Alumni Profile: William N. Brieger ’85
For William N. Brieger, the low-cost, high-quality legal education he received at King Hall enabled him to choose the legal career that was most right for him, working for the California Attorney General to protect the state's environment. That's why Brieger has supported the Law School by volunteering in several capacities, and why he joined with fellow alum Rachel Krevans '84 to establish the Brieger-Krevans Scholarship for King Hall students.
A Deputy Attorney General since 1993, Brieger said he feels fortunate to have attended King Hall at a time when fees were just a fraction of the more than $41,000 per year charged to students today. "I owe a debt," he said, "because I got a great education that's enabled me to have an interesting career and make a good living, and I received that education essentially for free--although we paid fees, they were nominal. It's a much different world now, and I'm not sure all of our older alumni know that."
Brieger said that graduating from law school without an overbearing amount of debt allowed him to explore different career options and choose the path that he found most fulfilling rather than chase after the highest earning potential. After earning his J.D., he clerked for the California Court of Appeal in San Francisco and the Maine Supreme Court for one year each, then spent four years with a private firm in San Francisco. He then took a position as a Deputy District Attorney in Sacramento, and realized that he enjoyed the frequent court appearances and sense of direct responsibility he found as a prosecutor.
"I really wanted to be in court, and during that year with the Sacramento D.A., I probably tried 20 cases," he said. "I think it made me a much better lawyer, and I would recommend to young lawyers that they get some experience as a prosecutor or public defender."
Since moving on to become a Deputy Attorney General, Brieger has handled primarily civil enforcement matters involving hazardous waste disposal, water pollution from dairies and feedlots, underground storage tank violations, false claims against environmental cleanup funds, and air pollution from stationary sources. He is currently on loan to the California Air Resources Board.
Brieger has often won multi-million-dollar judgments against polluters, including one of $48 million. Those large judgments play an important role in preserving the state's environment, said Brieger, because they tend to garner publicity that gets noticed by other potential violators. "It's a worthwhile endeavor, because it presumably has a ripple effect and encourages others to modify their behavior," he said. "So the goal is not to get my name in the paper, but to get the defendant's name in the paper next to one of those big numbers."
Brieger finds the work challenging and rewarding, but worries that many of today's King Hall students may feel they need to choose more lucrative career paths in order to repay debt. That's why he teamed up with fellow alum Rachel Krevans--a friend since their King Hall days and now his sister-in-law--to make a series of relatively modest donations over a period of several years to establish the Brieger-Krevans Scholarship, which is designed to reward academic excellence, help the Law School continue to attract top students, and ease the burden of rising fees.
"If you give something on a regular basis, it adds up over time, and this has been very worthwhile," he said. "I like to support UC Davis because I feel like the students aren't just there in order to earn a ticket to make big money. The law students at UC Davis have a different spirit, and that needs to be supported, so they have the option to do something that's interesting and fulfilling and not completely driven by the need to pay back loans."
In addition to giving to the Law School, Brieger has been a regular volunteer, serving on the Alumni Board, as a Mabie Challenge Alumni Volunteer, as a Class of 1985 Reunion Committee member, and working to coach and mentor students.
"I think anything you can do helps strengthen the Law School, whether it's volunteering, giving to the building project or endowed chairs for faculty, or supporting scholarships," he said. "Anything our alumni feel they can do, I would want to encourage them, because it all ties in, and it all makes the Law School stronger."