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Ann Juergens
A Rochester native, Ann Juergens went to law school “to learn more about power and justice.” (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Civil clinic leader grateful for clients

Name: Ann Juergens

Title: Professor of law, co-director of clinical programs, Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Education: A.B., Harvard University; J.D., University of Minnesota Law School

Law professor Ann Juergens feels gratitude toward the clients of the Civil Advocacy Clinic she has run for more than three decades at Mitchell Hamline School of Law when she reflects on winning this year’s Minnesota State Bar Association public service award.

That’s gratitude for clients sharing their legal problems with Juergens and the law students she supervises in the clinic, work she said ideally combines reflection and action.

“It’s moved my heart and stimulated my brain,” Juergens said. “My clients are resilient and persistent in ways that I learn from them.”

A Rochester native, Juergens went to law school “to learn more about power and justice.” That stemmed in part from her experience persuading school board members to reverse an earlier decision and allow Juergens and others on her high school’s new gymnastics team to compete.

Juergens joined William Mitchell College of Law in 1984 after practicing in California.

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

A: In the last two and a half years it’s been to ask about my grandson. These days it’s to talk about how are we going to reckon with our history of white supremacy, of slavery, with segregation, genocide of Indians. We have a heavy lift in front of us, a lot of work to do. We always have but let’s talk about that.

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

A: “Invisible Man,” by Ralph Ellison. And the New Yorker. and Minnesota History, just finished Louise Erdrich’s book, “The Night Watchman.”

Q: What’s a pet peeve of yours?

A: Landlords who don’t understand they’re running a business. They think it’s their home not the tenant’s home. And landlords who aren’t professional in their approach to the business they’re running.

Q: What do you like best about your work?

A: One thing I tell my students, one of the best things about being an attorney is you can always work for yourself; that freedom that the license gives you. And you always have to be willing to quit a job to keep the license. In other words no one can make you do something unethical.

Q: What do you least like about it?

A: The stress of conflict with an opponent who is used to exercising power in an employment or a landlord-tenant situation.

Q: What do you like doing away from work?

A: Walk outside. I’ve walked every morning for 21 years with a neighbor. Spend time with my husband and family. Usually what I would do is go hear live music. Can’t do that yet.

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

A: I’d take them to the [St. Paul] Farmers Market, on a long walk or bike ride to see the sights, across the bridge along the river. Jump in some water somewhere and end up hearing some music — but you can’t do that right now.

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

A: Lena Olive Smith, the first African-American woman attorney in Minnesota. She went on to be a civil rights pioneer and made a big impact in that community. And Rosalie Wahl, the first woman on our Supreme Court, with a very interesting personal history as well as a distinguished judicial history.

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

A: Students are surprised by how emotional it is. They think it’s logical, rational but it’s really emotional work. At some levels maybe in the appellate court the emotion has been set aside but to understand and represent your client well you have to be able to put the decision maker in the client’s shoes.

Q: What’s your favorite depiction of the law or the legal profession in popular culture?

A: Diane Lockhart in “The Good Fight.” Woman, independent, caring about justice issues, working for herself.

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