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Attorneys of the Year: Barb Jones

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Barbara Jones

It’s hardly a secret that lawyers and journalists have a few things in common. Both spend their work days (and nights sometimes) digging through mountains of facts in search of revealing details. Both use those details to tell stories. Both hope those stories expose injustices. And, of course, both are frequently rewarded with heaps of public scorn. Barb Jones is a notable exception to that rule; journalists and lawyers alike laud her career and accomplishments.

Jones began her career as the bureau chief for a small paper in Lakeville, Minnesota. She did everything from taking a picture of a really long icicle to writing about city and school governance. Encouraged to consider law school, she attended William Mitchell and graduated in 1982. She practiced law at a “neighborhood” law firm in Richfield, including a fair amount of family law, and she also served on the Hennepin County Commitment Defense Panel.

In 1998, she began writing for Minnesota Lawyer and continued to practice law at the same time. She then began working full time for the newspaper in 1999. Since that time, she has excelled in her reporting about the Minnesota legal professional. Lorie Gildea, chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, notes that Jones is a regular at the oral arguments and judicial-branch events. She credits Jones for her effort to “help the legal community better understand the work of the courts in Minnesota.”

As anyone in the business of producing a weekly newspaper can attest — especially a paper with a small staff — there is never enough time to get the job done, yet somehow the job gets done. Yet in addition to her editing and writing obligations, Jones finds time to teach. She’s taught at Hamline University School of Law, the Minnesota Paralegal Institute, and currently teaches as part of a mentor externship program at St. Thomas School of Law. Her reviews there are commensurate with her journalism abilities: “Barb is a gifted writer, mentor and teacher who has the uncanny ability to appear to be everywhere, yet still be there for her students and colleagues when they need her,” says Judie Rush, director of Mentor Externship at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. “Her professionalism, commitment, and enthusiasm for law and all of us within the profession makes it difficult to find a lawyer or judge who she doesn’t know or who doesn’t know her. Recognition for her outstanding service to the profession is fitting and long overdue.”

Retired Justice Paul Anderson perhaps summed it up best: “Barb is a worthy recipient of this award. She earned this award and her stellar reputation as a reporter through hard work, diligence, insights into the law and how it develops, and ability to gain the trust and confidence of those she has reported on. She has the ability to make the law understandable to a broad audience — a critical skill in a civil society like ours.”

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