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.