Ex-Navy pilot turns sights toward law career

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Detroit Mercy Law student Ryan Forsmo served as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy for over 10 years, and served in combat in the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan. He is pictured (right) in the North Arabian Gulf.
(Photo courtesy of Ryan Forsmo)


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Fascinated with aviation from a young age, Ryan Forsmo grew up to become a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy — flying with the River Rattlers, Fighting Redhawks, Fighting Blacklions, Gladiators and Golden Eagles.

“The United States Navy has the best fighter pilots in the world — their ability to land aboard an aircraft carrier day and night while projecting American sea power ashore was always awe inspiring to me,” he said.

“Becoming a fighter pilot was one of the most challenging and rewarding professional experiences of my life.”

Forsmo earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy, choosing that major to prove to himself he could handle the academic rigor.

“Successfully completing that course work really opened the door for me academically,” he said. “It gave me the confidence to get my Master’s in Management from Johns Hopkins University while still on active duty in the Navy, and to pursue a doctor of law degree from UDM.”

Forsmo has spent four years as a first officer with American Airlines and continues in that role even while studying for a law degree at Detroit Mercy Law.

“American Airlines gave me a fantastic opportunity to continue to utilize the aviation skills I had learned over 10-plus years flying fighters in the Navy,” he said. “I still work for American Airlines, which has certainly
been a challenge — trying to balance working a full schedule, giving my family the time they deserve, and managing the rigors of law school, in the middle of a pandemic.”

Forsmo’s legal studies are the result of a long-held dream. 

“I was always interested in the law and after my years of flying fighters in Navy service — where I served in combat in the skies over both Iraq and Afghanistan —I realized virtually every important decision that is made there are lawyers at the table for those decisions,” he said. “In order to be a part of those important decisions you have to put in the work to be one of those decision makers — so here I am. And at a fundamental level, an education in law makes me a better citizen.” 

Forsmo is very appreciative of the opportunity provided by Detroit Mercy Law, where he is in his 1L year.

“What I’ve enjoyed most about UDM is their flexibility and a willingness to work tirelessly to deliver a quality legal education in a challenging remote environment — and their willingness to be flexible with my unique schedule as a professional,” he said.

While Forsmo is keeping an open mind about different areas of law, he currently is interested in small firm practice, patent law, veteran law, and litigation. His career goal is to eventually open his own practice. 

“As a service-disabled veteran, “he said, “I plan to allocate time to work with other veterans to ensure they have fair and reasonable access to justice and are duly compensated for the sacrifices they have made for the United States of America.

“In the meantime, I’m focusing on my studies and would like to experience a wide breadth of real-world legal practice through externships, internships and clerkships.”   

Forsmo said he has come to realize there really is no balance between family, work and academics.

“I try to approach each one of my responsibilities with all the intensity and focus I can muster — some days are better than others with a newborn in the house,” he said. “The day-to-day is a challenge — raising children, working full time and balancing law school in a 1,200-square-foot house certainly adds an extra layer of pressure, complexity, and stress. 

“I owe a great deal to my experiences flying fighters — to thrive in that environment performance under pressure, properly prioritizing tasks and making proper split-second decisions is vital. I apply those lessons learned every day to manage law school studies in a pandemic.”

Forsmo is a member of the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association as well as the Allied Pilots Association Furlough Support Team that offers counseling and emotional support to recently furloughed American Airlines pilots.

A native of Hopkinton, Mass., west of Boston (and the starting point of the Boston Marathon), Forsmo now makes his home in Huntington Woods with his wife Lyndsay, two-year-old son Stone, two-month-old daughter Teddi, and dogs Marlon and Dee Dee.

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