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Kevin Riach
Kevin Riach worked as a teacher in Hawaii before he followed his father and grandfather into the law. (File photo)

Breaking the Ice: ‘Deep obligation’ to clients in high-stakes cases

Name: Kevin Riach

Title: Shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron

Education: B.A., liberal arts, Evergreen State College; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Kevin Riach says helping clients navigate crises is what makes his work as a Fredrikson & Byron shareholder “fulfilling, rewarding, engaging and challenging.”

Between Riach’s extensive pro bono work and billable practice, his clients have faced white-collar criminal charges, state or federal investigations or the death penalty.

“There’s definitely a deep feeling of obligation and responsibility to do everything you can for them,” Riach said. “It’s rare that people look kindly on a criminal defendant.”

He’s learned to manage his stress, though, to stay focused in cases where the stakes are high and a client may have no other support.

Riach worked as a teacher in Hawaii before he went to law school, terming it “the destiny I could no longer avoid” in following his father and grandfather into the law.


Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: Ask me what I’m reading or what music I’ve been listening to lately.

Q: Why did you study law and pursue it as a career?

A: I was looking for a different challenge and knew what being a lawyer meant because I’d seen my family, my father and my grandfather, practice law. I could only fight my destiny for so long, as hard as I tried.

Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A: “An American Marriage,” by Tayari Jones. The first volume of Michael Burlingame’s gigantic biography of Abraham Lincoln.

Q: What’s a pet peeve of yours?

A: Lawyers who act like jerks because they think it is effective advocacy is my biggest pet peeve at least with respect to the career.

Q: What do you like best about your work?

A: Standing with folks who are experiencing the greatest crisis of their life and helping them walk through it, survive it and endure it and in some cases getting a not-guilty verdict or getting a full exoneration for somebody who’s been wrongfully accused. That’s the ultimate feeling of success.

Q: What do you least like about it?

A: Tracking my time in six-minute increments.

Q: What do you like doing away from work?

A: I have two kids, so I enjoy spending time with my family. They’re pretty young, so just hanging around playing games, going on hikes, going for bike rides with them. I play the drums. I’m very proud of Fredrikson because we’re able to field an eight-piece band. We’ve got one ringer who is bass player who is an emergency room doctor at HCMC who is married to a Fredrikson lawer. Then we’ve got another Robins Kaplan lawyer who is married to a Fredrikson lawyer. Other than that everyone in the band is a Fredrikson lawyer and I feel like we’re quite good for a bunch of lawyers.

Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A: I’m from the Twin Cities. It would depend on the season. In the winter I would take them to art shanties. In summer time to the Sculpture Garden at the Walker or the Franconia Sculpture Park.

Q: Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you most admire—and why?

A: Thurgood Marshall is one of my idols partly because of his work as a Supreme Court justice but also his earlier career working for the NAACP legal defense fund and traveling around the country into very hostile environments trying cases in front of very hostile juries and fighting the good fight even when everything was stacked against him.

Q: What’s your favorite depiction of the law or the legal profession in popular culture?

A: I’m a big fan of “Better Call Saul.” I certainly wouldn’t compare my marketing strategies to Saul Goodman. But the dynamics of the work that I think are accurately reflected in that show, you don’t really seen anyplace else.

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