As a practicing attorney at Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville, Craig Silva has built one of the most impressive careers the firm has ever seen. He has had his share of highs, lows, trials, and tribulations. Through it all, he maintained a sardonic, self-deprecating attitude, but those who know him know how exceptional he really is, both as an attorney and as a human being. This became even more evident recently when Silva made a significant contribution to his alma mater, Casper College.
But before his journey could lead back to Casper College, it had to begin there.
Silva said that, in his younger and more vulnerable years, he was a bit of a wild child but he began to get his act together once he got to college. In doing so, with a little bit of luck, a little bit of skill, and a big impression on a teacher, he was able to become a President’s Honor Scholar.
While Silva was a student at CC, he was studying to become a teacher. During a Psychology class that he was taking, a law professor came in to give a presentation. That man’s name was Russ Rauchfuss and he would later play an integral role in the humble beginnings of Silva’s law career. After a particularly auspicious conversation during the class, Rauchfuss actually ended up offering Silva a job.
Silva said that opportunity reinforced his newly acquired love of the law and, even though his title was more or less a ‘gopher’ at Beech Street Law Offices, he did a lot, and he learned a lot. From coffee making, to copy machine fixing, to writing injunctions and securing documents from courthouses, Silva said he “learned everything about how to run the office, from the ground up.” That skill would come in handy in the future but, first, there was that pesky issue of completing law school. Luckily, the lawyers at Beech Street wrote him a letter of recommendation, and he was accepted into the University of Wyoming Law School shortly thereafter.
Most lawyers strive to have a job in the world of law after their first year of law school, whether it’s as a paralegal, a gopher, or a clerk. Silva said that during the summer after his first year of law school, he was walking around Casper, clad only in jeans and a t-shirt, looking for a job. He walked into attorney Tom Sedar’s law office and, after a less than thorough HR process, he was hired.
The problem was, he wasn’t actually going to be making a whole lot of money; a fact that did not sit well with his soon-to-be wife.
“I said, ‘Hey, I got this job. I’m making $500 and I get a percentage of what I make for the firm.’ I thought I had three magic beans, like Jack and the Beanstalk. And then she looked at me and said, ‘That doesn’t even cover the house payment.’ So, while I worked for Tom Sedar, I also worked nights at Arby’s, so that we could make the house payment.”
Silva was paying his dues, both at the law office and at Arby’s. Remember that part; it’s important later.
Silva graduated and passed the bar exam in 1996. Those two accolades would have been big life shifts in and of themselves, but the biggest moment came that same year, with the birth of his first child.
Fresh out of law school, and now with a family to feed, Silva needed a job. He was hired by Judge Ryckman in the Third Judicial District as a judicial law clerk, where he worked for about a year. Following that, he began working for WPDN.
“When I worked at Arby’s, we had a mission statement,” he said. “The mission statement was this: ‘We provide fast, friendly, accurate service. We service only high quality, appetizing, wholesome food and we maintain a clean, comfortable, pleasant restaurant.’ Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville provide good service for all the people of Wyoming. We provide good service at a fair price.”
That’s been the mission statement of WPDN since it was first conceived, almost 70 years ago. The fact that it bears such a stark resemblance to the mission statement of Craig Silva’s previous job just goes to show how interconnected the events of his life are with each other. And one aspect that has played a continual role in Silva’s life is that of the underdog. He’s fought for them, and he’s been one himself. That is why he enjoys working on the defense side of the law. He believes in the underdog.
“My favorite part of the job?” Silva considered. “My favorite part of the job is that when people come to you with a legal problem, they’re usually in the darkest part of the night, the darkest part of their lives. And so my job, as an attorney, is to help them find the dawn. Even in the worst of circumstances, you can find some light there to help them get through the horrible part. Now, the problem is that most of those people don’t have any money and most of the time they can’t afford you. So what Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville does is allow me to be able to help those people and still make a living.”
Craig Silva, above all, has an incredible work ethic. He may strike some as arrogant, but those people don’t know that he worked weekends at Arby’s to put his daughter through school. Or that he worked nights at Coca-Cola to pay for medical bills that may never even have come up. He worked hard to ensure a good life, not just for himself, but for his family.
The experience was a humbling one, but it served as a stark reminder. Silva knew he couldn’t fix every situation that he came across, but he wanted to do something as a way to give back and, more importantly, as a way to give other kids a chance, an opportunity. Like the one that he got, all those years ago. So he created the Craig Silva Family Scholarship for students of Casper College. He did this “solely to give other students the same opportunities that mine had.”
In addition to the scholarship, Silva also gave his time to Casper College. He is a former adjunct professor at CC, teaching courses on Real Estate Law, Employment Law, and Evidence. He was also one of the founders of the Legal Aid Clinic at Casper College, which has been recognized both locally and nationally. He won the State Bar Pro Bono award in 2009, as well.
When speaking of these accomplishments, Silva isn’t boasting. His acknowledgment of the scholarship in his name and the work that he has done for Casper College is less about the accolade, and more about proving a point that with hard work, determination, and, yes, a lot of help from others, one truly can rise through the ranks.
Silva’s own rise includes many highlights. He served as the Assistant District Attorney for the Seventh Judicial District. He authored “Dealing with the Recanting Domestic Violence Victims,” published in Findings of Facts, from February 2004. He is also a past and current member of the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association and the Defense Lawyers Association of Wyoming, as well as a current member of the Natrona County Bar Association. He was even a Municipal Judge for the town of Evansville.
And then, of course, there is Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville.
Silva has been working for WPDN for more than 20 years. He’s tried some incredible cases and impacted, for the better, many peoples’ lives. Somebody with his experience could have probably gotten a job anywhere in the world, but he has stayed with WPDN because they represent the same values, the same mission, the same story that he tries to represent himself.
“WPDN believes that we give more than we get because we think, in the end, we’ll get more than we gave.”
That has kind of been the motto for Craig Silva’s life. Every time he was given something, he tried to give something even greater back. That mindset has led him down a number of paths, all of which have contributed to the man he is today. Craig Silva has led an interesting life. He’s been a lawyer by day and a line cook by night. He’s had happily-ever-afters and hopefully-never-wills-again. Through it all, the story of Craig Silva’s life has played host to a number of characters, experiences, and life lessons that he will never forget.