Name: Peter Doely
Education: B.A., classical languages, University of Iowa; J.D., University of Minnesota Law School
Peter Doely values the wide-ranging issues in his construction and insurance coverage practice at Maslon and the Insurance Law Clinic that he co-teaches at the University of Minnesota Law School.
Doely, for example, is on the coverage counsel team for disputes over the cable-net roof system at the Las Vegas Raiders’ new stadium.
At the clinic, he’s supervising law students who successfully moved to vacate an insurer’s judgment against a couple seeking coverage for a car crash who were unaware that judgment had been entered.
“I love all my cases whether it’s a $10,000 auto accident or a leaky roof that I have in the clinic or these large mega-projects around the U.S. that get a lot of headlines,” Doely said.
Before college, Doely worked in a cabinet factory and studied farming, both in Norway.
Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?
A: Asking about my weekend plans. That’s a question I like asking other people. It’s a window into your non-professional life, which is nice to look through.
Q: Why did you study law and pursue it as a career?
A: It’s partly an education in history and civics, which I really enjoy. In addition I thought it would give me flexibility in career path and geography.
Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?
A: “Growth of the Soil” by Knut Hamsun, a Norwegian author. I just got a new issue of “The Southern Review” that I’ve been working through. A book of poems, “Resurrection Update” by James Galvin.
Q: What’s a pet peeve of yours?
A: Receiving something that has been sitting somewhere for a while and when you get it there’s a short deadline, where something that wasn’t an emergency turns into one. I’m probably guilty of this too.
Q: What do you like best about your work?
A: Focusing on the language of a policy, picking it apart, seeing how judges have picked it apart and then building out the arguments to advocate on behalf of our clients.
Q: What do you least like about it?
A: Lack of control over my time.
Q: What do you like doing away from work?
A: Getting outside. I’ve been doing an annual backpacking trip, a week somewhere, so far in the continental U.S. During the pandemic I’ve been doing more fishing. I have two young girls, so we spend time in the garden and going on walks.
Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?
A: I grew up in Waverly, a town of about 7,000 to 8,000 in northeastern Iowa. Waverly hosts a large draft horse sale. There are always lots of people, particularly people from the Amish communities around Iowa. It’s a good slice of Iowa.
Q: Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you most admire—and why?
A: I externed with the Hon. Denise D. Reilly, who now sits on the Court of Appeals in Minnesota. She has a really sharp intellect, a kind command over the courtroom and this public spirit. She demonstrates the best of what a lawyer can be for their community.
Q: What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?
A: Partially it’s a function of attorneys that loom large in people’s imaginations — the justices on the Supreme Court or the ACLU. People think of the attorneys who are pushing and shaping the law. But the day-to-day job for most attorneys is not that. We don’t build new cars; we’re more mechanics. Our clients come to us with problems and then we try to troubleshoot them in the most efficient way we can.
Q: What’s your favorite depiction of the law or the legal profession in popular culture?
A: I liked “Kingdom,” which stars Stephen Fry playing a small-town solicitor in England. The show demonstrates the importance of relationships to our profession.
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