Lily Soper

(UM News Service) As a little girl, Skyler Anderson knew her strengths: She liked sports and business. And the grown-ups were always telling her to become a lawyer.

“It turns out that just means I argued with them,” Anderson joked, but she took the advice to heart regardless.

As her peers dreamt of being rockstars and astronauts, Anderson’s answer was slightly more pragmatic: criminal defense attorney. Maybe she would dabble in some business ventures on the side – perhaps real estate, like her mom.

“I always loved going to work with her,” said Anderson. “I realized pretty young that I liked negotiating.”

Her journey led her to the University of Montana, with law school remaining her final destination. She will graduate from UM’s Alexander Blewett III School of Law with the rest of her class on Saturday May 18.

Anderson detoured during her UM undergraduate studies to intern with Nike Inc. An obvious choice, having grown up playing basketball, tennis and volleyball.

Equipped with her UM bachelor’s degree in marketing and Nike internship, which evolved into a career post-graduation, Anderson ultimately took a job with the Utah Jazz as marketing director.

She loved Salt Lake City and the work, primarily negotiating brand deals and sponsorships. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We didn't know if the NBA would even exist again,” she said.

Back in Montana and working remotely, Anderson used the period of uncertainty as a sign to reorient to her original goal and began applying for law school.

“A real priority for me was finding one with a dual (law and Master of Business Administration) program I could do in the same amount of time,” Anderson said. “A lot of schools let you do it in four years, but I wanted a school that could do it three.”

Anderson ultimately chose to attend UM’s law school, entering in fall 2021.

“We were the first in-person class after COVID,” Anderson said. “A lot of tradition and school culture got kind of buried. I’ve always been an involved person. If I’m not doing a million things at once, I’m bored. So I got really involved in bringing those traditions back.”

And she did. As the Student Bar Association business manager during her second year, she helped bring back the annual Smoker, an event loosely styled after “Saturday Night Live,” in which the students perform skits and roast their cohorts and professors alike.

The following year, as SBA president, Anderson continues to strive towards comradery amongst her class, fostering a safe and fun environment for her cohorts as they navigate earning their juris doctor.

“That’s been the main pillar for me: focusing on my class’s experience,” she said. “Our (first) year was tough, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t bounce back.”

Anderson hopes that moving forward the law school will continue fostering its community through events like the Smoker and annual Barristers Ball after she graduates from law school on Saturday, May 18.

As for what’s next? Baby Skyler already told you.

“I’m going to be a criminal defense attorney,” Anderson said.

She has accepted a job at Holloway and Hulling. Formed in 2023, Holloway and Hulling is a new firm in Missoula focused on criminal defense and personal injury litigation.

“Getting in on the ground floor with a firm – one I think will be really successful and grow – is important to me,” she said.

Criminal defense attorney and NBA marketing executive may not sound like similar careers, but Anderson sees the parallels.

“I like the competitive nature. After being an athlete and then going straight into sports marketing, I was around athletes and competition all the time,” she said. “I was kind of nervous to leave, like how am I going to feed that competitive edge of my life? And I think litigation is the perfect way to do it.

“Somebody wins, somebody loses,” she continued. “All you can do is work really, really hard and go compete.”

Equipped with both her JD and MBA, Anderson looks forward to a workplace where she can hit the ground running.

“It’s kind of funny,” she said, “now I get to do just what I said I would as a little girl.”