USC Gould School of Law Alumni Profiles

John Peterson

John Peterson '95

Attorney, Riley Warnock & Jacobson


USC contacts opened the door for every opportunity that I have had in my legal career.

Where do you work? What are you up to?

After founding the firm of Bate, Peterson, Deacon, Zinn & Young LLP over nine years ago, I recently left Los Angeles to become a partner at the firm of Bowen, Riley, Warnock & Jacobson, PLC in Nashville, TN.  Bowen Riley represents a number of large institutional clients on a nationwide basis and I have acted as local counsel in California for a number of their clients.  I will continue to do work for these clients in California in addition to representing them in other jurisdictions.  I will also continue to represent many of my long standing clients in California.  My previous firm is continuing and we maintain a very close relationship going forward.  In addition to this move presenting a good business opportunity, my wife Carole, who is also a USC Law School graduate, and I decided that Nashville would be a great place to raise our four year old son, Thomas, and our 18 month old daughter, Jenna. 

How has USC Law had an impact on your career?

USC contacts opened the door for every opportunity that I have had in my legal career from my first year summer associate position to having contacts with the people who would eventually become my partners.  Moreover, USC helped to uniquely equip me to know how to think like a successful advocate.  USC has an incredibly diverse student population that possess an even more diverse range of views on life and the law.  Despite this diversity, USC creates an atmosphere of respect and inclusion that welcomes constructive debate.  I can’t imagine what my practice would be like but for USC. 

What is your fondest memory of law school?

Meeting and marrying my wife! 

Which course was the most challenging for you (and why)?

I refuse to answer this question for fear that anyone that I do not list might be offended! 

What advice do you have for current students?

Don’t be afraid to explore ways to use your legal degree in unorthodox ways.  Boutique, smaller firms or special interest groups may provide unique opportunities that you could never imagine on your own.  Also look for opportunities early on that will provide you with the most hands on experience available.  While law school prepares you to think like a lawyer, it is difficult to replicate what your daily activities will actually be like in a law school setting.  There is nothing wrong with taking the traditional large firm path, however, many of the people that I know that have taken this path have often struggled to find a way to use their degree in a manner that they find rewarding.   Moreover, avoid debt as much as possible.  I know that this is easier said than done.  In fact, I got through my three years almost entirely on loans, however, income requirements can greatly limit your ability use your degree in a manner that you find most fulfilling.  More importantly,  income requirements can be one of the biggest impediments to your ability to balance your legal career with other life interests and priorities such as family. 

Why do you stay involved with the law school?

There is no real way to ever repay USC for what it has meant for me in my life or career.  Staying involved is just one small way of giving back.  Helping students and creating opportunities for them is selfishly rewarding.