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Be the Reason: Meet Jaylen Riley

Saint Louis University School of Law Student

Jaylen Riley studies at a table with books in front of him

Jaylen Riley

Clients in Saint Louis University School of Law’s Civil Advocacy Clinic are often traumatized, incarcerated and away from their families. Seeing a lawyer who may look like them enter the room makes a difference, said Jaylen Riley, current law student and president of the SLU Black Law Students' Association.

But that would not be possible without financial assistance that increases access to higher education.

“When I think about scholarships and bridging that gap, I think about having more black attorneys, having more women attorneys, having more LGBTQA+ attorneys,” he said. “All of those things are important for the future of our profession, the future of our community, and definitely the future of this country. Our clients need people who look like us. It helps them to open up, which is incredibly important to be able to zealously defend them and to be advocates for them.”

Staying Local to St. Louis

Born and raised in St. Louis, Riley knew he wanted to give back to the region. After graduating from the University of Missouri with his undergraduate degree, he chose SLU LAW for that reason and because of the scholarship package he received. The Dean’s Scholar Award assists with half the cost of Riley’s tuition. 

In addition to being active with the Civil Advocacy Clinic and president of the Black Law Students' Association, Riley is a staff member of the Saint Louis University Law Journal and has completed a summer associate program at Lewis Rice, LLC. He said that sort of student involvement would not be possible if he needed to spend more time working to offset the cost of his education. 

Scholarships and Social Awareness

In 2024, Riley received the SLU Law Leadership Award, recognizing his involvement outside of the classroom. At Lewis Rice, where he plans to return this summer, he spent five weeks in litigation and time in the transactional and separate departments. That experience, along with the different courses he’s taken at SLU LAW, opened Riley’s eyes to all that can be done with a Juris Doctor degree.  

Scholarships also allow students to consider internships and careers in law focused on criminal or civil rights work, which often do not pay as much as other positions, he said. 

That’s important to Riley, who is dedicated to service and becoming a socially aware attorney.

At the Civil Advocacy Clinic, he has worked on prison litigation and helping the underserved at no cost to clients. The experience allows him to appear before the court under a supervisor and guarantees him a spot in a clinic or an externship.

“Saint Louis University is incredibly involved in our community, and that's something that I definitely appreciate,” he said. “Our professors are giving back to the community. Our donors are in the community. I don't think I would have gotten that experience elsewhere.”

 You can be the reason Saint Louis University students like Jaylen Riley are able to access a transformative education. Make your gift today.