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Jim MacGillis founded Trepanier MacGillis Battina in 2003 with Craig Trepanier, whom he succeeds as president. (Submitted photo)
Jim MacGillis founded Trepanier MacGillis Battina in 2003 with Craig Trepanier, whom he succeeds as president. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Business focus drives boutique firm’s new leader

Name: Jim MacGillis

Title: Shareholder attorney, president, Trepanier MacGillis Battina

Education: B.A., political science, John Carroll University; J.D., University of Minnesota; M.A., public affairs, University of Minnesota

Jim MacGillis, shareholder attorney and president effective this month of Trepanier MacGillis Battina, is working to make sure the boutique business firm minds its business.

MacGillis founded the firm in 2003 with Craig Trepanier, whom he succeeds as president. Trepanier continues with the Minneapolis-based firm.

With eight attorneys, Trepanier MacGillis Battina looks to deepen its bench but will continue focusing on litigation, employment law and transactional work, MacGillis said.

“In a world of increasing mergers and outside firms coming in, staying firm and nimble in our practice area is important,” MacGillis said.

MacGillis’ two years in Honduras with the Peace Corps formalized his Spanish fluency and awareness of other cultures. That benefits his work with clients including Spanish speakers and those from the Middle East.

MacGillis, who never played lacrosse, answered a call for officials to learn the game and has officiated women’s high school and collegiate lacrosse since 2003.

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. Tell me where you grew up or where you’ve traveled; we might have something in common.

Q. What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally?

A. My dad planted the seed early on that the legal profession was perhaps a step up the ladder of the American dream. He was a public school teacher and committed to that. With my interest in politics, language, business and social justice, it just seemed an avenue to pursue dreams in a way that could also pay the bills.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. The NCAA women’s lacrosse rulebook. I’m more likely to spend the evening trying to get through an Atlantic magazine, read the New York Times online or even Sports Illustrated.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. Customer service and more specifically as to attorneys it’s non-responsiveness. Work product that isn’t of the quality that lawyers should hold themselves to. We’re lucky in Minnesota the attorneys tend to be by and large very good.

Q. What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A. Something that brings me some level of satisfaction is seeing the product of my work around town. There are clients of mine whose restaurants I can walk into, whose housing developments I can see, and whose trucks I see rolling down the road and realize that I played a small part in those businesses.

Q. Least favorite?

A. Any business owner and most attorneys feel stress is a part of the job. I tell my clients you unburden yourself and make sure you sleep at night. The result is sometimes I don’t sleep as well at night.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. Summertime, it’s at the cabin with my family and being on the water. Fall, I’ll take a deer stand over anything else. I downhill-ski in the winter. Spring is given over to officiating lacrosse.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. My hometown is Milwaukee. I would take them to the south side for Mexican food and to Lake Michigan and Bradford Beach. We’d finish with a brewery tour. Lakefront Brewery or if you’re more into root beer, Sprecher.

Q. Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most?

A. My wife [Sarah MacGillis] is an amazing advocate. She is a criminal defense attorney and does a lot of professional board work and represents teachers. She has changed the trajectory of people’s lives.

Q. What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A. That attorneys can clog the system up or make things more expensive when in reality attorneys facilitate the civil society we live in.

Q. What if any is your favorite depiction of the legal professional in popular culture?

A. Atticus Finch and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Who could look at Gregory Peck and not think he epitomized the lawyer trying to stand in the way of mob rule?

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