Elizabeth Risner is more than a defense attorney. She is a passionate advocate for juveniles in Williamson County, who, in her eyes, have had a few bumps in the road of life. Elizabeth will not allow her clients to believe that the missteps of their youth will define their future. Welcome, Elizabeth, today’s FACES feature!
Tell us about your journey to Williamson County.
Our family moved to the area in 2002 after my husband was offered a position at Vanderbilt University. We left in 2004 and returned in 2009 so he could pursue a job opportunity in the health care field.
When did you feel the calling to work in the juvenile system?
Prior to moving to Tennessee, I was an Assistant District Attorney in Butler County, OH, and I worked in the Juvenile Court. A few years ago, I was encouraged by a fellow attorney to take an appointment to provide criminal defense for a juvenile in Williamson County. I soon realized I was passionate about juvenile criminal defense and wanted to dedicate my working time to these kids.
How has advocating for these kids impacted you personally?
It gives me great personal satisfaction when I see a juvenile making positive changes and to know I had an impact. I worry a lot about my clients that do not graduate high school or receive their GED. Without a high school diploma or GED, their future is so limited. Even if they “messed up” as a juvenile, earning a high school diploma or GED can open more doors to adult careers.
I think it is important, if not necessary, for my clients to hear that I believe they can be so much more than “juvenile delinquent.” Many feel they have been labeled as “bad” by their school, peers and sometimes parents. If they have, in fact, made some bad decisions, I am hopeful it is just a bump in the road on an otherwise happy path to a successful adult life.
Most people may not know how strong the support system for juveniles is in Williamson County. Can you tell us what makes our system so strong?
We have so many people in Williamson County looking out for our kids! From Judge Sharon Guffee, to our magistrates, youth services officers, DCS workers, court-appointed special advocates (CASAs) and the attorneys, I believe all have the best interest of the children in mind and hope each child will go on to live a successful adult life.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years? I don’t know?!? Twenty years? Some warm beach hanging out with my husband, Bryan.
Who has been a mentor for you?
I have never had a mentor, [which is] probably why I make so many mistakes! I do, however, have a lot of great friends in my church, profession and life that I can talk to about any challenge I am facing. If there is one person I look up to, it would be my husband, Bryan. Since I met him over 20 years ago, he has always been a Godly man, honest and hardworking, and a lot of patience with my more passionate nature!
After a particularly hard day, how do you unwind?
Ha ha! I am a mother, too, so when is there time to unwind? After a hard day, I pick up my children from school, take them to whatever lessons/practices/etc., hope dinner magically appears on our kitchen table so I don’t feed them at a fast-food restaurant … again!
Once my children are in bed and I finish up any legal work, I may read a book before I pray. I get to meet many children and families that are at their lowest point. I pray for all my clients, their families and that God directs me in how best to serve them. This can give me some peace after a particularly hard/sad day.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given over the years?
Best piece of advice? Be prepared.
If you were not an attorney what would you be doing?
I don’t know what I would be doing if I were not an attorney. I have pondered that question over the years, but have never come to a definite answer!
What are a few of your family’s favorite things to do in Franklin?
When we have free time from work and kids’ activities, we go to the parks, eat out with friends at the many restaurants, farmers market on Saturday mornings, etc.
What books are currently found on your nightstand or e-reader?
What is a recent favorite meal you have had in Franklin, or do you have a favorite restaurant?
Peter’s Sushi is a favorite.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
Travel, books and my new reading glasses!
Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing a bit of your world with our readers today.
Photography: Heather Sisemore Photography