Alan Olson: Outstanding Achiever
By Michelle Wolfe
Alan Olson—invert his initials and you get “OA,” for outstanding achievement. I spoke with him only briefly, but our discussion was a great opportunity to explore what people can achieve if they have a plan and follow through. Olson, at the young age of 36, has earned numerous academic achievements and has a successful practice in the type of law he chose at a very early time in his career.
While in high school, Olson already knew he wanted to be a trial lawyer. As an undergrad at Drake University, he was involved in the legal field and participated in the Mock Trial Tournament. His team won the National Championship. It was during this time that he met his current associate, Patricia L. Notch, who just joined his firm in March of this year. In fact, even after law school, he remained active with Drake’s Mock Trial team, and coached the team all the way to another National Championship in 1993.
Olson stayed on at Drake University to attend law school, and graduated in 1992. It was then that he began his career as a law clerk for the Honorable Dick R. Schlegel, of the Iowa Court of Appeals. He chose this particular career path at the appellate level to gain exposure and learn from the other laywers, which gave him the opportunity to view their strategies and the records that were created, as well as the thought process of the judges making decisions. Thereafter, he chose to be employed by an Insurance Defense firm to gain insight about the insurance industry. Although he always planned to be a plaintiff’s lawyer, he knew that it was important to get in the heads of the insurance industry professionals.
He then went on to join, as an associate, a premier plaintiff’s law firm, where he finally represented the plaintiffs. But within a year and half, he was again on a new career path when he opened his own firm in January 1997. Although he began as a solo practitioner, during the period of 1999 through October 2002, he formed a partnership with a colleague, Kathleen Beebout. However, in the fall of 2002, he again ventured out on his own, and currently maintains a successful practice with one associate. His practice primarily focuses on personal injury and wrongful death cases on behalf of the plaintiff.
By a review of his community achievements and activities, you can see that he truly appreciates the essence of the bar associations. He values the bar associations because of the public and member services they provide. Olson has been active in bar associations during his schooling and career. He is a member of the Polk County Bar Association, the Iowa State Bar Association (where he was on the Board of Governors during 1996 to 1999), and the Administrative Committee for 1998–1999. He is also active in the American Bar Association, where he is currently on the Standing Committee on Membership, and was the Chair of the Young Lawyers Division, as well as the Chair of General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division and on the Corporate Sponsorship Committee. He also remains active in the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and the Mock Trial Association, where he was the received the Chief Justice W.W. Reynoldson Award in 1993.
Since 2002, Olson has been promoting the “Junior Judges: Helping Kids Make Smart Choices” Program through the ABA, Young Lawyers Division. This program is implemented in all 50 states to prevent school violence. The program is geared to third and fourth graders to teach them the consequences of their actions. As a result of Olson’s efforts, the program was awarded the Outstanding Public Service Award given jointly by the American Bar Endowment and the Young Lawyers Division. In addition, while Olson was chair of the Young Lawyers Division, Junior Judges won the ABA Section Officers Conference Meritorious Service Award in 2003. Mind you, Olson was only 35 years old when this award was given.
When asked what advice he would pass on to future generations of young lawyers, Olson quickly responded with “Whether or not you do your homework shows up in the market place. When you do succeed, don’t linger too long at the table of success, because the only way at your next meal is to get hungry.” I am sure we will continue to hear more about Alan Olson’s accomplishments in the future, and about the impact he is having on others.
Michelle Wolfe was a paralegal who went to law school. A graduate of the Widener School of Law in Delaware, she practices in a four-person firm in Carbon County, PA. In her spare time she raises horses. She may be reached at email@example.com.