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Mark Vyvyan
Mark Vyvyan credits his parents with teaching him to help those in need. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Volunteer of the Year cites Spider-Man

Fredrikson shareholder Mark Vyvyan recently invoked Spider-Man’s adage — “With great power comes great responsibility” — in accepting the Volunteer of the Year award from the Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN).

Vyvyan credited his parents with teaching him to help those in need.

“While we will do a lot of stuff to impact the world in a positive way for our paying clients, I think we also have a duty to positively impact the world for those who couldn’t otherwise afford us,” Vyvyan said.

The VLN award recognized Vyvyan’s long-standing commitment to pro bono work focused on housing and litigation. He helped start the VLN-Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid housing court clinic program. In his most recent shift there, he served six clients.

Vyvyan’s litigation work includes commercial landlord-tenant disputes, foreclosures, construction disputes and oil and gas litigation.

“I almost always have one weird case, usually on Lake Minnetonka between two guys fighting about where a fence should be,” he said.

Name: Mark Vyvyan

Title: Shareholder, Fredrikson

Education: B.S., Political Science, University of Wisconsin; J.D., University of Wisconsin Law School

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: I am a super-extrovert. If someone gets in physical proximity to me, there’s a good chance I’ll start talking to them.

Q: Why law school?

A: When I was a junior, one of my roommates, T.J. Gurrie, out of the blue said, “You’d make a good lawyer. You’re smart, you have a good memory, you like to argue.” I’m like, “You know what? You’re right. I would be.” I did some research. It seemed like a good career path and potential for good income. That’s why it was law school.

Q: What are you reading?

A: “A Short History of Canada.” I like going to Canada and love Canadian people. Everyone I’ve met from Canada is almost nice to a fault. But I realized I didn’t know much about the history of Canada.

Q: Pet peeve?

A: When my sons who are 20 and 23, shove stuff in the garbage so it would not close otherwise, except that they’re shoving stuff in there. Can you just take out the garbage?

Q: Best part of your work?

A: Trials. I like the competition. I like thinking on my feet. They generate good stories. When you win, you can make a big difference for a client.

Q: Most challenging?

A: Trials.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: I love tennis. I like to run. I’ve done 19 marathons, but my marathoning days are over. I’m still trying to do a triathlon. My basketball days may be over, though I started last year or two years ago officiating youth and high school basketball. I want to continue doing that. I like golf too.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: Union Grove, Wisconsin, is where I grew up. I would take them to the Racine County Fair. Going there was the highlight of my childhood summers.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: Lincoln. He was president under the most challenging circumstances in our nation’s history and did a really good job. I took a law school class called “Lincoln as Litigator.” I’ve read books about some of his legal work. The thing I admire about him as a lawyer was in trials, he would sort of concede the extraneous points and focus on the one key issue, which I think generally is a pretty good strategy in litigation even today.

Q: Misconception that others have about your work?

A: Clients and litigants have the misconception that the result of the case is always fair or that it is supposed to be fair. As we all know, life isn’t fair. Do you want to keep spending more money on this or do you just want to move on to the rest of your life?

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

A: “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Our youngest son’s middle name is Atticus, so we feel strongly about it.

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