2020 – Ryan Chavez (JD ’09)
Ryan Chavez earned his JD, magna cum laude, from Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law in 2009 and his BA with honors and distinction from Stanford University in 1998. Prior to Chapman, Ryan served in various financial roles at the General Electric, and upon graduation from law school, he worked at the law firms of Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth (commonly referred to as Stradling) and Rutan & Tucker. Ryan then leveraged his legal and finance background by going in-house and serving as associate general counsel at biopharmaceutical company Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
In 2014, Questcor was sold to Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, and Ryan became vice president and general counsel of Mallinckrodt’s Autoimmune and Rare Diseases Division. In 2016, Ryan joined Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc., a company focused on developing cell therapies to treat neurological conditions and diseases, and he became its chief financial officer and general counsel. Asterias was acquired in 2019, and Ryan decided to dedicate the next couple of years to his family, including his wife, whom he met at Chapman, and his two children. Ryan is currently the chief financial officer of Dark Horse Consulting Group, Inc., and an adjunct professor at the Fowler School of Law, where he teaches a course on contract drafting and negotiations.
Q&A with Ryan D. Chavez
We asked this year’s winners about their experiences at Chapman and what advice they have for current students.
Who was the most influential person for you at Chapman? Why?
It is hard to pin down one person. Individuals like Professors Noyes, McConville and Ripken made my student experience a really positive one. Professor Tom Campbell was instrumental in getting me my first in-house role which later helped springboard my career. I also met my wife at Chapman so she may ultimately take the prize on this one.
If you could go back and experience one moment from your time at Chapman, what would it be? Is there anything that you would do differently?
I tried to make my law school experience one of focused learning but also a balanced lifestyle. This was a lesson learned from my undergraduate experience. If I had to say one thing (I loved my Chapman experience so it is full of good memories) I really enjoyed my Ninth Circuit externship and I should have tried to do more of that type of work while at law school.
What were the most challenging social issues in our country/world that you faced as a young college student? What was your perspective or how did you get involved? Have your opinions on these issues changed or stayed the same? Give an example…
There is always something to worry about but nothing stuck out to me while a student at Chapman. It is different today, not the issues but the intensity level and degree of partisanship. It is nothing I have never experienced in my life. For me, I work really hard to talk with my kids about what is going on today because I want them to be as informed as possible. I try to genuinely understand both sides of an issue even though I have my biases. Unfortunately, reasoned and balanced views are not the norm right now.
What do you wish you knew at the time of your graduation (about life, careers, family, best place for tacos, etc.) that you know now? What advice can you give to the students and/or recent graduates of today?
You can always make changes with your career but you are better off if you have an idea early on of where you want to go with your life. My advice to students is to proactively work on understanding yourself and what you want to do with your life and career.
How did Chapman prepare you for your career? How did your experience prepare you for the real world?
The biggest advantage for me was coming from a family of entrepreneurs who never went to college. I wanted to be the first in my family to go to college and I wanted to reduce what I perceived as my family’s knowledge gaps in business. My entire working life has been spent trying to become a person who was well versed in multiple disciplines — sales, finance, operations and finally the law. Chapman helped me have that final piece and it gave me an opportunity to enter business discussions at the executive level as a lawyer. My multi-disciplinary background helped me to leverage those discussions and create a career as an executive and a businessperson.