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Kenya Bodden
Kenya Bodden

Breaking the Ice: Community service a focus for new Ramsey bar president

Kenya Bodden, beginning his term as Ramsey County Bar Association president, is focusing on creating more volunteer opportunities for members to contribute to the community.

The bar will continue offering continuing legal education classes and networking and social events for its 2,700-plus members.

Bodden also is emphasizing community service, in addition to pro bono work. He recalled an event where the bar and another organization partnered with a school on St. Paul’s East Side to give away bikes.

“We were just being members of the community, making a positive impact but doing it in a way where we’re not being lawyers, we’re being citizens, seeing the smiles on kids’ faces and how cool that was,” Bodden said.

As a litigator, Bodden’s practice areas include casualty, insurance defense and products liability. He once tried nine cases in a single year.

“Once you get on that high wire and get in front of the jury, it’s intoxicating,” Bodden said.

Name: Kenya Bodden

Title: Partner, Thompson Coe; president, Ramsey County Bar Association

Education: B.A., English and history, University of St. Thomas; J.D., Hamline University School of Law

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: When somebody can give nod with a smile it lets me let me know this is somebody who’s open, kind and willing to talk.

Q: Why did you go to law school?

A: I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” in my freshman year of high school. Especially being one of five black people in a school of 1,200 students, what Atticus Finch did and the way he did it was kind of the inspiration. He had everything to lose as far as his place in the community but he’s doing the right thing regardless because that’s what lawyers do. I wanted to do that.

Q: What books are you reading?

A: “Backyard Water Gardens” by Veronica Fowler. I put in a water feature. This book helped me plan it. “The Intimacies of Four Continents” by Lisa Lowe. We went to the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York. Four statues are outside, for the four continents. My wife and kids gave me this book, so I’m reading it to learn more about what’s going on with that sculpture.

Q: What’s your pet peeve?

A: The inability to see other perspectives. That’s part of what’s wrong right now.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: The people. Our St. Paul office is connected to Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans. I like the people firm-wide. I enjoy the people here in St. Paul. That’s what makes it easy to come to work.

Q: Least favorite?

A: The wear and tear on my vision. I’d say my sight is getting worse.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: Travel with my wife and two kids. We were in Paris with the kids after taking lessons with Duolingo and getting our language together. Chicago, the Bay Area, you name it. We’ve gone a lot of places with the kids.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: I’m from the Bay Area, East Bay, Oakland. In Oakland, you have to see Redwood Regional Park. It’s not the Redwood Forest but you get to see how massive those trees are. Then Lake Merritt, which is downtown. Jack London’s Square is another great place, to see the large ships come in.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: William McGee, the late chief public defender in Hennepin County. I was hired by him as a law clerk. He fought for the underdog. He was a prosecutor for five years before going over to the public defender’s office, so he knew how to do both sides. He was a hell of a litigator.

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

A: That it’s always exciting and fun. … We’re professional readers and writers is what we are as attorneys.

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

A: Obviously, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “A Civil Action” and “The Rainmaker.” I like those movies because I can see myself in them a bit.

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