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David Wilson recently represented a young boy whose parents feared getting arrested if they came to court. (Submitted photo)
David Wilson recently represented a young boy whose parents feared getting arrested if they came to court. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: ‘Traffic cop’ manages immigration, other concerns

Name: David Wilson

Title: Managing attorney, Wilson Law Group

Education: B.A., criminal justice, University of St. Thomas; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Managing attorney David Wilson describes Wilson Law Group as “almost an immigrant-based firm.”

Immigration-related issues, Wilson said, often intersect with clients’ family and civil concerns, putting him in a traffic cop role.

“It’s not a very tranquil place,” Wilson said. “It’s a madhouse where people are blowing lights, sliding through sideways and collisions are happening constantly.”

Minneapolis-based Wilson Law Group has 15 attorneys — including Wilson’s wife, Cassondre Buteyn. The firm this year opened a Denver location.

Deportation and other immigration-related cases increasingly involved travel to Colorado on behalf of clients who move between Denver and Minneapolis, Wilson said. Denver also is home to Wilson’s in-laws.

Wilson recently represented a young boy whose parents feared getting arrested if they came to court. The boy drew pictures of himself and Wilson fishing from a boat “while I tried my damndest to argue why he should be allowed to stay in the United States,” Wilson said.

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

A: Say hello. You have to be aware when starting a conversation I may keep going for a long time.

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

A: I was lucky my father joined the military, which provided a way out of poverty. He grew up on a cotton farm in Mississippi. My mother grew up outside of Riverside, California, in the old oil fields. Appreciating the opportunity I had to get an education — first to go to college let alone law school — I was sensitive to power dynamics, growing up and my family struggling for money. My parents went into business in real estate and I saw how those dynamics unfolded with banks where if there hadn’t been someone advocating for them they would have been trampled. So I became hyperaware of that at a young age and it just became ingrained in me.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: When people say they can’t do something and they haven’t even tried. The real failure in life is not to try.

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

A: I can see the world without leaving my office.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Besides losing? Having to help people manage expectations.

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

A: I like winter biking as much as summer biking. When you’re riding through the woods and all you hear is the crunch of snow on tires and then silence, it’s amazingly peaceful.

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

A: The Minnesota [Valley National] Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. People don’t believe they’re in the woods and river area but then 10 minutes’ drive north and you’re in downtown Minneapolis. We’re outdoors, wild but we’re also very urban.

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

A: When I was in college I got the privilege of meeting retired [Minnesota Supreme Court] Justice Paul Anderson. He was on the Court of Appeals at the time. I had a great deal of respect for him as an educator on cases where he was a presiding justice at the Minnesota Supreme Court.

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

A: People make political assumptions that because of being an immigration attorney, you have other beliefs or values. People don’t appreciate how hard it is to advocate for people or businesses in distress. Being an attorney is a commitment to excellence and to the nobility of the profession if you want to honor what it means to be an attorney. People’s lives and businesses and money are at stake.

Q: What is your favorite depiction of the law, the legal professional in popular culture?

A: “Mindhunter,” the Netflix series. It’s a great display of what it means to be involved in criminal justice.

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