In what area of law do you practice and why did you choose this?
I have 16-years’ experience in civil litigation as outside counsel for businesses, a Deputy Attorney General in California, an Assistant Attorney General in Minnesota, outside counsel for state, state agencies, and county. My cases have run the gamut of civil litigation. At this point, I just focus on doing the best job I can for each client, no matter what kind of case it is.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Once I understood I couldn’t be Superman, Mad Max, or Maverick from Top Gun, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. So about the age of eight.
When did you decide you wanted to be a lawyer?
Eight years old.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a lawyer?
I’d be trying to make a living solving cold cases and rectifying wrongful convictions. I’d probably have a crowd-sourcing podcast, and I would be trying to reach people in the true-crime community.
Tell us about a mentor who made an impact on your career.
Jerry W. Blackwell. My boss at Blackwell Burke P.A. As anyone who watched the Derek Chauvin trial can tell you, he is a trial lawyer genius. He opened up the world of trial advocacy to me. Like Gerry Spence and the Trial Lawyers College, he showed me that lawyers can be smart, tough, and intense—and still be real, authentic, human beings.
What do you like best about practicing law at H&J?
The diversity of practice areas, camaraderie, collegiality, openness to growth, creativity, and commitment to serving each client as though it is our only client.
What is the best career advice you have received?
The only proof of life is growth. Believe that the circumstances you are going through in each moment are the raw material for limitless growth.
What is the strangest legal question you have ever been asked?
Someone asked me: “Are you taking the side of Jodi Arias?” This was after I provided some constructive feedback about prosecutor Juan Martinez’s cross-examination style.
What is an item on your bucket list?
Visiting Rome with my wife and children.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
The North State in California.
What is your favorite Minnesota Lake?
What is your favorite Twin Cities restaurant?
Meritage in Saint Paul.
When you are not working, what would people find you doing?
Spending time with my wife and six children (ages 11 to one year). If you see a yellow Ford 12-passenger van anywhere in the country, it is probably us.
What is your favorite part of practicing law?
Helping my clients achieve their business goals in the context of litigation. Using legal judo to turn my opponents’ arguments back on them. And I really like to win.
Who is your hero?
My dad. For so many reasons. The one that comes to mind first, is the one I think about everyday. He taught me to look at everything I do, especially professionally, and ask myself: “Is this a chickens*it thing to do?” If it might be, I don’t do it.
What is a recent good book you read?
I re-read the Great Gatsby after many years. The book still holds up.
What advice would you give to the young version of yourself who is just entering law school?
Whatever you do, figure out a way to try cases. Also, realize that a lawyer is a professional legal writer. Put everything you have into being a better writer. Live and breathe writing. Read everything you can by Bryan Garner and Ross Guberman (among others).
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I was a Les Miserables fanatic as a kid (book and musical). I know all the words to every part in every song in the musical. One of the high points of my life as a kid was going backstage at the Curran Theater in San Francisco after a showing of Les Miserables and meeting the cast and seeing the set.
What is your strongest asset?
My ever-abiding focus on removing obstacles to persuasion.
If you have an out-of-town visitor, what are the “must see/do” things in the Twin Cities?
The Cathedral of Saint Paul, Minnehaha Falls, the Twin City Model Railroad Museum, and the Darwin Twine Ball.