From left: Dave Corbett, Professor Hamilton, Andrew Pieper, Erin Collins, and Laura Hammargren.

Self-reflection, 6 years post-law school

There’s nothing better to bring you back into self-reflective mode than going back to the University of St. Thomas School of Law and catching up with favorite professors.

A few months back, I was at a St. Thomas function where I ran into one of the most truly influential teachers in my life, Professor Neil Hamilton. After we exchanged the basic pleasantries and updates (living in a new city! (me) a new grandchild! (him)), he of course drilled down right to the important matters and asked me the following question: What is it about St. Thomas and its mission that you believe contributes to your success in your day-to-day professional life?

As discussed by many posts on this blog, the mission can have many different facets in people’s careers. Frankly, for those of us doing work in corporate law at larger law firms, it may take more subtlety to point to how St. Thomas’s education and mission affect our professional lives than someone, say, working for the public defender’s office. But I think we all have an equally strong a claim to being formed by the mission.

I could probably write 18 blog posts about different ways it has impacted me, but the very first thing that came to my mind was “service,” but on a very broad level. “Client service” is a term of art for most law firms these days, so when I say “service,” I am trying to convey something more. It means that every day I go to my job wanting to give everyone I come in contact with the very best service I can. Whether it is the partner who has chosen me, out of all other associates, to assist her on a case. Whether it is the junior associate who looks to me for mentoring and guidance. Or whether it is a client asking for my firm’s expertise in representing him or her in a stressful time.

And good service can mean a lot of different things. Being responsive to questions, to show those I am working with that their matter is important to me. Being enthusiastic and energetic, no matter the task or how daunting some requests might be. Trying to be empathetic to the stresses and demands placed on those with whom I work. And doing these things not because it is required of me as an employee, but because it is fulfilling to me when others can rely on me for excellent service and I can make their lives better, even in small ways. And that is something I know St. Thomas and its mission helped developed in me.

I asked a fellow law school graduate (and good friend) the same question, now curious about how others who have been out of school for several years would answer the question. For Andrew Pieper ’08, an associate at Stoel Rives LLP, the morality aspect of the mission is what still reverberates strongly with him. Because he’s a litigator, he works often with opposing counsel and has experienced varying amounts of respectfulness in how other counsel treat their opponents. Andrew, however, tries to stay above the fray. “One thing St. Thomas and its mission instilled in me,” he told me, “is a desire to rise above all of that and not fall into that tendency that others sometimes do of letting the baser elements of our profession take over.”

Laura Hammargren ‘08 is an associate doing investigations work and commercial litigation at Mayer Brown LLP in Chicago