“It was always my expectation to be an attorney, but I found I enjoyed doing public relations work at the Small Business Administration and for my own small firm. Still, I wanted the security of having my law degree. My father worked for the Insurance Company of North America for 27 years and was laid off when I was about 11. For more than a year, he drove a cab, tended bar, and worked in a deli. It made me realize that the only real security you have is yourself and your own abilities. The law offered me that,” says Brian Tierney ’87.
In the late 1970s, Tierney had accepted a position with the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C. after earning his degree in political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He studied law at night, but following the birth of his first son, he and his family decided to return to the Philadelphia area.
“I transferred to Widener Law in the spring of ’83. My brother Kevin had gone to Widener Law and loved it, so I attended night classes while working at my new job at the Small Business Administration,” he says, adding, “I was blown away. Classes were challenging and stimulating, and the professors were every bit as good as anybody I ever had at Penn. I loved that I had full-time professors steeped in academia as well as adjuncts who were working in the real world.”
By 1986, while still attending Widener as an extended division student, Tierney sold his first PR agency and joined Philadelphia marketing firm Lewis, Gilman & Kynett as president of their public relations division – all before the age of 30. Success after success followed.
Today, he is CEO of Brian Communications Group, which comprises Brian Public Relations as well as Realtime Media, a leader in digitally driven consumer acquisition and engagement. The firm has grown 300% in the last year with clients such as CNN, AOL, L’Oreal USA, Comcast, and The New York Times. Tierney’s resume reads like an entry in Who’s Who in Media and Communications, with positions as publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer, CEO of the Philadelphia Daily News, and founder and head of
Tierney Communications, a marketing agency whose client roster included Verizon, Marriott Hotels, the Walt Disney Company, and Deloitte Consulting.
Tierney advises those in law school and those considering it, “You might start out thinking life is going to be a very linear, step-by-step thing. But it’s really more like a series of swinging vines. If you find a vine that’s going in the right direction, and if you can learn something, move forward, and meet more people, grab it.
“If I were graduating from law school now, I’d be trying for legal jobs, and I’d be looking at how my law degree could be helpful in other careers: marketing, public relations, the business world. A lot of people spend a lot of time in life walking around the proverbial swimming pool and wondering, ‘Should I jump in here or jump in there? Should I go to three feet deep or four?’ I say, get in the pool. Get wet. Start swimming.”