The University of St. Thomas

The Unaccompanied Minor at Our Border, by Senior Distinguished Fellow Thomas E. Holloran

Published on: Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

11-143 SOL Holloran legacyMy grandfather was born in a small village in the west of Ireland in 1839. He was the third of four children. In 1845 and succeeding years, the Irish potato crop failed and a great famine ensued. A million people died and a million people immigrated.

My grandfather’s family was impoverished but was able to send the two older children to America In 1849 my grandfather and his 6-year-old sister were sent by ship to America to live with their older siblings. Communication was unreliable and the older siblings never received notice of their coming. The two young children were not met in New York when their ship arrived. Two unaccompanied minors seeking to enter the United States.

Fortunately, it was a different time. A family from Connecticut who they didn’t know vouched for them, took them into their home and raised them until they were young adults.

Later, my grandfather moved to Minnesota and married my grandmother. My mother was his fourth and last child. He lived just long enough to hold me as a newborn.

I write this as thousands of unaccompanied children are streaming across our southern border, and the intense cry is “don’t admit them, send them back.”

Fortunately, that was not the national attitude in 1849. I owe my very existence to the generosity of a welcoming country and the kindness of a family from Connecticut.

Thomas E. Holloran is a senior distinguished fellow at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, and former president of Medtronic and chairman and CEO of Dain-Rauscher, now RBC Wealth Management.

Representing the University of St. Thomas at the State House United Republic of Tanzania, by Alex Migambi ’15

Published on: Monday, July 28th, 2014

This summer, I joined a group of master’s and doctorate students for a 3-credit graduate course (Leadership in International Contexts of Tanzania (EDLD 869)) offered through the University of St. Thomas International Graduate Program. I was so thrilled to take the course and immerse myself into the Tanzanian culture as a way to learn more about the challenges that national, regional and local leaders of Tanzania face as they negotiate development in one of the poorest countries in the world.

On the trip I was accompanied by Dr. Artika Tyner ’06, former law clinical faculty and now faculty at the College of Education, Leadership and Counseling, and Dr. Bongila Jean Pierre, a professor in the UST Graduate School of Education.

Alex MigambiDuring the trip, we visited different government institutions including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the State House of the United Republic of Tanzania. I had a chance to interview the Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Bernard K. Membe, on several issues ranging from governance, education, economy and health care. I presented a gift on behalf of the University of St. Thomas delegation.

The trip also included a visit to the State House of the United Republic of Tanzania where the UST delegation met the Chief Secretary Hon. Ambassador Y. Sefue, former ambassador of Tanzania to the United States and Canada. During the meeting with Ambassador Sefue, we discussed several topics including foreign investment, health care growth, development of education, the current constitutional review process of Tanzania and global leadership. I was able to present a gift to Ambassador Sefue on behalf of the UST delegation.

The course was life-changing for me on so many levels. I was able to get a deeper understanding and appreciation of the economic and governance challenges facing transitional democracies by looking at Tanzania as a model for East Africa and the rest of Africa in general. Most importantly, the trip gave me a deeper understanding of my African heritage through cross-cultural learning through interacting with the people of Tanzania.

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Alex Migambi is a certified student attorney, African regional coordinator of the UST Law ADR Research Network, and rising 3L.

Bringing humanity into the practice of law, by Adam Brown ’06

Published on: Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Adam Brown

The University of St. Thomas School of Law’s mission means something different to each person who encounters it. To me, the mission is a reminder to consider the people involved with whatever I am working on, listen to their concerns, and try to help in whatever way possible. In other words, the mission urges us to bring an element of humanity into the practice of law and to try to make the legal system more accessible and positive.

As a first-year law student, the mission seemed to be such a broad, aspirational concept, and I just wanted to pass Torts. Law school was overwhelming when I started; I had no legal experience or connections, and I was so intimidated by law professors (read in a deep voice). However, I quickly learned that the faculty and staff were always willing to speak with me. They wanted to get to know me on a personal level, and they were always willing to help. This surprised me, and it made me feel much more comfortable with the law school process. My UST Law professors showed me that they were just normal people, that they were accessible, and that they cared. I have tried to live up to that example as I have moved on in my professional career and in my other favorite jobs – including dad and mite hockey coach.

I now work as a staff attorney at the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals, and I previously spent a number of years as a defense attorney representing employers and insurance companies. I have seen the influence that attorneys and the legal system can have on peoples’ lives. Day-to-day legal practice can become routine for the attorneys, judges and other professionals involved, but for an injured worker and his or her family, the experience can be anything but routine. The legal process can be intimidating, and people often have misconceptions about attorneys, judges and other legal professionals.

Based on the lessons I learned at UST Law, I have always tried to make sure I consider the person on the other side of the table, and I have always tried to connect with those folks on a more personal level when I interact with them. Although I may have been advocating zealously for a different result, I have always tried to keep the opposing party’s interests and motivations in mind, and I have always tried to be respectful of the process and the people involved. I have worked on some larger volunteer and service projects, and I know I should do more. However, the mission also reminds us that there is good to be done at many levels, even if it is just by helping an opposing party feel a bit more positive about his or her experience with the legal system.

I spend a great deal of time at UST Law in various roles with the Alumni Board, the Mentor Externship program, the J.D. Compass program, and others. Every time I walk through the doors at UST Law or speak with a professor, administrator, staff member, student or fellow alum, I am reminded of how much I enjoy being a part of this law school community. As a student and now an alumnus, I have always felt like I am a priority for the people at UST Law and that they support me and my career endeavors in both the short and long term. For example, I am always impressed when I hear the dean and other representatives from the school speak at an Alumni Board meeting about strategies and policies to support alumni in searching for jobs, marketing and finding new clients, and building their brand. I wish all of our alumni could sit in on those discussions.

I know we can count on the law school and our wonderful network of alumni. All we have to do is ask, and someone will do his or her best to help with whatever we need. I believe that for UST Law alumni, that same willingness to listen and help wherever possible carries over into our lives and our careers, and it influences our relationships with others and everything that we do. In my opinion, that is the mission in action.

Adam Brown ’06 is a staff attorney with the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals, adjunct professor for the University of St. Thomas School of Law Mentor Externship program, incoming president of the UST Law Alumni Board, career strategist with the UST Law J.D. Compass program, and coach and judge for the UST Law Moot Court program. 

A Corporate Lawyer’s Commitment to Truth, Morality and Social Justice, by Julia Sinaiko Offenhauser ’04

Published on: Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Julia Offenhauser '04

Julia Offenhauser ’04

When I started law school at the University of St. Thomas in 2001, I was drawn to the law school because I had a background in sociology and wanted to work in either the non-profit field, or in government as a lawyer. Ten years ago, when I graduated from law school, I believed that living the mission meant that I would be a public defender or some other sort of public servant. Today, 10 years after graduating from law school, I remain just as committed to truth, morality and social justice, but my understanding of the pursuit of truth, morality and social justice for me in my life has changed.

I am a principal at Gray Plant Mooty, a large Minneapolis law firm, and I work in our corporate and business practice group. I focus in the areas of general business law, securities, and mergers and acquisitions, and work with mostly private companies of varying sizes with their day-to-day business operations and legal needs. I am married and have two boys, ages 2 and 4. Practicing corporate and business law is about as far away from what I thought I’d do in law school, and I sort of fell into it via a move to New York right after law school and then back to Minneapolis again. What I’ve learned, though, is that despite the fact that my job is not at a non-profit or as a public defender, I am still living the mission and committed to social justice, truth and morality.

In my day-to-day work, I am committed to producing high quality work product for my clients — I am committed to being engaged with my clients as a fair advocate, and to providing good and moral legal advice. At Gray Plant, I am also able to pursue my social justice side — I serve on our firm’s Foundation Board, I volunteer and do pro bono work with Volunteer Lawyers’ Network and the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, and I am a board member of WATCH, an organization that works to make the justice system more responsive to crimes of violence, focusing on greater safety for victims of violence and greater accountability for violent offenders. Above work is my family, and I am committed to my kids, husband and family, and to making sure that I’m being truthful to myself by allowing myself the time I want and need to spend with them.

Living the mission is not always as obvious as pursuing a career in public interest law or working for a non-profit — which is what I thought it meant 10 years ago. I think that the challenge with living the mission is trying to remain committed to the mission when your career and your life don’t always lead you where you thought you might go. For me, it is looking for and finding ways of seeing the mission in my day-to-day life — being there for my family and making sure I am a present and active parent, all the while providing excellent work product, being truthful and honest with myself and my clients, and then looking for opportunities within the workplace or the community to fulfill that social justice piece. I am sure that this understanding of living the mission will continue to evolve for me, and I will continue to think about it as my life and career continue to change.

Julia Sinaiko Offenhauser ’04 is a principal at Gray Plant Mooty, where she focuses her practice in the areas of general business law, securities, and mergers and acquisitions. She also has experience in public bond financing and working with starts-ups and emerging companies.

“Pro-Bono” is More Than just Access, by Kellen T. Fish ’10

Published on: Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Kellen T. Fish '10

Kellen T. Fish ’10

The University of St. Thomas School of Law mission indicates “social justice” as a fundamental goal in educating lawyers. Throughout law school we’re told that being a lawyer is a gateway profession and that as such, there is an obligation to provide services to those who could not otherwise afford it. There is no doubt that retaining a lawyer who knows the rules of the game can be great advantage, especially in the litigation context; but what does striving for social justice require from each practitioner?

I’d offer that furthering social justice requires more than providing 50 hours of volunteer service every three years as recommended by the ABA or recognized by the North Star Lawyers program here in Minnesota. That said, I’m not suggesting more than 50 hours achieves the mission-stated goal of furthering social justice. Living the UST mission seems to focus more on the depth of those pro bono hours than the quantity.

Representation in a pro bono setting can provide a different scenario than what a lawyer is typically accustomed to; unfortunately, that can lead to a different type of representation. Yes, on occasion a pro bono client will take advantage of the lack of cost associated with representation and will make unrealistic demands on an attorney’s availability, including multiple phone calls and emails each day, etc. However, that is more an issue of setting client expectations, and that’s on the lawyer.

Pro bono clients are not “non-paying” clients. They aren’t looking for the minimum possible representation to get by; the concepts of social justice require an attorney’s complete focus and intensity. Putting in the hours isn’t enough. Showing up isn’t enough. To that end, I’d argue that getting the desired result isn’t enough. Pro bono clients deserve to feel good about the process, as well as the result, and that means immersing yourself in their matter as if it was your highest paying client, and making sure the pro bono client feels like their case is the most important case an attorney has.

Soap-box speech aside, this entry comes from my own experience (and subsequently my own failure) in balancing the need to further social justice through pro bono service, with the need to keep the lights in the office on. Which leads to my final thought on social justice, which is that it’s an evolving practice – one that changes and grows as we grow. I am better now at furthering the mission than I was three years ago. I certainly hope to better in three years than I am now. With that change in ability comes a change in responsibility, and I’m thankful for the UST community to be my accountability partner as we move forward.

Kellen T. Fish is owner of KTF Law Firm, PLLC, where he practices family law and offers estate planning, probate and trust administration, and small business consulting.

Tommies at Heart, by Erin Gross ’09

Published on: Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Erin Gross '09

Erin Gross ’09

Having a clear and concise mission statement is integral to any business organization and is a powerful way to convey the direction of the organization. We are taught that a mission statement should answer questions such as What is our purpose? And Why do we exist? I have no doubt that when the founders of UST Law sat down to begin debating the first mission statement of the law school, it was these principles that fueled the discussion. Thirteen years later, I can’t help but wonder whether those individuals had any idea how many lives would be changed by their words and vision of the future.

I think I am not alone in saying that when I was selecting law schools, the strength of a school’s mission statement was not exactly one of my top priorities. But when it came time to make that life-altering decision, it is what put St. Thomas above the rest in my book. From the moment I walked onto campus, the sense of welcome and good will permeated the walls of the building and was apparent on the face of every person I passed. I was greeted with smiles and a hearty hello from Pete and Brad, the security guards manning the front desk of the school. I soon learned these two men would go to any length to protect their “children”and make us all feel safe while we were under their care. Later in the group tour we visited the quaint School of Law Chapel where daily mass is held. Finally, we saw the statue of St. Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers, placed prominently in the atrium of the building. Each prospective student was allowed to approach the statue and rub its foot for “good luck” just as so many law students before us had done prior to a big exam.

It was not until I experienced it firsthand that I could truly appreciate what the St. Thomas mission represents. It certainly represents something unique to each member of our community, but the one common theme is that our mission statement is more than just words on a page or aspirations for the future of the organization. For those who have had the great privilege of observing and living it out for three years of our lives, the St. Thomas mission is now a lens through which we see the world. It is the pull to a higher calling—one where service to others and the ultimate search for perpetuating good in the world comes before all else. As I read the submissions to this blog written by my colleagues who have landed in vastly different areas of legal practice and life, I am humbled to see that no matter how far away life may take us, we will always be Tommies at heart, viewing the world through that very same lens that drew us together from the start.

Erin Gross is an associate attorney with Erstad & Riemer, P.A., practicing in the area of workers’ compensation defense.

Self-reflection, 6 years post-law school; by Laura Hammargren ’08

Published on: Friday, May 9th, 2014

Dave Corbett, Professor Hamilton, Andrew Pieper, Erin Collins, and Laura Hammargren.

From left: Dave Corbett, Professor Hamilton, Andrew Pieper, Erin Collins, and Laura Hammargren.

There’s nothing better to bring you back into self-reflective mode than going back to the University of St. Thomas School of Law and catching up with favorite professors.

A few months back, I was at a St. Thomas function where I ran into one of the most truly influential teachers in my life, Professor Neil Hamilton. After we exchanged the basic pleasantries and updates (living in a new city! (me) a new grandchild! (him)), he of course drilled down right to the important matters and asked me the following question: What is it about St. Thomas and its mission that you believe contributes to your success in your day-to-day professional life?

As discussed by many posts on this blog, the mission can have many different facets in people’s careers. Frankly, for those of us doing work in corporate law at larger law firms, it may take more subtlety to point to how St. Thomas’s education and mission affect our professional lives than someone, say, working for the public defender’s office. But I think we all have an equally strong a claim to being formed by the mission.

I could probably write 18 blog posts about different ways it has impacted me, but the very first thing that came to my mind was “service,” but on a very broad level. “Client service” is a term of art for most law firms these days, so when I say “service,” I am trying to convey something more. It means that every day I go to my job wanting to give everyone I come in contact with the very best service I can. Whether it is the partner who has chosen me, out of all other associates, to assist her on a case. Whether it is the junior associate who looks to me for mentoring and guidance. Or whether it is a client asking for my firm’s expertise in representing him or her in a stressful time.

And good service can mean a lot of different things. Being responsive to questions, to show those I am working with that their matter is important to me. Being enthusiastic and energetic, no matter the task or how daunting some requests might be. Trying to be empathetic to the stresses and demands placed on those with whom I work. And doing these things not because it is required of me as an employee, but because it is fulfilling to me when others can rely on me for excellent service and I can make their lives better, even in small ways. And that is something I know St. Thomas and its mission helped developed in me.

I asked a fellow law school graduate (and good friend) the same question, now curious about how others who have been out of school for several years would answer the question. For Andrew Pieper ’08, an associate at Stoel Rives LLP, the morality aspect of the mission is what still reverberates strongly with him. Because he’s a litigator, he works often with opposing counsel and has experienced varying amounts of respectfulness in how other counsel treat their opponents. Andrew, however, tries to stay above the fray. “One thing St. Thomas and its mission instilled in me,” he told me, “is a desire to rise above all of that and not fall into that tendency that others sometimes do of letting the baser elements of our profession take over.”

Laura Hammargren ‘08 is an associate doing investigations work and commercial litigation at Mayer Brown LLP in Chicago

How to Think Like a Lawyer, by Michael Lawyer ’09

Published on: Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Michael Lawyer ’09 is a Program Analyst with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Michael Lawyer ’09

I never wanted to be a lawyer, I just wanted to help people.

Before I went to law school I had spent a career working in faith-based nonprofits, initially working with children suffering from mental illness and addiction, and later working on behalf of new immigrants trying to adjust to life in the United States. In both cases, my clients faced real challenges just making it through the day – any interaction with the government was a profound source of stress and anxiety capable of derailing months of progress.

While I was doing this work I discovered that many of the people we counted on to help our clients – our best board members, the foundation staff who supported us, the volunteers we called on for our hardest problems – were legally trained. Their training had taught them to see the systems that shaped our clients lives, and the best of them could ensure those systems treated our clients with the humanity and respect they desperately needed. When I asked these mentors how I could increase my ability to help our clients, they advised me to go to law school. Though I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a lawyer, I did want to think like my mentors did. When I discovered St. Thomas Law, I followed my mentors’ advice.

Upon graduation, I was proud to join the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a Presidential Management Fellow. Now that I too have been trained to see the systems that run our society, there is nowhere I’d rather be. HUD provides over $40 billion every year to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. Every day we put people in homes and provide paths out of poverty. Our mission is noble, and my colleagues and I are committed to achieving it. However, government systems can still be a profound source of stress and anxiety capable of derailing progress, especially for those who work with them every day.

In my five years with HUD I have done little legal work, but I use the things I learned at St. Thomas every day. I have found a home in our Human Resources Department, where it’s my job to help tame our systems, reduce the stress and anxiety they create, and help our 8,000 employees stay focused on our mission. I research, I counsel, I draft, I argue, but most of all I wrestle with the moral and human impacts of the decisions we make and the systems we’ve inherited. When I can, I improve those impacts. When I can’t, I find those who have been affected and make sure their story is heard. It’s not legal work, but it is helping, and I’m glad to have the chance to do it.

Michael Lawyer ’09 is a Program Analyst with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Living the Mission as a Business Attorney, by Pat Zomer ’11

Published on: Monday, April 14th, 2014

The University of St. Thomas School of Law, as a Catholic law school, is dedicated to integrating faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice.

Pat Zomer ’11 practices in the areas of utility regulation, commercial lending, and business law at Moss & Barnett, a Professional Association.

Pat Zomer ’11

These are probably not the first words that come to mind when you think about utility rate cases and commercial lending transactions. Actually, those two topics probably make you think of several, different words that are not suitable for publication on a website run by a Catholic law school focused on morality and social justice. So how does a business attorney live the mission?

First, it is important to acknowledge the mission means many things to many people. Take some time browsing this blog and you will see several wonderful people doing amazing things – each of them living the mission in their own way. Each member of the St. Thomas community is encouraged to conduct their own “search for truth,” including those of us in the commercial world.

The ultimate goal for any business attorney should be to become a trusted advisor. For me, integrating faith and reason while trying to practice (and live) morally are fundamental steps in that process. As Professor Hamilton writes, “A trusted advisor earns trust through excellent technical skills combined with both sufficient self-knowledge to be authentic and to subordinate the lawyer’s own ego to focus on care for the client, and empathy, including strong listening skills.” This means a good business attorney needs to have his or her house in order before clients are willing to make the leap of entrusting you with their commercial dealings (and dollars).

In my time at St. Thomas, I was lucky enough to observe several members of the St. Thomas community modeling the skills associated with being a trusted advisor. My professional career is similarly blessed with colleagues willing to share both technical knowledge and practical skills to assist my ongoing development. These relationships have been and will continue to be vital in my growth as an attorney and as a person. I am also blessed with a wife that makes me a better person (on a daily basis) and a family that is always there for me. All of these areas of support help me to grow into being an authentic person and a technically skilled attorney.

Combining technical skill and ethical practice lie at the heart of the trusted advisor relationship and the St. Thomas mission. So, yes, dear reader, it is possible to live the mission as a business attorney.

Pat Zomer ’11 practices in the areas of utility regulation, commercial lending, and business law at Moss & Barnett, a Professional Association.

A volunteer’s reflection on a journey toward pro bono publico, by Teddy Michel ’07

Published on: Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Teddy Michel '07

Teddy Michel ’07 | photo courtesy The Catholic Light

On Thursday, March 20, 2014, I had the honor and pleasure of presenting at a CLE sponsored by the Diocese of Scranton’s St. Thomas More Society of the Legal Profession. The one-hour ethics CLE manifested my ability to engage in self-deprecating humor regarding my Wheel of Fortune bomb out and was an opportunity to share stories pertaining to my past experiences as a legal aid attorney and member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

As I shared during the CLE, Teddy’s Ethics 101 is all about one word: Accompany. Accompany is defined as “to go with another person.” I believe amazing things can happen when we decide to intentionally journey with another individual – when we accompany another. And that, the journey with another, is what the CLE was all about.

And so I began recalling a serious of influential stories in my life beginning with my senior year in college where my management professor, Dr. Ernie Owens, challenged us to think critically about what we wanted to do in life. In short, Dr. Owens (and the rest of the UST undergrad campus) created an environment conducive to allowing me to discover a glimpse of who I was and what I was about. And after I saw that little picture, I knew the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (“JVC”) was for me.

Fast-forward eight months and I find myself up in Anchorage, Alaska, working at the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association (“Four As”) as a Jesuit Volunteer. Four As is an HIV/AIDS social service organization, which provides comprehensive case management services to individuals living with HIV. In my capacity as a volunteer, I became quite close with a number of clients and staff. Several months into my volunteer year, one of our clients became increasingly sick and passed away. Prior to his passing, a staff member began to care for his 2-year-old son. Now that the client was gone, the little 2-year-old’s future was uncertain. The staff member, however, was interested in adopting the boy but wasn’t sure how to make it happen.

In walks Attorney Tom Janidlo, former Marine, and he picked up the adoption case pro bono. While I didn’t attend the court hearing that finalized the adoption, I remember we had a party at our office after the hearing. We had balloons, streamers, confetti, and lots and lots of food. I’ll never forget the moment when everyone returned from court. Our staff member was carrying her newest 2-year-old son in her arms and I remember thinking to myself, I know I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer or best tool in the box, but I know I’m a hard worker and would be able to bust my backside through law school to put myself in a position to be Tom Janidlo someday.

And so the seed was planted. After another year as a Jesuit Volunteer in Nashville, Tenn., at Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement Program, my wife Cindy and I drove back to Minnesota for graduate school – law school for me and a doctorate in physical therapy for Cindy.

Fortunately, I was running late for my first law school class: Civil Procedure with Professor Sisk. As many of you know, late comers on the first day of class have relatively limited seating options. Ah but the Lord is good because an available seat in second row off to the far right was next to three of our law school’s best, most intelligent law students.

And while I may be a hard worker, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good because those three students plotted, carved, paved and smoothed the road to Teddy’s J.D., which led to a wonderful 4 1/2-year career as a legal aid attorney out here in Scranton, Pennsylvania!

Teddy Michel ’07 is judicial law clerk to the Hon. James M. Munley, United States Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.