Billings attorney says Montana Tech paved the way for successful career in law


When Brianne McClafferty (Business & Information Tech-Management option, ’12) went to sign up for classes at Montana Technological University the summer before her freshman year she called her dad in a panic.

“I told him ‘I can’t go to college,’” McClafferty said.  “The people I went to sign up for classes with are way smarter than me. I’m in trouble. I can’t do this.”

McClafferty’s dad reminded her that as a child she thought she couldn’t ride a bike, but she learned. The point was well taken.

Brianne McClafferty went on to graduate with the highest GPA of Montana Tech’s Class of 2012, and has since graduated from the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana. She was recently named partner at Holland & Hart, a full-service law firm with 13 offices across eight states and Washington, D.C., and she serves as the Administrative Partner for the firm’s Billings office.

“I am huge fan of Montana Tech and if anybody asks me where they should go to school, I tell them to go to Montana Tech,” McClafferty said. “The University instilled in me a confidence that if I was willing to have an open mind and do hard work, then I could be successful in any new setting, in doing something new.”

McClafferty is a Butte native with strong ties to Montana Tech. Her father Joseph McClafferty served as Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Engagement and CEO of Montana Technological University Foundation. As college approached, Brianne also valued staying close to home, where she then had younger siblings still at home.

“I didn’t really want to leave home,” McClafferty said. “Tech was kind of an obvious choice. I did not think I wanted to be a lawyer when I enrolled at Tech. I thought I wanted to be a college basketball coach.”

As time went on McClafferty decided it might not be the best career choice to put her future in the hands of the performance of 19-year-old athletes. She was serving at the annual Digger Auction when a table of attorneys convinced her that law school might be a good fit.

“I decided I ought to take the LSAT because it was the last one available,” McClafferty said. “I applied to the University of Montana because I knew I wanted to stay in Montana. And I loved law school. I felt like I had a ton of time because I wasn’t a student athlete.”

McClafferty also had the chance to talk with others about their undergraduate experiences, and learned that Montana Tech’s small class sizes were something special.

“When I talk to other people about their college experiences, I don’t think that they had the relationship I had with my college professors where they were so willing to help me succeed,” McClafferty said.

She recommends all students develop a good relationship with their professors. She also encourages students to partake in activities outside of class that will help them build skills for the future.

“I played basketball at the same time I was going to school,” McClafferty said. “It taught me to be disciplined. It taught me to compete everyday, whether I was in practice or in a game. That carried over into law school where a lot of it is showing up every day and doing the work.”

McClafferty clerked for Chief United States District Judge Brian Morris of the United States District Court for the District of Montana before heading off to work for her current firm.

She says prospective law students can learn a lot by interning at a law firm and exposing themselves to as many lawyers as possible.

“Something that I didn’t know going into a legal profession is that there are different types of attorneys,” McClafferty said. “There are pros and cons of different types of practices. You want to pick one that fits you and your lifestyle.”

McClafferty feels that she found the perfect fit for her.

“I think this is the right spot for me,” McClafferty said. “It fits my personality well.”