When Theresa Bryans told her father she wanted to study abroad during college, he laughed and told her to join the Army. But the joke, as it turned out, was on her father when Theresa found herself standing in formation at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama a few years later. She was a 27-year-old Air Force Officer who had recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Law – and now the United States Air Force’s Commissioned Officer Training class. Her mother and father were in the audience proudly supporting her, of course.
When Theresa was considering what branch of the military service to join, Theresa preferred the strengths and the mission of the Air Force. The Air Force’s cyber and space capabilities, as well as, ongoing commitment to air superiority were a primary deciding factor. “Cool mission equals cool legal work,” Theresa added. And that’s how she ended up in the JAG Corps.
It was trial by fire for a new JAG officer like Theresa. “My client was the United States Air Force,” Theresa said with a hand gesture to put it all in perspective. Occasionally, when Theresa talks, her hands move as if she is physically placing her ideas in front of you from a deck of cards. Each thought is carefully laid out and neatly presented. You can almost see the conversation strewn across the table.
“It was intense because I was working with clients who were military commanders,” Theresa said. This was unique for a brand new attorney. Theresa’s first clients were experts in their fields and very busy, with enormous responsibility – both over their troops and mission.
Theresa’s JAG duties varied from anything within the scope of the Air Force’s massive federal reach, so go ahead and use your imagination. She could find herself as a prosecutor enforcing the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) one day and a researcher analyzing an environmental issue the next. And if the moment ever came when she got even just a little comfortable, Uncle Sam would move her somewhere new just to keep her on her toes.
“It makes you more versatile,” she said with a smile. She’ll never admit the military gave her an advantage over her civilian legal peers. She’s too modest for that. She just politely acknowledges that her service could have indirectly allotted some unique skill sets, but goes on to say that any job can do that for anyone.
Theresa knew from her high school days at McAuley in College Hill that she wanted to be in a position of leadership. “I wanted to be someone who had to make decisions,” she said. Leadership positions, especially in the military, require a strong dedication to teamwork. Perhaps this is where her guarded modesty comes into play - it keeps her in the trenches with her troops, so to speak.
“I do think it was valuable to have learned how the federal government and our military services work,” Theresa admitted. “There is a language and organizational structure unique to operating in these environments, and having that experience will always be useful.” Who better to help a client navigate through the red tape of a federal bureaucracy than someone who’s already been through it.
Theresa’s face lit up when she talked about her undergraduate years at Ohio State. This was before law school and way before the military. She was most proud of her work for Ohio Staters, Inc. (OSI), an organization tasked with making campus life better for students while preserving the history and tradition of the university. During her senior year, she was the vice president of the organization and helped complete a widely successful suicide awareness program.
“I made a lot of connections through OSI. It attracted the kind of people who went on to be in the Peace Corps, military, public health, or creating public policy of some kind. We were generally the kind of people interested in leaving something better than we found it.”
It should be no surprise that Theresa gravitates toward institutions steeped in tradition like OSU, The United States Air Force, and now Graydon. Her sense of duty and service compels her to keep traditions intact, making her a perfect fit where everyone benefits in the end.
Theresa practices in the area of real estate law and is a member of the firm’s Commercial Real Estate practice group. She primarily assists clients with office and retail leases, commercial acquisitions and dispositions, and any issue that might arise related to the use of commercial real estate.
Prior to joining Graydon, Theresa served as an active duty officer with the United States Air Force’s Judge Advocate General Corps. In this role, she served as a prosecuting attorney against crimes committed by service members, as well as, a general counsel to the military base commanders and supporting agencies. She was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. She currently serves as a member of the Air Force Reserve Command and is assigned to Joint Base Andrews.
After completing her undergraduate studies at Ohio State, Theresa traveled the country as a brand ambassador and spokesperson for the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. She then returned to her hometown of Cincinnati to attend law school.
Theresa currently lives with her husband Peter in Terrace Park.