Veteran Daniel Briggs (’19) prepared for next step after graduating
By: James Grega
Less than a decade ago, Daniel Briggs ’19 was stationed in Afghanistan as an active member of the U.S. Marine Corps. Now, Briggs is a graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, after a law school career dedicated, in part, to helping veterans.
As a freshman majoring in engineering at the University of Akron in 2008, Briggs found himself drawn to the military because of a friend who had enlisted out of high school.
“You don’t know what you don’t know when you sign up for it. That was pretty much the tale of the tape for everyone,” Briggs said. “I signed up for the infantry and everyone said, ‘do you really know what that looks like?’ We found out together.”
Briggs was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina before serving two stints in Afghanistan as a rifleman. When he finished his service in 2012, his career interests had changed from engineering to criminal justice.
“I got out [of the military] in 2012, and I certainly didn’t remember calculus or anything like that. I had a different vision for what I wanted to do,” he said. “I was looking at the criminal justice system. A lot of [military] guys [go into a] career in law enforcement or specialties like forensic accounting.”
Briggs completed his undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, graduating in 2015 with a degree in criminology and sociology and a minor in political science. A career in federal law enforcement initially caught his eye, but because the job process is often long and tedious, he decided law school would be his best option to set himself up for future success.
Originally from the Kent-Ravenna, Ohio area and having spent some time on Ohio State’s campus when visiting friends on military leave, Briggs was already familiar with what an Ohio State education could offer. When he researched Moritz, he realized there was not only an opportunity to earn a law degree, but a chance to contribute to the military community as well. Veterans who return home often struggle adjusting to life back in the states after their service, he said, and Moritz provides students with opportunities to help.
The Captain Jonathan D. Grassbaugh Veterans Project was founded in 2013 by Jenna C. Grassbaugh (’14) in honor of her late husband, a veteran who was killed in 2007 by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Through the program, students aid veterans and their families in need of legal assistance, primarily surrounding housing issues like evictions or foreclosure, or consumer issues like credit agency disputes.
“I saw the Grassbaugh Veterans Project as a way to give back,” Briggs said. “I had gone to school for free for so long and saw my friends go through some similar stuff that veterans around here deal with. They come back home, and there is not a great transition process for them.
You see 22-, 23-year-old guys dealing with substantial legal issues or getting themselves in trouble,” he added. “The Grassbaugh Veterans Project is how I stay connected, because I was lucky enough to end up where I did, wanting to help out if I was ever in a position to.”
After more than 10 years of military service, undergrad and law school, Briggs is preparing to enter the workforce with a completely different career path than he initially thought he would travel. At Moritz, Briggs found himself attracted to the idea of transactional law, and has a job lined up at Dickinson-Wright PLLC in Columbus, where he worked as a summer associate last May.
“As much as I respected the role of law and order and the importance of an orderly society, I didn’t really like the adversarial nature of trial court work or litigation,” he said. “I took transactional practice with Professor Todd Starker, and [I learned] that at the end of the deal, both parties can be kind of happy. You come together and create value for everyone.”
As he prepares to start his legal career, Briggs is also gearing up to become a dad. He and his girlfriend Samantha Baldwin are expecting a baby girl in June, just before he takes the bar exam. Between studying for the bar and buying a house in Columbus, Briggs said he hasn’t had a lot of time to reflect on his journey, but hopes that before he starts his new job in September, he will have some time to take a breath and appreciate how far he has come.
“I think after I finish up finals, I might take a day or two and just take it all in and reset for the bar exam,” he said. “It went by fast.”