Tell us a little bit about your career.
I started out my professional career as a licensed mortician. I never planned to be a lawyer. My undergraduate degrees were in biology, physiology, and mortuary science. However, after working in the funeral service industry assisting lower-income or indigent families, and helping people pre-plan for possible Medicaid benefits, I wanted to learn more about long-term care planning. My experience working with grieving families made for an easy transition into complex elder law planning, probate, and estate/trust litigation. I love the challenges that my practice affords. I have my own law firm in the Minneapolis area.
Is it what you had planned when you started law school?
When I started law school I anticipated a career in health law, medical practice management, hospital administration, or medical malpractice – a more corporate practice or something related to medicine. While in law school I spent two years in the elder law clinic learning practical skills and fell in love with the practice area. During law school, I also became involved in all things elder law (the state bar section, NAELA, ABA SLD, etc.). A happy accident.
What has been the highlight of your career?
Being a part of a celebrity’s estate administration was definitely interesting. It sounds hokey, but I truly enjoy what I do, so there is not one “highlight.” I thrive on the more complex or challenging matters.
If you could go back to the beginning of your legal career, would you have done anything differently?
If I could rewind, I would spend a summer during law school studying abroad. My only regret was not spending more time traveling before I started practicing law. Now, I travel when I can, but it is harder to find the time.
What advice would you give to someone considering law school today?
Weigh the pros and cons, specifically look at your finances and determine if it is a debt you are willing to take on. If you are still interested in law school and hope to truly help others, consider elder law!! (Shameless plug.) We need more young talent in this area and you will stay busy with the baby boomers aging in place.
What were the biggest changes you saw in the legal profession over the course of your career?
The biggest changes in the legal profession that I have seen are related to COVID-19. The business of law practice, cybersecurity, remote hearings, and client interactions have morphed to accommodate social distancing. The pandemic has also affected how attorneys manage client, court, and colleague expectations. There is a bit more grace and compassion. I appreciate that there is now a spotlight on attorney wellness and mental health. Up until very recently, these were unspoken topics surrounded by stigma, but law firms are beginning to recognize the importance of having wellness programs in place and allowing a safe space for employees. As stressful and uncertain as these times are, there will be major positive changes to the practice of law.
When did you first become a member of the ABA and why did you decide to join?
I become an ABA member during law school. I joined to explore career opportunities and always renewed membership to maintain invaluable access to ABA resources including magazines/articles, listservs, and member-contributed information.
What has been the highlight of your work with the ABA?
Being able to collaborate with attorneys throughout the country has been fun. I feel like I am a part of something “bigger than myself” – or even my state – which is an awesome benefit of the ABA.
Are there any benefits that SLD or ABA that helped you decide to become a member of the ABA/SLD?
I love that I get to network with others in similar practice areas throughout the country. As part of our committee meetings, we discuss our state advocacy efforts, discuss common issues or troubleshoot, and work side-by-side to advocate for national legislative changes. It brings perspective to my practice.
If you had not become a lawyer, what do you think you would have done?
If I had not become a lawyer, I would be a physician. I always dreamed of becoming a surgeon – anatomy and physiology fascinate me. I was a geeky kid that read the Frank Netter Atlas of Human Anatomy before bed, volunteered at my local hospital, and shadowed a local doctor to observe surgeries and procedures. Looking back, my parents should not be surprised I became a mortician.