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Danielle Patterson

Danielle Patterson

Associate attorney, Spiros Law | UI Law Alumni Professional Development Award winner | Class of 2008

The 2020 recipient of the College of Law’s Alumni Professional Development Award was still learning her A, B, Cs when she got her first taste of campus.

“My parents had me in high school and are both U of I alumni now, so I’ve been on campus since I was about three years old,” says Danielle Patterson, a Champaign native. “When I was just a preschooler, my mom would take me to The Cookie Jar, I’d get an iced sugar cookie, and we'd walk to the Quad and enjoy our snack. I knew U of I was a special place even when I was just 3 years old.

“My Dad went on to med school and I remember sitting in one of his classes. I’m too young to remember the professor, but I loved sitting in that class. I was also fascinated by the computer lab at the med school, because we, of course, didn’t have computers yet.”

There was really never any doubt where Patterson — who wound up with two UI degrees — would go for undergrad after earning her associate degree at Parkland.

“I couldn’t wait to apply and cried when I saw the word ‘accepted.’ I was lucky enough to live at Bromley Hall, where I met my best friends in life. Somehow, all three of us that lived in Room 317 14 years ago were pregnant together and had babies just months apart this year — what are the odds?

“While I was an undergrad, you could find me in the psychology building or at Espresso Royale,” says Patterson (BS ’08, psychology; JD ’11), who in April 2020 joined Spiros Law after eight-plus years at Decatur’s Heavner, Beyers & Mihlar .

“I loved the smell of Espresso and I loved having the turkey pesto sandwich and a peach tea for lunch in between classes. Over summer break, I loved going to Murphy’s on logo night for a beer and Irish nachos. I had quite the collections of glasses.

“When I graduated, I knew I wasn’t done with my time at U of I, so I applied to law school. I was accepted to the law school when my favorite place on campus became Insomnia cookies.

“While in law school, I was lucky enough to take a few courses with Professor Charles Tabb. Tabb made learning one of the most complicated types of law funny and manageable. I signed up for all of his classes that I could get into.

“I also signed up for all of Professor (Richard) Kaplan’s classes. His classes were very practical and I knew would help me practice in real life and understand how to best assist my clients. It didn’t hurt that he would sing in at least one class each semester.

“My last semester of law school, I was on a train in Paris, France and I read the news: Zorba’s had caught fire. I was in complete shock as Zorba’s was a lifelong family favorite. When Zorba’s re-opened, it was like Christmas for my whole family.

“I go back to campus for games or just to walk around as often as possible. It changes so much but it’s always home. I love to go back and help at the law school as much as possible, too.

“I can only hope my son gets to experience what it means to be an Illini.”