Rhinehart who was inspired by this educator to apply to law school. 

She applied to several law schools. But after one visit to the University of Dayton School of Law, she knew she had found the right fit.

“I was fortunate to receive a great academic scholarship from UD, so I came for a campus tour. I met with professors who were intelligent and accomplished in their fields. More important, though, they were accessible to the students. My professors at UD were excellent. If I had questions or wanted to explore an issue, they always made themselves available.” 

Frequently pushed out of her comfort zone, Rhinehart acknowledged that law school was a challenge, but one she enjoyed. “I liked going to law school, but it was different than anything I had ever experienced.” Her advice to new law students is to rely on yourself and trust your own instincts. She added, “This is the best way to manage your time and take control of your career early.”

Working with Dayton Law’s Office of Career Services, Rhinehart found her first summer clerkship in Chicago for the General Counsel Office of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice now renamed under the Department of Homeland Security. 

“I wrote several research memos and worked on various appeals assisting government lawyers on cases brought against illegal immigrants,” said Rhinehart. She stressed that the work was oftentimes emotional. “I attended everything from deportation hearings to naturalization ceremonies. I learned quickly how lawyers can impact people for better or worse, and, importantly, how you can make a difference. People’s lives were at stake.”

Returning to Dayton after a fulfilling summer in the public sector, Rhinehart sought to find a similar experience the following year, but advisors in Career Services suggested she explore something different, so Rhinehart accepted a summer clerkship with Dayton-based commercial litigation firm Faruki+.

“It was the hardest job I ever had. The caliber of attorneys was, and is, phenomenal and I had to keep up.” 

And she did. By the end of that summer, Rhinehart was offered a position as a new associate at Faruki+. “If you want to be a good attorney, you have to work with the best. I realized I couldn't turn it down because I was afraid of not being good enough.” 

Twelve years later, she is now a partner with Faruki+ with a diverse litigation practice focusing on media and communication law and class action defense. Rhinehart is at the forefront of today’s legal issues involving First Amendment rights and is focused on helping her clients navigate social media, branding and advertising, digital publications, defamation, and privacy law.

Faruiki+ Partner Jeff Cox ’91, said, “Erin is smart, intuitive, fearless. She is a great lawyer and leader, and we are fortunate to count her as our partner!”

Rhinehart is also the mother of two who believes the notion of work/life balance is a myth. “It’s always a balancing act and it doesn't get easier. It’s just a different kind of hard; a day-to-day struggle. I might have six or seven commitments, but I’ve learned to manage my time, and set priorities and boundaries. Some days I do better than others.” But, she says that it's worth it. She feels being a lawyer allows her to be a creative problem solver and gives her a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Her advice for future lawyers is, “Find a mentor and a sponsor. Talk to people about their careers, challenges, and accomplishments. It’s the best way to find out what it is you might want to do, or not do. Mentors often become colleagues; usually the best ones become sponsors.”


For more information, contact the office of communications at the University of Dayton School of Law, at lawcomm@udayton.edu

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