Some lawyers know from the start that they are destined to practice law, but others find out later—sometimes serendipitously—that a legal career is the right place for them.
Kerri Nelson, an HCBA board member and co-chair of the Civil Litigation Section, is a legal late-bloomer who decided to attend law school over a decade after receiving her bachelor’s degree. She pivoted to a law career due to, what she calls, “being in the right place in the right time.” She is now an associate at Bassford Remele.
“Right out of college, I was working in a convenience store, trying to figure out what to do with a double major in English and psychology,” she said. “One day, a guy came in and gave me a business card for a temp agency that specialized in placing people who could work in the then relatively new field of personal computers. I applied there, was hired, and came into the office to do some additional training on word processing and spreadsheets.”
She was placed at a nearby law office that needed a temp legal secretary. (Coincidentally, she was hired by the man who originally gave her the business card for the temp agency.) She was eventually hired full time and began to take in everything she could about the legal world.
Coincidentally, an event unrelated to law pushed her to ultimately head to law school.
While working for attorney Linda Holstein, Nelson would help her boss prepare for appearances on a local current events commentary show. The work involved a lot of the things Nelson now likes about being a lawyer, “I really liked the pace. I liked the research. I thought, 'Hey, I want to do more of this.’”
She eventually moved on to William Mitchell Law School. She served as assistant editor of the law review and eventually graduated magna cum laude.
While starting law school later in life than most of her classmates provided its own unique challenges. Nelson credited her support system, which included classmates, professors, lawyers, and her family. “I have the world’s best husband,” she said.
Nelson acclimated to practicing law quickly after passing the bar. Her experience as a legal secretary provided a good introduction to the system. “I knew what discovery was. I knew how to do it. I had a little bit of an advance there,” she said. She was named a “Minnesota Rising Star” by Super Lawyers magazine and was also recognized as an “Up and Coming Attorney” by Minnesota Lawyer. Her practice involves business and insurance litigation.
Getting involved with the HCBA provided her with the connections needed to help further her career. “The HCBA has really been a fundamental building block of my career in a lot of ways,” she said. Anh Kremer, then a partner at Holstein Law Group, guided Nelson into the Civil Litigation Section, where she quickly took on a leadership position.
While Nelson’s career path has taken an ideal turn, she cautions those interested in attending law school at a later stage in their careers to really examine what they want out of a J.D. “There are a lot of opportunities in the law and the trick is to find the place in the law where you are the happiest and matches most closely with your skill set,” she said.
And sometimes in order for that to happen, it helps to be in the right place at the right time.