Family means a lot to Michael Boulette. Not just because he is the father to three young children, or because he’s spent his entire 10-year career litigating complex family law matters, but because for Boulette, family extends to the law students he teaches, the legal community he serves, and children and parents in need across Minnesota.
Boulette, of counsel with Barnes & Thornburg LLP, is this year’s recipient of the American Bar Association Family Law Section’s 2020 Jean Crowe Pro Bono Award. During 2019 alone, Boulette dedicated 388 hours to pro bono work. And 2019 wasn’t unique; he consistently goes above and beyond for those who are unrepresented or underrepresented—to help ease the challenges they’ve encountered.
Everything that Boulette does—through direct advocacy, public service, professional leadership, and teaching—allows him to have an impact on improving the lives of families. And this passion for service is why Boulette keeps devoting his time, intelligence, and passion to a variety of clients, causes, and organizations throughout his community.
The best way to explain Boulette’s impact is by example. In 2019, Boulette spearheaded two pro bono appeals for the Indian Child Welfare Center, serving as an advocate for Native American parents and caregivers caught in the child protection system.
As pro bono counsel for the Minnesota State Bar Association, he also volunteered his time in two other family law appellate matters before the Minnesota Supreme Court: In re J.M.M, addressing an unmarried father’s right to receive notice of a name change, and Thornton v. Bosquez, regarding the application of Minnesota’s presumption against joint custody in cases of domestic violence.
And 2019 also found Boulette working as a pro bono advocate representing the interests of a refugee child caught in a contested parentage action; prevailing in litigation on behalf of a domestic abuse survivor and her children; and mentoring a Barnes & Thornburg associate in representing a needy client in a contested adoption now on appeal.
Beyond his direct advocacy, Boulette also worked for broader change: serving on Minnesota’s statewide Guardian ad Litem board and pursuing systemic advocacy on children’s behalf, as well as sitting on the boards of both the Minnesota State and Hennepin County Bar Associations.
Boulette’s dedication to serving others also extends to mentoring and educating law students and younger attorneys as they grow in the profession. He is an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, teaching the core family law course as well as a seminar on international and comparative family law.
Boulette’s teaching has had a direct and lasting impact on his students—he was honored with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Boulette also serves as a mentor through the University of St. Thomas School of Law and is a past alumni board member.