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Meet Chris Vatsaas ’11, Caitlin Hull ’16, Beth Forsythe ’06 and Ronnie Santana ’18 on Lawyer Search.

Lawyer Search Online Alumni Directory Creates Connections, Builds Community

The School of Law’s online alumni directory is an age-old concept. Names and contact information organized into categories and searchable by attribute. But through this very simple platform, the law school is creating impactful connections and building community – for alumni, clients, and current and future students.

Interim law school Dean Joel Nichols.

“Developing highly skilled, client-centered lawyers who lead their communities by serving them is not just something nice that we say, it’s what we do,” said interim law school Dean Joel Nichols. “We feel strongly that if you have a legal need, a St. Thomas law school graduate can best help you navigate it.” 

This was the overarching idea when Lawyer Search was created more than a decade ago.  

“We wanted to create a valuable business and referral tool for our alumni, support the delivery of professional services for the public, create an accessible network for our students and elevate the impact of the law school,” Associate Dean of External Relations Lisa Montpetit Brabbit said. “With Lawyer Search, St. Thomas Law can serve as an important facilitator for the delivery of professional legal services.” 

Associate Dean of External Relations Lisa Montpetit Brabbit.

Connections for attorneys 

Lawyer Search is also a way for St. Thomas attorneys to leverage the Tommie Network to contact other attorneys for advice or to refer a client who may not be a match for their own legal expertise. 

“Our students learn early that their classmates are their teammates, not their competition. It’s an important part of our culture, and it extends after graduation,” Brabbit said. “To be successful as a lawyer, professional relationships are important and having a resource of fellow alumni like Lawyer Search at your fingertips helps expand those key connections to optimize client goals and outcomes.” 

Alumni say that regardless of when they graduated, when they meet other St. Thomas lawyers, they already know they have a connection. 

“I have been contacted by graduates I didn’t know who had questions that were going solo or considering entering the practice of law,” said Joshua Damberg ’17 J.D., an associate attorney at Fafinski Mark & Johnson PA. “I was happy to help. We even still meet every once in a while for coffee or lunch.” 

Joshua Damberg ’17 J.D.

“It’s really nice to be able to refer people looking for a lawyer to other Tommie law graduates,” said Dillon Lang ’14, ’19 J.D. “And I feel like the touch point of having gone to the same law school increases trust and makes reaching out a little easier.” 

Connections for future clients 

The same is true for the public when looking for a lawyer. Lawyers work with clients on issues that involve the things they care about the most, such as their families, jobs and assets, but also their freedom or constitutional rights. In addition to an understanding of the law, a lawyer must be a good listener, have empathy and build trust – key attributes St. Thomas strives to develop in students. 

“If people know St. Thomas, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level, they will know the type of lawyer they are getting – someone who is going to take the time to understand your circumstances, who puts your needs first,” Nichols said. “There is already a level of understanding and trust there.” 

Connections for current and future law students 

Monica Gould ’04 J.D.

Prospective students use Lawyer Search when considering which law school to attend, and current law students use it when discerning which career to pursue. Browsing through Lawyer Search shows the breadth of careers available in law and the alumni profiles offer a glimpse into the careers of St. Thomas Law graduates. 

“Our law students have a whole network of people waiting to help them or offer advice,” said Monica Gould ’04 J.D., director of the law school’s Office of Career and Professional Development. “Students meet alumni through our office, Mentor Externship, etc., but through Lawyer Search, they are taking the initiative to reach out, grow their professional skills and make a new contact.” 

Our law students have a whole network of people waiting to help them or offer advice.”

Monica Gould '04 J.D.

That is what 1L Kate Gaulke did when she used Lawyer Search to contact Lisa Thimjon ’09 J.D., legislative director at the Minnesota Department of Health. 

Lisa Thimjon ’09 J.D.

“I am interested in pursuing a career in government law/government relations but don’t know where to start in terms of a career path. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to meet with me via Zoom or in person. ..,” Gaulke wrote to Thimjon. 

Thimjon says she was happy to receive Gaulke’s email and pleased that she felt comfortable utilizing the alumni network.  

“I have had multiple St. Thomas law students reach out for advice or mentorship,” said Laura Kvasnicka ’17, ’21 J.D./MSW, an attorney at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. “I have always been very happy to receive emails from these students and have always engaged with them, and the fact that they are St. Thomas students makes me more inclined to communicate with them and put more into that communication/relationship.”

In an age where person-to-person recommendations are a preferred form of research in decision-making, Lawyer Search provides direct access for students to individuals who have been through the process of choosing a law school. 

“Many of our alumni generously give their time to talk with prospective students, through Lawyer Search and other avenues,” Brabbit said. “Incoming students want to hear from current students and alums about their experience at St. Thomas. Learning about their journey helps them know they can do it, too.” 

To access Lawyer Search, visit the School of Law’s website. St. Thomas Law alumni interested in joining Lawyer Search should visit the site and click on Registration to get started.