Education Lawyer Dave Garner (‘00) on Connections and Relationships in the Legal World 

By Ashleigh Wilson December 21, 2022

Finding genuine connections and forming lasting relationships have always been part of Dave Garner’s (‘00) passion and success. 

Even before Law School, Dave was connected to education. With an elementary school teacher as a mother and a seminary/institute teacher as a father, Dave grew up in a home where education was valued and celebrated. After graduating from BYU, Dave taught English at two Arizona high schools before returning to BYU for law school. This foundation and passion for education and the academic world carried on with him after graduating cum laude from BYU Law. 

After 15 years of practice at a regional firm, where he sprinkled in school law among his commercial litigation cases, Dave joined his current firm, Osborn Maledon, in 2017 to have the opportunity to practice school law full time. Dave enjoys this practice because he works in “nearly every area of law you can imagine, just applied to a school context.” The diverse practice comes along with a lot of crisis management, but there’s also “a lot of fun and both personal and professional satisfaction.” He knows each day he works he is truly making a difference in the world and in the lives of those with whom he works. Dave’s passion and dedication were recently recognized, as he was named Best Lawyers’ 2023 Lawyer of the Year for his outstanding work in education law. 

Looking back on his law school experience, Dave laughed as he remembered falling asleep every single day in his tax class. He is quick to clarify that it wasn’t due to the quality of the teaching, it’s just that the class was right after lunch and, let’s be honest, the tax code can be pretty effective in inducing drowsiness. He also reminisced about his first law school exam–contracts, which began with the assignment to read and analyze three cases before even getting to the questions. One hour into the three-hour exam, Dave began to panic as he realized that he had not even written a single word yet. But then, he looked around the room and realized, “If I’m struggling, everyone else probably is too.” He ended up doing just fine.

This sense of a common struggle to reach a common goal is what Dave said distinguishes BYU Law from other law schools. “While there was a healthy sense of competition among law students, there was an even stronger sense of collaboration and support,” he said. Classmates were truly colleagues. This unique environment at BYU Law makes the law school “more than just an educational institution, but more important, a place where a commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ” permeates the campus, as students support and sustain one another. This connection with fellow law students did not end for Dave after graduation; he was presented with more opportunities to become connected professionally rather than simply academically with his fellow alumni. 

Dave has worked directly with former classmates on several cases and has received referrals from them. He mentioned that working together on a personal level first, really knowing and understanding his classmates and friends, was the key to creating professional opportunities stemming from theirBYU  Law connection. Dave encourages law students and lawyers alike to avoid getting so wrapped up in textbooks and cases that they “miss the opportunity to develop relationships” along the way. 

Dave also attributes much of his success to the relationship he has with his family. Dave and his wife, Kristine, met in a BYU singles ward after their missions and have been married for 30 years. They have five children, all of whom have pursued higher education at BYU. One of Dave and Kristine’s daughters, Paige Garner (‘21), is also a BYU Law alum, who now works in the Utah County Public Defender's Office. His family identity revolves around hiking, backpacking, rock climbing/rappelling, and getting outdoors whenever they can. One of their favorite adventures is the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike, which they do in one day, every year. They love to travel and to see amazing sights in nature, as well as hiking close to home in Utah and Arizona. Dave posts his favorite hiking photos and reels on Instagram @azhikingfotos. Staying connected to nature provides both mental therapy and a physical outlet from his “desk job” and keeps Dave grounded and able to continue working to make a difference in the world of education law.

As an active member of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society (and currently president-elect on the Society’s International Board), the relationships that Dave created in law school have continued to grow as he works with “like minded individuals who believe that their faith should play an important and guiding role in their practice of law.” He encourages lawyers and law students from all faith-based traditions to consider involvement in the JRCLS as an open door for service and collaboration on matters where faith and the law intersect. As a busy lawyer himself, Dave encourages faith-filled colleagues not to shut the door on the [J. Reuben Clark Law] Society because they are too busy. “Invest what you can, when you can, and you will always see a good return on your investment. Whether your contribution is small or large, just give it. It will be received and appreciated, and you will see dividends in your own life and practice for doing so.” 

As evidenced by his dedicated involvement in education law and in the wider legal community, Dave’s connections and sustained relationships are an essential part of his success and conduits that have amplified his personal desires to be good and to do much good in the world.