The U.S. Senate’s New Lawyer

“So far, so good,” says Patricia Bryan ’80 of her job as legal counsel to the U.S. Senate, a position she has held since June 1. “In many ways, this job is an easy fit given what I’ve done in the past. Some of the issues are the same and some are the flip side of the issues I worked on in the executive branch.”

Bryan entered public service 16 years ago during the Reagan administration, when she served first in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, then as Reagan’s associate counsel three and a half years later. During President Bush’s term of office, she moved back to the Justice Department as deputy assistant attorney general.

“I was pregnant with my second child when I lost my job [at the start of the Clinton administration],” she says. “It was fortuity. I don’t know whether I would have made the decision to stay home with my children otherwise.”

Was she concerned about reestablishing herself professionally after taking time off? “I was very worried about it. There’s a lot more upheaval in your life when you’re switching back and forth. The greatest challenge now is to achieve a balance. Right now, the going to work part is not as hard as the coming home part.”

Bryan has three children whose care she juggles with her position as the Senate’s first female counsel, but she credits a crack legal team, including veteran deputy counsel Morgan Frankel, with helping her to keep all the balls in the air. Although she says she doesn’t expect any major separation of powers issues to arise in the near future, she adds, “From my own parochial standpoint, it would be exciting.”

Asked if she wishes she had occupied her present position a year ago, Bryan replies, “I think I’m happy to have missed that.”