“The legal profession could benefit from more creative individuals, and I hope I can serve as proof that it is never too late to learn new skills,” said Weir-Riedel. “I have personally found it difficult sometimes to fit into the formalities of the legal world as an artistic person. However, I’d love to serve as proof that lawyers can be professional, but also fun and creative individuals.”  

Weir-Riedel earned her bachelor’s degree in integrated studio arts from Iowa State University in 2011, worked as an interior design consultant for five years and then sold real estate before making the decision to return to school to earn her law degree from the University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law.

Looking for a job that would provide her with more flexibility and time with her family, Weir-Riedel applied for a part-time legal assistant/paralegal job in consumer bankruptcy for an attorney in Sioux Falls. Through this experience, Weir-Riedel, who said she's the kind of person who is always learning and doing something new, discovered that working in law could keep her busy and allow her to use the creative part of her brain in new ways.

“I realized my work in the law was more impactful on me as a person than I initially realized,” said Weir-Riedel. “Learning about the law posed new challenges that required me to use a different side of my brain than just my creative skills. I enjoyed brainstorming ideas with my former boss and seeing how both his analytical and my creative ideas could be beneficial to our clients.”

Coming from a heavily art-focused and creative undergraduate experience, Weir-Riedel's transition to law school experience introduced some challenges, such as exam preparation, formal lectures and stress management. Despite the contrast in her academic experiences, Weir-Riedel has thrived in law school and has actively engaged in valuable experiential learning opportunities.   

One of those experiential learning opportunities included presenting a bill to the state government. In mid-February, Weir-Riedel proposed a bill and provided testimony during the South Dakota Legislature’s 99th session as part of her independent study project. The bill, Bill 95, intended to exempt one motor vehicle from levy by creditors for South Dakota residents.

“South Dakota is one of only six states nationally lacking a motor vehicle exemption for levy process, yet we rely heavily on our vehicles,” said Weir-Riedel. “This was the only debtor-creditor bill brought in session this year, and one of my points in my testimony was that South Dakota has a dying bankruptcy bar that stems from its failure to update these types of laws.”

Even though Weir-Riedel’s bill was killed in judiciary committee, the process of proposing legislation proved to be a worthwhile experience.

“Acknowledging opposition and promoting advocacy are very important parts of law, and they directly intersect in legislature. While the bill ultimately lost, this experience was a valuable lesson on politics, legislative research, communication and really just learning how to speak confidently on a topic even when you don’t always feel like an 'expert' per se.”

Weir-Riedel’s passion for moving the needle in bankruptcy law extends far beyond her personal pursuits; she’s also committed to making bankruptcy a more approachable and exciting topic for young lawyers.

In her second year of law school, Weir-Riedel started the Debtor-Creditor Club to create a space for students to learn about a necessary field of law that, as Weir-Riedel stated, “maybe doesn’t have the excitement and allure of being a criminal defense attorney but is equally important to public service and our community.”

The Debtor-Creditor Club, which began as just Weir-Riedel and three of her friends, now has over 30 formal members and hosts events for the entire law school. The student organization has empowered Weir-Riedel to foster relationships among students and open doors for new experiential learning opportunities.

“The club became a great way for me to connect with other students, which can be difficult as a nontraditional student commuting from Sioux Falls, and provided a fun platform to connect students with some of my existing friends in the industry,” said Weir-Riedel.

Weir-Riedel made it a goal of hers to facilitate interactions between students and industry professionals by taking students to out-of-state conferences, establishing a scholarship fund for the club and having members regularly attend South Dakota State Bar committee meetings with local practicing debtor-creditor attorneys.

“All of these things are important to students, but many students don’t know how to go about making them happen,” said Weir-Riedel. “If I arrange the logistics, I have found so many students are willing and want to engage in the content.”

Reflecting on all her experiences in law school so far, Weir-Riedel said her biggest takeaway is the importance of lifelong learning.

“Confidence is important, but it is also important to always be willing to listen and learn; you never want to be a ‘know-it-all,’” she said. “Learning to work with multiple types of personalities is also an important skill law school helped me navigate better in my everyday life.”

After graduation this May, Weir-Riedel will spend the next two years working as a term clerk for Judge Laura Lynn Kulm Ask ’00, ’03, J.D., in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of South Dakota.

“Judge Kulm Ask is one of the youngest federal judges in our state, a USD alumna and has experience on the debtor side of bankruptcy,” said Weir-Riedel. “I’m excited to see her grow in her role on the bench, and I am thrilled to play a part of it.

“I’m also excited to hopefully get to continue to work with USD on getting more law students applying for bankruptcy clerkships and jobs in and around South Dakota," she continued.

In addition to her promising law career, Weir-Riedel keeps her creative spark alive, making art and pursuing her creative passions. She continues to work on her ceramics and pottery and recently started learning to play the cello with hopes to someday perform and compose her own music.

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Hanna DeLange
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