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Jonathan Wolf
Jonathan Wolf, attorney at Rinke Noonan in St. Cloud, will receive the 2021 Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Professional Service from the American Inns of Court. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Pro bono commitment earns national award

Name: Jonathan Wolf

Title: Attorney, Rinke Noonan

Education: B.S., justice systems, Truman State University; J.D., University of St. Thomas School of Law

Jonathan Wolf, attorney at Rinke Noonan in St. Cloud, believes doing pro bono service is part of an attorney’s “ongoing task to continually earn the right to practice law.”

For his commitment to pro bono service and other community contributions, Wolf will receive the 2021 Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Professional Service from the American Inns of Court. It’s one of several national awards the organization is to present at a black-tie event April 2 at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wolf, a civil litigator, serves as a volunteer attorney with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans and Central Minnesota Legal Services, where he also is a board member.

“It’s important to give back to the community, and there’s a huge unaddressed need for legal services,” Wolf said. “I think that public service has maybe in recent years waned in popularity. I wish more people dedicated some of their time to it.”

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: Ask me about something substantive, something with a little depth. Or start with a good joke.

Q: Why did you go to law school?

A: I finished undergrad with a degree in justice systems and didn’t quite know what to do. I thought, I’ll apply to law school and see what happens. I applied to eight of them, I believe, and got excellent scholarship offers at four. I thought, if I can do this without a huge crippling debt, why not?

Q: What books are you reading?

A: I just finished “Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us,” by Brian Klaas. That book helps explain some of the upper echelons of the legal profession. Brian Klaas is a native son of Minnesota too. “Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer,” by Tim Jeal. Anything about exploration in the 19th century has been scratching an itch for me lately.

Q: What’s your pet peeve?

A: Lack of self-awareness.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: When I get to help someone who is in need of it and deserves help.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Other attorneys. Not all of them of course. If you’re reading this and you know what I mean you’re probably not one of the ones I’m talking about.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: Hunting is one of my favorite pastimes although lately this board game “Wingspan” has been giving hunting a run for its money.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: My hometown is Long Prairie. I now live in St. Cloud, which isn’t terribly far from Long Prairie. There’s not a ton to see in Long Prairie but a number of times, when I have had people visiting my hometown, we’ve gone canoeing on Lake Charlotte.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: Oliver Wendell Holmes. He’s got such a great writing style — not without controversy. Nobody who died almost a century ago is going to be without some opinions that today we kind of don’t like but he had a great writing style, some great legal reasoning.

Q: Misconception that others have about your work as an attorney?

A: The big one I encounter is that a litigator is going to be able to provide a satisfying solution to any problem. In fact, litigation, typically, not always but typically, is more like exchanging one problem for a different set of problems. If you think you’re going to go into litigation and it’s going to be this walk in the park and you’re going to get everything you want it’s not going to be like that.

Q: Favorite book, movie or TV show about lawyers?

A: “The Nine” by Jeffrey Toobin. That’s about the Supreme Court in a period of time relevant to the award I’m getting because Sandra Day O’Connor plays an important role. It’s a great exploration of the justices and their perspectives. It really humanizes them.

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