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Richard Ruohonen: A partner in only four years

Alice Sherren Broomer//March 26, 2001

Richard Ruohonen: A partner in only four years

Alice Sherren Broomer//March 26, 2001


his four years of practicing law, Minneapolis attorney

Richard A. Ruohonen has been very active in Minnesota’s

legal community — and his hard work has paid off.

Ruohonen was named a Rising Star in the Law by Minnesota

Law & Politics in both 1999 and 2000, and

at age 29 recently became one of the youngest attorneys

ever to be named a Superlawyer. He was also recently

chosen as one of Minnesota’s top 200 personal injury

lawyers, and was elected to serve on the Minnesota

Trial Lawyers Association (MTLA) Board of Governors.

In addition, Ruohonen became a partner at his firm

at the beginning of this year.

Richard Ruohonen


March 31, 1971; St. Paul, Minn.


Hamline University School of Law,

J.D. 1996; Hamline University, B.A.

Political Science and Economics,

1993; Hamline University Graduate

School, candidate for Masters Degree

in Public Administration


Pritzker & Associates, associate

1996-2000, partner 2001

Bar Admission:

Minnesota 1996

Bar Activities:

Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association

(MTLA) Board of Governors; Minnesota

State Bar Association; Hennepin

County Bar Association


Wife, Sherry; expecting first child

in September 2001


Softball, curling


is proud of his professional accomplishments, and

does not regret his years of hard work. “[My career]

didn’t get handed to me by anybody. … I worked hard

to get where I am and the hard work has paid off,”

says Ruohonen.

Although he is a member of both the Minnesota State

Bar Association (MSBA) and the Hennepin County Bar

Association (HCBA), Ruohonen devotes most of his professional

organizational time to his activities with the MTLA.

As co-chair of the MTLA’s continuing legal education

committee, Ruohonen put together a seven-week, 21-hour

course on anatomy and physiology for lawyers. The

course, which covered various topics including seminars

on the digestive, endocrine, and nervous systems,

on muscles and joints, on pain and suffering, and

on emotional disorders, was attended by over 20 attorneys

and led by University of Minnesota Medical School

professors and doctors last fall. According to Ruohonen,

the course was offered for around $600 per participant,

and is among the most successful and lucrative continuing

legal education seminars ever offered by the MTLA.


was an unbelieveable course — from a human perspective

it let me know what my clients are experiencing,”

says Ruohonen. The course involved sessions with cadavers

in addition to seminars, which gave those who attended

an in-depth understanding of the body and how it works.


a personal injury attorney you’re constantly taking

depositions of doctors and you have a quasi-medical

understanding,” observes Ruohonen. “This program [really

helped the participants to understand more fully]

how the body works. I think [the program] really is

going to help the other [participants] and me in our

practice. It really gave me a much better understanding

of when there is pain and how it happens and what

the chemical affects are on the body. It was as much

in-depth as you can get in 21 hours,” says Ruohonen.

According to Ruohonen, personal injury attorneys owe

it to their clients to learn as much about their medical

situations as possible. “If you as a lawyer understand

the terms and the concepts rather than simply go with

what the medical records say, you will do a better

job cross examining doctors, conducting direct examinations

on your own doctors, and arguing your client’s case

to a jury,” observes Ruohonen.

The MTLA plans to offer the course again next year.


partner in four years


to Ruohonen, who has been practicing personal injury

law since 1996, his desire to become an attorney started

in high school. “I’ve always been a good arguer and

been very analytical. Everybody growing up would say

I could argue my way into anything or out of anything.

My family has always told me I had a knack for that

kind of stuff. When I told them I wanted to go to

law school they said I’d fit right in. I don’t know

whether that’s good or bad,” jokes Ruohonen.

Ruohonen has always been somewhat of an overachiever.

He worked 30 to 40 hours per week while earning his

undergraduate degree, and put in close to 80 hours

per week during his summers. “I didn’t do a lot of

playing,” recalls Ruohonen.

Although like most law students he didn’t work during

his first year of law school, Ruohonen worked during

the summer, and began working as a law clerk at Meshbesher

& Spence during his second and third years. “When

I was in law school I didn’t know what type of law

I wanted to go into. I thought I wanted to be in business

law at first. But I took a few business classes and

I could just tell it wasn’t for me. When I got hired

at Meshbesher I really liked what was going on there

and how they were helping people and I really liked

the practice of personal injury law. That’s when I

decided I wanted to go into [personal injury law],”

recalls Ruohonen.

According to Ruohonen, his strong work ethic served

him well after graduation, when he joined the Minneapolis

law firm of Pritzker & Associates.


I was in law school I was working a lot and studying

a lot. It felt like a vacation when I only had to

work 60 hours a week,” says Ruohonen.

Ruohonen was told that he would be made a partner

in his firm in October of 2000 — just four years after

being admitted to the bar — and has been a partner

at the three-attorney firm since Jan. 1, 2001.

Fred Pritzker explains, “I’m making Rich a partner

early because he deserves it. He’s an exceptional

young lawyer. He works extremely hard, he’s great

with clients, he brings in business, and most importantly

he’s a good human being whom I trust immensely.”

Ruohonen typically arrives at his office between 6:30

and 7:30 in the morning, and stays until between 6:00

and 7:30 at night, sometimes later. He works three

out of every four weekends. “That’s the part that

isn’t always that fun,” says Ruohonen. “Everyone else

is sleeping in, but I have to get up and come [to

the office]. But at the same time it’s probably when

I get the most work done because I don’t have the

constant phone calls and interruptions,” he adds.


right way to practice


is grateful to Pritzker for mentoring him. “He’s a

great lawyer — it’s fabulous to see him in trial.

… I think we practice a different brand of law here.

Client contact, and developing relationships with

our clients, is very important to us. Fred has taught

me that being able to trust our clients and having

them trust us [is very important],” says Ruohonen.

Ruohonen was chair of the MTLA new lawyers section

for his first three years of practice, and continues

to pass what Pritzker has taught him to other new

lawyers, both in his own firm and in other firms.

“I try to mentor [other new attorneys] in the same

way that Fred mentored me. I take time with them and

explain the way to do things right rather than just

how to skate by — I don’t think that’s the way law

should be practiced,” says Ruohonen.


are a lot of new attorneys who don’t feel that they

can go to their partners like I can go to Fred. I’m

still learning every day. I can always go to him and

he’s always there to answer my questions. A lot of

lawyers don’t have that luxury,” observes Ruohonen.

Though he no longer chairs MTLA’s new lawyers section,

Ruohonen still attends meetings, gives talks on various

topics, and offers advice to other attorneys.


attorneys] can learn from my mistakes and my experiences,”

says Ruohonen.

In addition to Pritzker and Ruohonen, the firm has

one associate attorney, two legal assistants, two

secretaries, an accountant, a receptionist, and an

attorney administrator. Though they work very hard,

Ruohonen and his co-workers also know the importance

of having fun. “It’s a small, laid back firm. We’re

serious about what we do and we care about the people

we represent, but we also like to have fun and I really

like the people I work with. That makes it so much

easier to be here longer hours,” says Ruohonen.

Ruohonen also enjoys spending time with his family

and playing sports. He is an active member of both

competitive softball and competitive curling leagues.

His curling team took fifth place in the nation two

years ago, and last month competed in the state playoffs.

The top three teams from that competition qualify

for the final 32 teams that compete to go to the Olympics.




thoroughly enjoys being in trial, and prides himself

on always being well-prepared. “The best thing I like

about being a trial lawyer is when you get that verdict

and you win. … It really makes me feel good to help

people and it makes the 80 hours a week prior to trial

worthwhile,” says Ruohonen.

According to Ruohonen, preparation is the key to success

at trial, and as a lawyer in general. “No matter how

taxing it is on my life … it’s important to me that

I do the best job I can for my clients. If that means

staying [at the office] until 10 o’clock at night

then I do that. If that means working seven days a

week, 10-12 hour days, I do that. I never go into

a trial — or anything that I do — unprepared. …

A lot of times I’m over-prepared. Maybe I haven’t

learned yet, even after four years, that happy medium.

But I feel that the better prepared I am the better

I can do for my client,” says Ruohonen.

While Ruohonen likes most aspects of his personal

injury law, he finds it frustrating when insurance

companies view his clients as “just numbers.”

He also, not surprisingly, finds it frustrating to

lose a case. “There’s no more difficult call to make

than to tell your client that you didn’t win, even

when you know you’ve done everything you can do to

help them. Then it’s usually the facts of the case

that lost it for you, but at the same time you always

wonder if there’s something more you could have done,”

says Ruohonen. “[Still], I never have the doubt in

my mind that I could have been more prepared,” adds


Ruohonen has the following advice for new attorneys:

“If you work hard it will pay off. … Just because

you make it through law school does not mean your

road is paved. You have to go out and continue working

hard. You don’t just get [your career] handed to you

because you have a law degree,” says Ruohonen.

Ruohonen also advises attorneys to be dedicated to

their work, and to really show their clients that

they care.

Ruohonen recently received a phone call from a woman

he did not previously know. After listening to her

story and agreeing that she was being treated unfairly

by her insurance company, Ruohonen made a few phone

calls that resulted in the woman receiving over $500.


just made me feel so good that she was so happy. She

wanted to give me money and I [told her] ‘Don’t give

me anything — it’s my pleasure,’” says Ruohonen.


like to think of most of my clients as friends. What

I would do for a friend I want to do for them. There

are time constraints, obviously, but I want to do

my best,” says Ruohonen.

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