We caught up with law alumnus Jake Grassel ’09 to find out what he’s been up to since he left St. Thomas Law nine years ago. Grassel grew up in Williston, N.D., and studied finance and marketing at Bethel University before coming to St. Thomas for law school. He now lives in Waconia, Minn., and runs his private practice out of Eden Prairie. He is currently serving as president of the University of St. Thomas School of Law Alumni Board.
Q: Describe your job. What does a typical day look like for you, and what do you find fulfilling?
A: Since launching my own firm in June, no day is typical. Every day has been different, which has been exciting, challenging, and rewarding. In addition to my family life, I need to balance priorities of marketing/networking, client work, and running a small business each day which provides unique challenges. Working in the areas of real estate and civil litigation primarily with a few complimentary practice areas, I meet with clients that have varied needs, desires, and worries across the practice areas. The two most fulfilling things that I see are helping a small business owner take a major step or reach a goal, such as opening a new or expanded facility and secondly, being able to remove a worry from a client’s shoulders during litigation. Where the client has peace of mind because they know you are going to take care of them and shoulder their burden is tremendously fulfilling.
Q: What’s the single most meaningful experience you’ve had in your career so far?
A: Earlier in my career we were helping a client with a lakeshore development and part of the case went to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Our firm hired former Chief Justice Eric Magnuson to help prepare us and after reviewing our briefs, he specifically pointed to the brief that I had drafted as being exceptionally well written. (We won the case). For me that was incredibly meaningful, as it gave me tremendous confidence in my work as a young associate.
Q: What is the most indispensable piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A: I’ve received a lot of great advice from mentors over the years, so that is tough. I would say that the one that has helped me the most is to follow the Golden Rule: do onto others as you would have them do onto you. In litigation and negotiation, you often have to be very tough, but play fair. I have had numerous times in my career where I have been frustrated and wanted to become angry with an attorney on the other side and it would have been easy to lash out. The first time I received a call from a former opposing counsel referring me a client, I realized how thankful I was for not doing so.
Q: Who is your professional hero?
A: Guy Schoenecker. He was a tremendous businessman who has helped shape the lives of countless people in our community. Yet, he was incredibly humble, tremendously generous, and a man of deep faith. He taught me about business, but perhaps more important about how important it is to take care of others and to give back.
Q: How have the lessons you learned and the experiences you had at St. Thomas Law been woven into your career?
A: Outside of providing a tremendous legal education, St. Thomas taught me how to be more than just a lawyer, but also how to be a counselor. My goal with my clients is to become a trusted advisor to them, which means you have to be a great lawyer and a great counselor. Sometimes you need to tell them the hard news that they are making a bad decision. The lessons learned around St. Thomas Law’s mission of the integration of faith and reason have been invaluable in the role as counselor.
Q: Who was the most influential person for you at St. Thomas Law?
A: That is an incredibly difficult question as there were and are (I’m still learning from St. Thomas Law faculty and staff) many. I would have to say Mitch Gordon for two important reasons. First, he taught me the foundations of legal writing. Secondly, while Professor Gordon and I had different religious and political values, we were able to have meaningful conversations regarding life and our place in the world. Through those conversations, I had a great opportunity to learn about him as a person, despite our differences. This has helped me throughout life to see people as people, rather than through a political, religious, or cultural identity lens.