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Attorneys of the Year: Patrick K. Costello

mn-aoty19-final-4-45-copyFor more than 40 years, attorney Patrick Costello has been a business stalwart on Main Street in Lakefield, a town of 1,700 people in southwestern Minnesota.

“I think rural towns shouldn’t be abandoned by professionals,” said Costello, a partner at Costello, Carlson, Butzon & Schmit LLP, whose roots date back to 1887. “Lawyers really do add value to the life of rural society.”

That’s been especially true in Jackson County since 2004, when a philanthropic model Costello promoted for many years for public charities to help keep farmland in active production became legal. The 2004 state law repealed the prohibition on foundations owning farmland and enabled farmers to donate their properties and perpetuate them as ongoing, working farms.

Subsequently, Costello helped the Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) develop policies “that would allow us to accept and keep farmland,” said Liz Cheney, the nonprofit’s director of philanthropy.

Over the years, Costello said his law firm has coordinated the transfer of up to 10 farms totaling about 1,650 acres to SWIF, which is renting them to farmers. Costello’s idea has caught on elsewhere.

“More than a dozen other community foundations across the country have used Pat’s philanthropic model to preserve our rural way of life,” according to a SWIF brochure.

Costello has left other marks on the legal profession. He is nationally known in taxation, estate planning, business planning, and agricultural law circles.

He is past president of the American Agricultural Law Association and received the AALA Excellence in Agricultural Law Award in 2012.

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