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Dee Baskin
Dee Baskin works to reduce the education debt of legal aid attorneys as executive director of the Loan Repayment Assistance Program of Minnesota. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: ‘Helping lawyers help the disadvantaged’

Name: Dee Baskin

Title: Executive director, Loan Repayment Assistance Program of Minnesota

Education: B.A., English and public relations from University of Indianapolis; J.D., University of Minnesota law school

Dee Baskin wanted to be a public interest attorney when she went to law school. She now works to help reduce the education debt of legal aid attorneys as executive director of the Loan Repayment Assistance Program of Minnesota (LRAP).

The nonprofit’s mission is “helping lawyers help the disadvantaged.” LRAP Minnesota’s financial awards help public interest attorneys, those representing low-income clients through nonprofit organizations in Minnesota, repay law school loans.

“To have a program that helps people do that work, because those jobs don’t pay very well, I thought was amazing,” said Baskin, who joined LRAP last year.

The assistance can help experienced attorneys, who can handle complex cases and higher volume, continue their legal aid work to benefit more clients.

LRAP Minnesota was founded in 1991 by Minnesota law school students, the Minnesota Justice Foundation and the Minnesota State Bar Association. Support from those organizations and individuals, law firms, corporations and district bar associations enables it to assist 50 public interest attorneys serving 10,000 clients a year.

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: I like talking about spirituality. I like talking about meditation practices and enjoy learning about people’s different backgrounds.

Q: Why did you go to law school?

A: I had a lot of experiences growing up personally and around me with injustice. I’m a first-generation college student. My dad was a janitor, my mom was a cook at a hotel. Our neighborhood was pretty low-income. There were railroad tracks going through my backyard. Sometimes I say I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, literally. There was a trucking company and an ethanol plant. There was a lot of environmental injustice and criminalization of poverty. Being a black, queer, masculine-presenting person also caused a lot of issues. I wanted to help the communities that needed help, because there were so many things that were wrong. That’s how I went to law school to become a public servant.

Q: What books are you reading?

A: I’m in a certification program for pranic healing, a no-touch healing modality. I have a lot of reading to do for that. “Let’s Have Lunch Together” by Marshall Howard, about relationship building.

Q: What’s your pet peeve?

A: People who aren’t authentic.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: It’s amazing to see how life-changing this money that we give to attorneys can be. I wish we could do more of it.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Limited resources. You have to be a good steward of the public’s money.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: Anything with nature or creatures or art. I bought a camper van in January. I get to be out in nature and enjoy all those things. One of the boards of directors that I’m on is for a ballet in St. Paul. I love going to art shows, art galleries. I know a lot of artists who are doing cool and amazing things. I’m glad that performances and these things are ramping back up.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: I was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. Before Secretary Buttigieg made South Bend really cool, it was just small-town Indiana. I would take them to the campus of Notre Dame.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: [Assistant Dean of Students] Erin Keyes at the University of Minnesota Law School. I was looking for a place that was LGBTQ-friendly. She sent an e-mail about her experience as a queer law student and integrating that into the law school community. I was, like, this is where we have to go.

Q: Misconception that others have about your work?

A: Within the legal community it’s kind of weird that I don’t practice. Outside of the legal community, if I mention being a lawyer people think I have a lot of money or can help them with their legal problems.

 

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