Riverside Deputy City Attorney Encourages Others to Pursue Their Dreams

Brandon Mercer had always dreamed of being a lawyer, but like many people fresh out of college, he graduated wanting to make some money before continuing his studies.

Law school would wait. His degree in political science and a minor in history from Rutgers University quickly landed him a job – in retail. Promotions and the dangling carrot of a district manager position kept him there.

Successful but not satisfied in his work, Mercer kept thinking back to key people who had helped to shape the dream he was delaying as a retail manager.

New Jersey State Senator John O. Bennett III was one of them. Mercer interned for him back in community college, and again while at Rutgers. Bennett was not only a politician, he was a partner at the law firm of Dilworth and Paxton, a member of the Judiciary Committee, and a caring individual whose familiarity with law enabled him to better serve his constituents.

“Senator Bennett was the key influence on me wanting to be an attorney and going to law school,” Mercer said. Bennett and his office staff often pushed him to stay focused on his goal and to go to law school.

At 32, Mercer – married and with two children – packed up his family and moved west from New York to California to study at the University of La Verne College of Law, where he graduated cum laude.

Today, Mercer is a deputy city attorney with the City of Riverside, where he handles litigation, tries cases in court, and oversees the drafting of ordinances. He’s also an adjunct professor at La Verne Law and a member of its alumni board.

Mercer attributes hard work and dedication to his success, but he’s quick to point out that seizing opportunity was a key factor as well. Internships, externships, and work on the University of La Verne Law Review gave him vital experience and connections he needed to move forward. He interned at the Office of the City Attorney as a second-year law student at La Verne Law, and ended up working there as a third-year student. His experience early on in the courtroom helped him to realize his passion for arguing cases before a judge.

“It’s the same type of feeling that you get playing sports,” he explained. “Your adrenaline gets up. It’s win, lose or draw.”

There are plenty of opportunities for La Verne Law students if they choose to take them, Mercer said. La Verne Law alumni work in law firms and government offices throughout inland Southern California, creating a tightly knit community.

“La Verne has quite an influence here,” Mercer said. “It’s a major part of our region’s professional network.”