She started her legal career as a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer fellow, a program driven by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of his war on poverty. There, Hughes worked as a family law attorney in northern Minnesota, providing essential services to rural areas. Theresa went on to work as a public defender and executive director of the Minnesota Justice Foundation before joining Stinson (then called Leonard, Street & Deinard).
“I transitioned to working for the Justice Foundation, a nonprofit that works with law students to get them involved in either a career as a public-interest lawyer or pro bono legal work,” she said. “I did that until 1998, then worked in the development department at William Mitchell for a few years, and I came to Stinson in 2002.”
Since her appointment as director of Stinson’s pro bono program more than two decades ago, Hughes has created a legacy of client service and dedicated leadership. Her leadership contributed to Stinson donating 22,405 hours to pro bono work in 2021, achieving the firm’s pro bono goal of 3% for the past six years.
About one-fifths of the department’s hours in 2021 were dedicated to criminal defense, post-conviction and expungement cases. Also, Hughes played a major role in the Deinard Legal Clinic, the first health law partnership in the nation.
“I was responsible for running our poverty law clinic in the Phillips neighborhood,” she said. “For the past 30 years, the firm has had a pro bono clinic at the Community University Health Care Center, which is owned by the University of Minnesota. I had the privilege of running the clinic for 20 years of its 30-year history.”
Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2022 here.