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Meet HCBA Member... Aaron Street

Posted By Nick Hansen, Monday, November 21, 2016

Aaron Street has a history of taking risks. At age 11, he started a sports card and memorabilia retail store in downtown Northfield. He later dropped out of the 9th grade to run the business. The 1994 Major League Baseball strike caused the store to close and caused Street to return to school, but he never lost that entrepreneurial spirit.


Street is the CEO of, an online community dedicated to helping solo and small firm lawyers with practice management resources. He also serves as a board member at the HCBA. He first got involved with the HCBA after being recruited by the then-president of the Hennepin County Bar Foundation. The idea of giving back to the profession stuck with him. “The professional responsibility to engage in the profession as the profession is something that has resonated with me,” he said.  


Street’s professional passions are slightly different from what you would expect from a typical lawyer. After just about 10 years in existence, Lawyerist has developed into a popular (and profitable) online resource for solo/small firm lawyers all over the world. The site now has comprehensive practice management articles, a weekly newsletter, an active Q&A forum, as well as a weekly podcast. “I love business strategy and working with our team to come up with creative solutions and innovative ways for growing our business by helping the legal industry. The act of running this business is really exciting to me,” said Street.


The market for business skills in the legal industry was ripe, and Lawyerist has been able to seize the market. “There are very few resources for lawyers to become good business people. That's one of the tools I happen to have developed in my toolkit. It's exciting for me to be able to bring some of that to the legal industry,” said Street.


With the legal industry churning, bolstering business skills could be the difference between success and failure. “Most talented lawyers and solo and small firms don't have background or training in also running small businesses, which they're doing. I think their focus, rightly, is on providing good legal work to their clients. That is where their focus should be, but at the same time, if you're not putting in effort to learn how to engage your business as a business. It's pretty easy to tend to just put your head down and work your case files,”


Those skills can often be the difference in a competitive marketplace. Street said that for most law practice areas, “business skills turn out to be a one of the primary drivers of success.”  


One unique way Street and his Lawyerist colleagues are engaging with the solo & small-firm legal community is with their new conference, TBD Law. “We wanted it to be a different kind of legal event. Rather than one where it's paid speakers at the front of a room, talking at people for an hour, we wanted to bring together people who already get it to work together to talk about and build for the future.”


The first conference, held in August of 2016 in St. Louis, was a resounding success. “The interaction and engagement exceeded our expectations tremendously,” said Street. “A huge portion of the people there said that it was one of the best events they had ever been to and these are the people who are usually the paid keynoters at other people's state and national conferences.” A second TBD Law conference is scheduled for February of 2017.


 While Street loves the business aspect of what he does, there’s also another, more personal part of his job that he enjoys doing, “There are some really interesting and inspiring lawyers doing really cool stuff and getting to know them is the best.”


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Meet HCBA Member... John Barham

Posted By Nick Hansen, Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Few attorneys are like John Barham. The criminal defense and immigration attorney lived in South America for many years, he sings in a punk band, and he counts the former lawyer of Hunter S. Thompson as one of his legal heroes.

He also serves on the HCBA Misdemeanor Defense Panel, and participates in the HCBA Lawyer Referral Service.

Here are 10 of the most interesting things to know about Barham:

1. He taught English to astronomers in La Serena, Chile. “I probably had more of a fun practice than any other English teacher there,” he said.

2. He is not the only lawyer in the family. “I think I let my brother talk me into law school. He’s a lawyer with the National Labor Relations Board.”

3. Barham is passionate about racial justice issues. Many of his immediate family members emigrated from Vietnam, and his ex-wife and stepson suffered racial abuse after they moved to the United States. While he says that Minnesota is a more tolerant place, it has not tempered his zeal for fighting for issues related to equality. He currently volunteers with Black Lives Matter in the Twin Cities. "I've always been doing kind of an uphill battle for disenfranchised folks.”

4. Barham’s favorite part of his job is being able to help people. “It's really nice to be able to help people, especially when they have a really tricky problem. I had a guy come to me last week with an unusual immigration situation. At the outset, I am ready to say I cannot help you, which is what everybody else had told him. But it was cool that I have been in practice long enough that I've figured out enough weird things. I was able to figure out an actual plan to help this guy and his family out, which I think has a real chance of success.”

5. He has found a niche legal market in the Twin Cities: the local punk music scene. “I probably was able to start doing most of my criminal defense through my connection to the punk scene here. As the one lawyer connected to the punk scene who does criminal defense on any sort of regular basis, people would call me up whenever they'd get charged for something.”

6. His advice to young lawyers is to enjoy life now. "If you have crazy adventures you want to do, do them now. By the time you're actually a working lawyer, you'll probably never be un-busy again."

7. He counts Oscar Zeta Acosta, William Holland Thomas, and James McNamara, a civil litigation lawyer in Columbus, Ohio, as among his heroes. McNamara’s demeanor in the courtroom inspired Barham. “He was facing attorneys who typically were jerks and the guy was really reasonable and just explained things and got people to agree with him and would take on big powerful monolithic institutions and win. It was a cool thing to see.”

8. He speaks fluent Spanish and conversational Portuguese.

9. Barham’s band, Murrieta, performs all over the Twin Cities.

10. While he knows he is not in the most lucrative field of the law, he enjoys many things about his work. He likes being able to, in a way, reciprocate for all the help he received when he lived in South America. "It's nice to be able to help out Latin American immigrants here."



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Meet HCBA Member... Sarah Roeder

Posted By Nick Hansen, Monday, October 3, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Even though it’s taken some time, Sarah Roeder is figuring this out. “As a young lawyer, you are totally self-conscious about the fact that you haven't had 30 jury trials. You haven't negotiated two thousand settlements, so you don't have that breadth of experience. But, I have been doing it long enough to see similar patterns and see the way things worked out before,” she said. Just as Roeder's knowledge base has grown with experience, so has her professional network.


 As vice-chair of the New Lawyers section, Roeder knows that developing your practice and reputation takes time. “You don’t build a network of connections in an instant,” she said.


She learned from former HCBA President Tom Nelson that building a professional reputation takes a while. “We would be walking in the skyway to a planning meeting, and he would say hi to 20 people he knew on the way there,” she said. Roeder observed that Nelson was a pro at getting to know people. “He's been involved in the bar association for a long time. He's worked at different places.”


While the word “networking” evokes a range of emotions from all young professionals, Roeder swears that it isn’t as hard as some people envision it to be, especially if you get involved with the HCBA.  


“It's the most painless way to network and to get to know your peers in the legal community,” she said. While events like happy hours are one avenue of meeting fellow bar members, Roeder extols the benefits of gaining experience of getting to know people in other ways.


Roeder said that having tangible experiences helps build credibility among other professionals in the legal community.  “I've been on the Finance and Planning Committee, and talked with bar leaders about the overall financial health and direction of the association. I've been involved in conversations to plan a series of vintage lawyer events connecting new lawyers with people who are further along in their careers,” said Roeder


New lawyers can feel pressured to be constantly marketing themselves, and networking events may feel uncomfortable for just that reason. However, Roeder believes new lawyers can learn just as much from networking with others as others can learn about them.


Roeder said that getting involved helps one get to know the personalities of the different firms. “You get to know people that work at all the different firms here,” she said. Those connections can help at some point in the future.


There are challenges to committing to things outside of your practice. When Roeder first started working, the pressures of learning the practice of law and a high billable hour requirement made it difficult to get involved. She has now also started a family. She knows that honoring commitments is important, and that takes planning ahead. “You will never have more time. Make sure you're building enough time to get the things done that you need to get done, but then also going along with that, make sure you build enough time into get the wish list things done too,” she said.


While sometimes the benefits from networking are tangible things, the intangible things are a critical part of success as well.It feels good walking into a room and knowing people, having a measure of commonality because you've been on a committee with them before, or at least have seen them before. It makes you realize, 'I've done this before, I can do this',” she said.  It seems that not only do skills and connections grow with time, confidence does as well.

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Meet HCBA Member... Landon Ascheman

Posted By Nick Hansen, Monday, August 29, 2016
Updated: Monday, August 29, 2016

Landon Ascheman is one of those attorneys who always seems to be on the move. It’s not too far from the truth. He is an active member of the Hennepin County Bar Association, the Ramsey County Bar Association, and the Minnesota State Bar Association. He practices criminal defense all over the state, and he can usually be found at an open-water swim race on the weekends.

Ascheman currently co-chairs the HCBA Criminal Law Section and serves on the HCBA Board of Directors. He also participates in the association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service and serves as a volunteer attorney for the Misdemeanor Defense Project.

Ascheman dove right into volunteering with the HCBA. He views it as a chance to give back to the legal community. “I take the extra time I’ve got in between clients and come and do whatever they need me to do,” he said.

As co-chair of the Criminal Law Section, Ascheman likes promoting discussion between practitioners. “It tends to be a lot of talking back and forth about what's working in courts, what's not working in courts, what are some of the problems we're running into,” said Ascheman. “You get a lot of communication back and forth between the courtroom and the bar associations.”

Ascheman hung his shingle in 2009. He had been clerking at the Hennepin County Attorney’s office and was in the running for an assistant county attorney position, but after the 2009 recession, the prospects turned dim. He, along with a law partner, started their own firm. Ascheman stated that, “we decided that we were not going to sit around and just send out applications for jobs when we could actually do work.”

Practicing as a criminal defense attorney gives Ascheman a perspective that the public usually doesn’t get to see, “That’s the kind of thing you don’t get in a
Law & Order  type show...You don’t get the background, what people are going through, what led them up to that.”

Ascheman also enjoys helping a client who genuinely wants to change. “I get to work with them to try and improve their life,” he said.

Ascheman takes a holistic view of his job. “My job is not just to make sure that they’re taken care of in court, that their rights are protected, but also to make sure that they get on the right track.”

Outside of his professional life, Ascheman literally likes to just keep swimming. He competes in numerous open water races every year with the Minnesota Masters swimming program. He recently competed in the Point to LaPointe swim in Lake Superior. “It’s just a lot of fun. I just got hooked on it,” he said.

He is also the only Minnesotan who has completed an International Ice Swimming Association-certified Ice Mile. Ascheman endured through single-digit temperatures at Square Lake in Washington County.
He credits his hobby for helping him stay motivated with his job. “Just about every fantastic attorney that I know has a crazy passion about something,” he said. “I think for my sanity’s sake, I need to have something crazy in addition to the law.”

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Meet HCBA Member... Danielle Bird

Posted By Nick Hansen, Friday, August 12, 2016

As a lawyer, adjusting your practice can be difficult. Different practice groups, new clients, and other unfamiliar procedures can throw off even the most experienced lawyer.  For Danielle Bird, a workers’ compensation attorney at SiebenCarey, her career change caused her to see things from the other side, literally. After eight years as defense counsel for an insurance company, she moved to doing plaintiff’s workers’ comp about two years ago.

After practicing for eight years, Bird was looking for a change.  Bird had a challenge finding a position where she could use the experience and knowledge she accumulated during her time as defense counsel. “The idea was 'How do I continue to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and have a personally rewarding work experience, but still use the knowledge and information I have gained with workers’ compensation laws, statutes and court personnel in such a specialized area?’ The answer was obvious, switch sides. So when I did make the move to SiebenCarey about two years ago, I carried that experience with me, however, since then my day to day work has been challenging and invigorating.  I continue to learn new things every day, it really keeps me on my toes,” she said.

Bird now works for a new group of clients: injured workers. “For my current clientele, this process is new to them, and it can be scary. There's no learning curve. Just because I explained to one person the rules of workers’ compensation or what to expect, it doesn't mean this new person has any knowledge or understanding. It is important that I spend a lot of time with each individual client talking to them about what types of benefits are available through workers’ comp and answering their questions, because it’s a complicated system and they usually have a lot of questions,” she said.

Bird’s background in understanding claims processing helps troubleshoot certain delays in treatment and puts her clients at ease. "When clients call me and are wanting to know what's going on and why there is such a delay in getting treatment approved, I bring a unique perspective on that situation, and in many instances am able to facilitate a quicker resolution,” she said.

While workers’ compensation is a very analytical field of law, Bird’s current job allows her empathetic side to flourish. “The conversation is much more personal because it's not like their life is a number. To most people, this is their livelihood on the line or their credibility on the line,” she said.

Bird has also been able to gain advice from a source outside of her colleagues: her family. Her father is also a plaintiff’s workers’ compensation attorney who practices in Rochester. While practicing in insurance defense, Bird didn’t often have a need to seek advice from her dad. Now that they both practice in the same field, their conversations regarding the law are much more nuanced and have a common thread to them since they are both now ‘on the same side.’

“I've been able to just sort of bounce things off of him, with regard to strategy and especially tough client conversations. He’s been practicing a long time and I most certainly trust him,” she said. Bird has also credited her colleagues at SiebenCarey, Mark Olive, Mike Scully, and Sue Holden for their assistance and mentorship.

The Workers’ Comp section of the HCBA is also getting a boost from Bird’s work. Along with Kathryn Hipp Carlson and Judge William Marshall, they are reviving the section after a few dormant years. They look forward to another year of interesting dialogue and CLEs especially in light of the new laws which took effect in August .

Bird believes that the section can help practitioners of all levels. Discussing the issues and developments surrounding workers’ comp can help attorneys keep up with new developments in the field.  "The HCBA is really good at bringing all varieties of people together from all different areas of expertise and different experience levels, which is what I appreciate about it most.” she said. “It is very invigorating to get out and meet your fellow bar members, not only to talk about legal issues but to meet like-minded people and forge lifelong friendships.” 


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Meet HCBA Member... Esteban Rivera

Posted By Nick Hansen, Thursday, May 19, 2016

Even though Esteban Rivera travels frequently as part of his practice, he puts in plenty of work close to home.

Originally from Ecuador, Rivera has developed an international practice, focused in immigration and business law, which spans two continents. He’s one of the only attorneys to be licensed in both the United States and Ecuador.

Rivera did not set out to develop an international practice. Rather, he first wanted to work in the Foreign Service in Ecuador, but he thought the work would be too constraining. He decided to attend law school in Ecuador and passed the bar in his home country. Rivera then moved to the United States, attended Hamline University (Now Mitchell Hamline), and then passed the bar in Minnesota.


His specialized practice requires frequent trips back to Ecuador, as well as to other places across the United States, including Florida, Texas, New York, Baltimore, and California.


Workdays are rarely predictable for Rivera. “Sometimes I go to court, sometimes I meet with clients, and sometimes I'm traveling overseas, or traveling locally. I have hearings. I have depositions. Every day is different,” he said.

Even with a busy schedule, he finds time for local bar association involvement. He is active with the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association (MHBA) and served as President in 2015-2016, and has been a member of the Hennepin County Bar Association board of directors since 2011. Rivera initially got involved with the HCBA while in law school, and his involvement has only increased since then.

Rivera is particularly pleased with his work growing the MHBA. “I'm very proud of the mentorship program. I chaired the program when I was student rep for two years and continue to see it grow with more students, more mentors, more participation,” he said. He also helped the MHBA quadruple its revenue from its annual gala.

One particular issue Rivera would like to see addressed more is the appointment of more Latino and Latina lawyers to the bench. “We (the MHBA) now have a comprehensive vetting program for judicial endorsements. Several of our members have been appointed the judiciary, especially in the district court. We had a historic appointment with Judge Peter Reyes to the court of appeals. We are very proud of that,” he said. However, he would like to see more appointments to the bench.

“I think that gives the sense of justice to the community and it gives another perspective to the bench,” he said.

The MHBA also has been focused on making sure law firms are hiring, retaining, and promoting Hispanic lawyers. He helped organize a CLE last year that explained why that practice could benefit firms.

Even though Rivera’s work keeps him busy and takes him many different places, he enjoys coming back home, “It’s a very vibrant community. I enjoy networking with attorneys here. I think the practice of law is great here. The judges are great. The system works. The economy is healthy. I enjoy Minneapolis.”

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Meet HCBA Member... Amanda Williams

Posted By Nick Hansen, Monday, April 25, 2016

Amanda Williams defies the statistics of the legal world. In an industry where women comprise only 21 percent of partnership positions at firms, she made partner at Gustafson Gluek less than a decade after graduating law school. In a male-dominated plaintiff’s bar, she has tried cases at the state and federal level and has been recognized by Super Lawyers three years in a row. And in a legal culture that thrives on seriousness, she’s not afraid to laugh at herself.


Williams is constantly learning about new types of businesses in her practice with class action plaintiffs. “You kind of become an expert in some things. For a while I was doing a lot of heart device cases, so towards the end I felt like I could diagnose you with a heart problem,” she said with a laugh.


Williams currently sits on the HCBA board of directors as a liaison between the association and Minnesota Women Lawyers. She first became involved with the MWL Scholarship Committee and then moved on to become the liaison to the HCBA.


“MWL's mission is something that I care greatly about. I have managed to get folks more interested and involved,” she said. She’s especially proud of the fact that her firm is in the “100% Club" with the MWL, where every female lawyer at the firm is a member of the organization.   


Williams acknowledged that there have been challenges that have accompanied her professional successes along the way. “I think as a woman coming into this practice, or this lifestyle, I was naive. I thought that everything was kind of great meritocracy. I quickly came to realize that's not how the world works,” she said.


Being involved with the HCBA and Minnesota Women Lawyers has provided Williams with insight in how to navigate the legal world. She has appreciated the assistance she received from other lawyers in her career, so she relished the chance to give back through different bar association groups.


“I think having other women and men who are happy to talk to you about the world, where you can share your experiences and go back and forth and learn from each other, has real big benefits,” she said.


Williams has pragmatic advice for new attorneys: you can never be too prepared for a case. “Always being prepared is important. No task is too small, they all matter,” she said.


Even though there are big challenges facing women in the legal field, Williams doesn’t seem too daunted by the statistics. She takes a very results-focused approach to her job, "There's always a solution. Find a solution. If it's a little problem, you can figure it out, if it's a big problem you can figure it out. It might take some time, but you can find a solution.”

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Meet HCBA Member... Paul Hemming

Posted By Nick Hansen, Monday, March 7, 2016

     Paul Hemming is one of the few people who can say he has helped build a tunnel as well as a law practice. The chair of the HCBA Eminent Domain Section worked as a civil engineer before switching to law just over a decade ago. He’s now a shareholder at Briggs & Morgan. Delaying his entry into law turned out to be a benefit for Hemming.

     Even though law school had always been on the back of his mind, Hemming wasn’t quite ready to head there after finishing his undergraduate degree. “At that point I thought I had enough school and I wanted to get in the workforce. I wanted to start earning a living. I thought, well, I've got my engineering degree now, the last thing I want to do for the next couple years is sit in a classroom again,” he said.

     After a few years, he realized that engineering wasn’t for him. He began taking classes at night at William Mitchell while working full-time at his engineering job.

     “The bulk of the time was doing the law school prep after classes let out at 9:20 p.m. You're also catching up on your studies late or on weekends,” he said.

     Even with its difficulties, the delayed entry provided Hemming with some perspective. “Having a little break between the start of my career as an engineer and going to law school gave me pretty good perspective to know what it's going to take to succeed in a career like this. I don't know if I would have been prepared the same way if I wouldn't have had at least a few years in the workforce prior to a career change,” he said.

     Hemming moved to law full-time after accepting a summer internship at Briggs. “I've been here ever since,” he said.

     Even though law and engineering appear to be vastly different professions on the surface, Hemming thinks there is some overlap, “You're trying to be fairly creative in your approaches to problem solving. I think that's pretty similar between engineering and law. The reasoning and analysis you go through and the engineering analysis you go through can be pretty similar.”

     Hemming has built a unique practice that focuses on many business-related aspects: construction litigation, railroads, eminent domain, trust and estate litigation, business litigation.   

     He is also the chair of the HCBA Eminent Domain Section. He first got involved with the section after attending CLE seminars. His involvement with the section has helped keep him attune to what’s going on in the field.  

     “It's pretty helpful to know what's going on before there's a published opinion or if somebody's got an interesting new argument. You'll probably hear about it at one of our section meetings. They really keep you plugged in about what's going on in the practice area. I really like that,” he said.

     While he may not be building tunnels anymore, building bridges between lawyers is just as rewarding.

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Meet HCBA Member... David Zoll

Posted By Nick Hansen, Tuesday, February 23, 2016

      A trip to West Point, Nebraska, is probably not on the top of the list for many attorneys as favorite things about their job. It is for David Zoll, a partner at Lockridge Grindal Nauen. Zoll currently practices environmental law and loves getting out of the office to meet with clients in person.

      One of Zoll’s clients was a small meat-processing facility in West Point, a town of just over 3,000 people. The company was having issues related to the treatment and discharge of their waste products in compliance with the Clean Water Act.

       “In order to get a good picture of what their operation looked like, and what their in-house waste water treatment looked like, one of my partners and I did a road trip,” said Zoll. It was a five-hour drive to see everything up close.

     A pivotal part of Zoll’s practice is just getting to know people, whether they are small business owners or public officials. He’s been able to connect with many of those people in his role as co-chair of the HCBA Environmental Law Section.

     “It's a chance to learn what's going on at the agencies that we interact with,” said Zoll. He had been a regular attendee of HCBA Environmental Law CLE seminars since he started practicing, so becoming a co-chair was a natural next step.

     "I would go to the monthly CLE meetings as an opportunity to learn more about environmental law and to meet some of the other attorneys that were practicing in this area. That’s really where it started and I just made a regular practice of attending the first Wednesday of the month,

     While environmental regulations can be contentious and complicated, providing an easy avenue for introduction can be beneficial in the long term.

     By bringing the regulators in as speakers, "it gives the folks who practice environmental law a chance to understand [the regulators'] perspective, and also to build relationships with them,” he said.

     That in turn, can benefit the client. “When you have an issue that comes up for a client, you already have an idea how the regulator will approach the issue. It eases that introductory period of trying to understand where each other is coming from. You can skip past that and be much more effective for your client,” said Zoll.

     He thinks more of the younger lawyers should make it out to hear these speakers.

      "There are far fewer younger lawyers there than I think there should be because of the value of what they could get out of it. The speakers who come in are always willing to take questions afterward and chat for a while,” said Zoll.

      While getting to know people provides some intangible benefits for his practice, there are also some delicious benefits, literally. After he finished his trip to West Point, “They sent us home with a cooler full of hot dogs and sausages and everything. It's like being in elementary school and getting to go on field trips.”

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Meet HCBA Member... Stephanie Willing

Posted By Nick Hansen, Monday, February 1, 2016

     Networking is a divisive word among legal professionals. Some thrive at it, while others view it as a chore, and others just avoid it all together. Stephanie Willing, the social events coordinator for the New Lawyers Section of the HCBA, insists that networking does not have to cause that much consternation.

      Willing, a native of Seattle, knew very few lawyers when she moved to Minnesota with her husband after graduating from the University of Oregon Law School. She first got involved with the HCBA after attending some all-member socials. The New Lawyers Section intrigued her.

     “They seemed to really develop camaraderie and all were doing really interesting projects. It was a group that I really wanted to be a part of,” she said.

     She recognized that just sitting behind her desk might not the best way to advance her career. “I was working at a small firm, so there were one or two new lawyers, but we kind of had the same mindset and we saw the same things every day. It’s been incredibly helpful to be able to meet other new lawyers that are doing other things and hear what’s out there and learn about the firms,” she said.

     Through the HCBA, Willing also connected with other more experienced lawyers that she might not be able to meet otherwise.

     “It's good to see what other people have done and how they've gotten to where they are. The more experienced members of the HCBA have been incredibly willing to hang out and talk to me, just kind of informally,” she said.

     While Willing misses her law school classmates, she enjoys how easy it is to develop relationships within the local community.

     “That’s been one of the benefits of the HCBA, as opposed to any other bar association. It’s the people you see in the skyway. It’s the people you can meet for lunch easily,” she said.            

     Willing asserts that networking does not have to be so challenging. “Start out by trying a bunch of different places and then narrow it down to the ones you actually enjoy going to. And then networking is not such a chore. It’s actually fun,” she said. And of course, the New Lawyers Section also sponsors a number of events, including after-work happy hours.

     New lawyers may even have an easier time at these events than they think. “People are always really happy to meet you and to ask you what you are doing… Even if you don’t have a job yet, sometimes it can be intimidating to go to an event with lawyers if you don’t have a job, but really everyone is always excited to meet new grads and help them on their way,” she said.

     Willing said the most important part of networking is to not be afraid to meet new people, “Don’t be intimidated.”

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