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Patrick Burns spends about 40% of his time as an alternative dispute resolution neutral. (Submitted photo)
Patrick Burns spends about 40% of his time as an alternative dispute resolution neutral. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Focusing ‘on resolution more than the fight’

Name: Patrick Burns

Title: Owner and founder, Burns Law Firm

Education: B.S., philosophy and speech communication, University of South Dakota; MPA, University of South Dakota; J.D., University of South Dakota; graduate, The Judge Advocate General’s School of the Army, Charlottesville, Va.; LL.M., dispute resolution, Pepperdine University School of Law Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution

Patrick Burns, who launched his eponymous firm five years ago, calls his practice dispute resolution.

Burns spends about 40% of his time as an alternative dispute resolution neutral. He also does civil litigation.

“I like to focus on resolution more than the fight,” said Burns, a solo practitioner who previously worked at several firms. “The adversarial process can be exhausting whether I’m a lawyer for a client or a neutral hired by other lawyers to help resolve their disputes.”

Burns ran the Minneapolis office of the American Arbitration Association for three years and earned a master of laws degree in dispute resolution at Pepperdine University. He’s a founder and owner of ValueSolve, which does flat-fee mediation and arbitrations on cases referred from the 4th Judicial District.

Saying he likes “disruptive change and risk,” the Sioux Falls native and his wife also operate North 61, a North Shore shop and online store offering clothing, adventure goods and bison leather bags.

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

A: I love live music. I’m very interested in my kids’ lives. I love the sport of rugby. Ask me where I got my awesome shirt. Or awesome shoes. I’m an extrovert, so pretty much anything would be a conversation starter for me.

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

A: I grew up with a dad who is a lawyer who was helping injured people. I was in sales after undergrad and decided that I wanted to have a more interesting career and more varied day-to-day life.

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

A: I’m halfway through Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, which I’m enjoying very much. “Trouble Boys” about the Replacements is in line for reading.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: When serving as a mediator, working with lawyers who do not prepare their client or the mediator for the mediation session.

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

A: The helping part of being an advocate for people, helping resolve disputes and the variety of my day-to-day work.

Q: Least favorite?

A: The long hours and adversarial tones that some lawyers and parties take.

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

A: I’m married and we have three teenagers who have lots of sports activities — and snowboarding and snow skiing with them. I also love to see live music.

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

A: I’d take them for lunch or dinner at the Walker Art Center. Followed by a walk across the Stone Arch Bridge and Izzy’s ice cream.

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

A: My dad [Bob Burns] who is still alive and was a personal injury attorney. The work he did on behalf of clients often at the detriment of his own personal and financial health, putting everything on the line that solo lawyers often do in trying to help.

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

A: That all lawyers are wealthy. I’m certainly not poor, but I don’t think it goes hand-in-hand that someone’s a lawyer and they’re wealthy. That I know everything about every area of law when there are so many areas of law that most lawyers never touch.

Q: What is your favorite depiction of the law, the legal professional in popular culture (books, films, TV)?

A: I love the movie “My Cousin Vinny.” Joe Pesci was the actor. How it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog. He was able to do good things even though he was just out of law school and seemed like bumbling idiot. He was dedicated to the cause.

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