I AM UAA Erica Cline Reading

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

B.B.A. Management and Marketing '01
Hometown: Anchorage, AK
Fun Fact: Loves her "crazy early" morning spin class

It has been just over a decade since Erica Cline was on UAA's campus, busily double majoring in management and marketing, double minoring in communication and justice and competing on a regular basis as a member of the Seawolf Debate Team. And that decade hasn't gone by without her thinking about her debating experience almost on a daily basis.

"I never would have gone to law school if it wasn't for debate," says the Anchorage native and Service High School grad. "I really attribute director Steve Johnson, Shawnalee Whitney and my team to where I am today."

I AM UAA Erica Cline ReadingWhere she is today is in Philadelphia, seven years into a successful career with an international law firm as a corporate defense lawyer. Her day-to-day schedule frequently consists of depositions, calls with clients from banks and other large companies, and counseling nationally known residential mortgage companies in connection with their efforts to respond to changes in the legal and regulatory landscape that has been caused by increased defaults and foreclosures over the past few years.

"When you work at a large firm defending companies, it's great intellectually, but what I really value is my pro bono work," she says. "One of my current clients is a one-year-old in foster care, and we're representing him to ensure that he is getting the care that he needs."

Originally thinking she would major in elementary education at UAA, Erica enjoys making children the focus of her pro bono work, which has also included education law supporting special education services for young students and immigration law helping kids abandoned by immigrant parents. She says she is thankful that her firm is really supportive.

And again, Erica goes back to her experience on the debate team to explain why she followed the path of a lawyer instead of an educator.

"Debate was great for learning to think on your feet and respond to stressful situations," she says. "It sounds geeky, but how to analyze and structure arguments fascinates me. I also loved following current economic and political events all over the world, as well as the performance aspect of debate."

Growing up an only child, Erica also found the debate program to be a great environment to forge friendships. "The bond between debate partners is hard to describe," she says. "We could finish each others' sentences."

Mainly she is referring to her debate partner, Quianna Clay, who was joined at the hip with Erica through their junior and senior years of college. Together they practiced for countless hours, briefed each other on issues and conducted research as a team-which paid off in many successes debating together on the national and international circuits.

"Quianna taught me that you can't take life too seriously," Erica says. "I consider myself a fairly serious person, but Quianna would always make sure I would relax and enjoy life. She had a great heart."

Quianna was tragically killed in a car accident shortly after both women were finishing their first years of law school. But Erica has never let go of that bond that grew between them. She founded and has been funding the Quianna Clay Debate Scholarship since 2008, awarding $1,000 to a Seawolf debater each year.

Memories of these past friendships and growing up in Alaska have never failed Erica. She also remembers fondly working behind the counter at her family-run service station downtown, Cline's Tesoro (still there on 4th and Gambell; her dad always reminding her that he was her first official boss). And since her parents are still in Anchorage, along with an aunt she considers a sister, Erica visits her hometown at least once a year. Recently married, she jokes that she needs to get her husband up here in the summer so he can really understand the beauty of Alaska (he has been there twice, both in the winter in freezing temperatures).

In the meantime, she loves the way of life and culture of Philadelphia, as well as her job and the firm she works for. And as Quianna's legacy lives on through the debate scholarship at UAA, so does Erica's-in every student's life that that scholarship touches. So it's sort of like she never left.

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