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Jeff Baill is on the board of the United States Tennis Association, the sport’s national governing body. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Subrogation specialty built firm, national association

Name: Jeff Baill

Title: Partner, Yost & Baill

Education: B.G.A., University of Michigan; J.D., Hamline University School of Law

Jeff Baill, partner at Yost & Baill, faces few misconceptions about his firm’s specialization: subrogation.

“Most people don’t have a misconception about subrogation because they don’t know what it is and haven’t heard of it before,” Baill said.

Baill, who has dedicated his 40-year career to the subject, explains subrogation with this example (which his children had memorized by age 8):

If your furnace malfunctions, explodes and burns down your house, your insurance company pays the reconstruction cost. Subrogation, the substitution of one’s rights to another, enables the insurer to make a claim against the manufacturer or installer of the furnace to recover that cost.

Business at Yost & Baill took off after Baill formed a trade association, the National Association of Subrogation Professionals, in 1998.

The firm, with 15 attorneys and Minneapolis and Milwaukee, is one of the largest of those dedicated to subrogation. The association has grown too, with 3,500 members, seven staff and two major conferences a year.

Baill has a penchant for associations, this year serving as Hennepin County Bar Association president, focusing on lawyer wellness.

Further, Baill is on the board of the United States Tennis Association, the sport’s national governing body and owner and operator of the U.S. Tennis Open in New York. He got involved more seriously as his son excelled in it.

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

A: Just say hi. I like to find out about people, who they are, what they do.

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

A: I came from a blue-collar family, not a lot of money, and was a rule follower. I thought the law would put me in a position where I would be in control of my life and what I did and I’ve followed that path.

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

A: I’ve read Michelle Obama’s biography. I read every Lee Child and Daniel Silva book. Those are my fun books.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: Angry people. I love that the law is an orderly way to resolve disputes. People and lawyers involved in disputes should try to be professional and courteous with each other.

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

A: Trying to work through interesting and difficult challenges. Working with my clients and lawyers in my office in a collaborative effort to try to solve problems.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Dealing with people who let emotion get in the way of trying to resolve disputes.

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

A: Tennis. I spend a lot of time playing tennis and when I’m not playing tennis I’m often involved in the governance of the sport.

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

A: I’m from Detroit and went to the University of Michigan. I’d probably bring them to a University of Michigan football game with 100,000 people in the stands.

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

A: Someone I’ve worked with at the bar association for many years, Eric Cooperstein. In my work at the bar association Eric is a very level-headed, bright, engaging great example of what a lawyer should be like.

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

A: That they know every area of the law. Most people just don’t understand that lawyers usually focus on a certain area of the law and that’s what they know.

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

A: I recently reread “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which I think gives one of the best depictions of what a lawyer should be in terms of helping people who need access to justice.

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