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WJA 2021: Rachel A. Riso

Rachel Riso is from a family of attorneys. During her senior year of high school, she watched her father litigate a murder trial.

riso-rachel“I really wanted to be a criminal prosecutor,” she says. “I never did it, but that’s what got me started in the legal profession.”

As a child, she put new pocket parts into the books in her father’s office library. Later, she helped with the filing. She saw her father balance a career as a part-time county attorney with a part-time civil law practice.

After graduating from the University of Northern Iowa with a B.A. in Communication, Riso earned her J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law. She was also a member of the National Moot Court Team in law school.

Family law, specifically divorce cases, was her entry point into the legal profession.

“I found out that I really disliked divorce work,” she says. “I had the opportunity to move to Springfield, Missouri, and be closer to my family. That’s when I got into insurance defense work.”

Today, Riso handles labor and employment law, employment litigation and insurance defense cases at EEHJ Attorneys at Law. She was a board member of the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers from 2014 to 2021. In her community, she serves on the executive board and board of directors with Safe and Sober Inc., an organization that helps children understand the dangers of drinking and drug use.

In summer 2021, Riso had the opportunity to try one of her cases in an in-person jury trial. Her client was 20 years old when the accident happened.

“At trial, she was very nervous,” she says. “I was able to reassure her and get her through it. We had a successful outcome, too. With insurance defense, I’m working with people instead of companies. They appreciate some hand-holding, and I like doing that for them. That’s what makes it worthwhile to be a lawyer.”

One of Riso’s most memorable cases involved a young woman forever changed by a motorcycle accident. She suffered head trauma and lost mental capacity. Her mother became her caretaker.

“Through the process of representing this client, I came to care for the entire family,” Riso says. “I led them through a five-year settlement process, which was truly rewarding.”

She says demonstrating role model behavior to younger attorneys is one way she tries to help improve the profession.

“My dad always stressed to me how hard it is to practice law,” she adds. “As attorneys, we get emotionally involved in our cases. I demonstrate to younger attorneys how to be professional, how I expect to be treated and how I treat others. That helps improve our profession overall.”

Women's Justice Awards 2021