Willie Lyles III | Alumni School of Law | SIU

Southern Illinois University



Willie Lyles

Willie Lyles III

Class of 2017

Before starting law school, Lyles worked as a legislative assistant to U.S. Representative James E. Clyburn (D-SC), where his work with attorneys fighting to protect minority contracting programs motivated him to pursue a law degree. In addition, Lyles served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for Congressman William L. Enyart, SIU Law ’79.

Lyles was an active member of the law school community and served in several organizations, including the Student Bar Association and the Black Law Student Association. He also served as Vice President of Student Affairs for the Graduate and Professional Student Council.

During law school, Lyles created the Carbondale Pipeline Working Group (CPWG), an intergenerational pipeline encouraging young people from minority communities to seek careers in the legal profession. His work led to amazing partnerships, including one between the SIU School of Law and the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale.

After graduation, Lyles began his legal career with HeplerBroom in St. Louis. In January 2019, he returned to work as Legislative Director and Counsel for Congressman Clyburn, Majority Whip of the United States House of Representatives.

When asked about how SIU Law transformed him from a law student into a lawyer and leader, Lyles responded, “SIU Law made me believe I was capable of earning a law degree. As a non-traditional student who waited 8 years to go to law school, I started the journey unsure of my ability to adapt to an academic environment again.

I was blessed to make wonderful law school friends who supported me throughout the process and professors who believed in my capacity to do the work. The late-night study sessions with friends and hour-long office visits with professors were essential to my success. The support of the entire law school community made it possible for me to add "ESQ." behind my name and I will be forever grateful. 

SIU Law provided many opportunities to lead. From my participation in national moot court competitions to the opportunity to work with the administration to build a pipeline program to ensure more people who look like me have a chance to enter law school, SIU Law gave me a platform to work on issues of importance to me and be the change I wanted to see in the world.” 

Mr. Lyles completed his B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy and Administration at Winthrop University in 2006.