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Breaking the Ice: RCBA chief focuses on organization’s renewal

Todd Nelson//August 31, 2023

Victoria Elsmore

Victoria Elsmore is president of the Ramsey County Bar Association. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: RCBA chief focuses on organization’s renewal

Todd Nelson//August 31, 2023

Second Judicial District Referee Victoria Elsmore sees her term as president of the Ramsey County Bar Association as a time for “rebuilding with intentionality.”

Emerging from what Elsmore termed “survival mode” of the pandemic, the organization now has an opportunity to review its systems, offerings, meetings and communications.

“We can figure out what our members need in these times without the constraint of ‘this is how we’ve always done it,’” Elsmore said.

The temporary referee position to which Elsmore was appointed during the pandemic became permanent in January.

Elsmore previously was a partner at Collins, Buckley, Sauntry & Haugh in St. Paul, where her practice areas included family law. Early on, partners Sarah McEllistrem, a past RCBA president, and Mark W. Gehan, a past RCBA and Minnesota State Bar Association president, encouraged her to get involved in bar association activities.

Name: Victoria Elsmore

Title: Referee, Second Judicial District; president, Ramsey County Bar Association

Education: B.S., Communications, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: If you’re close by, I’m probably going to chat with you.

Q: Why law school?

A: After I graduated from La Crosse, I got a job running a statewide race in California, in San Francisco. After we won, I came home and attended law school intending to be a politico. About a year and a half into law school, I got a job at a small firm that did criminal bankruptcy and family law and never looked back.

Q: What are you reading?

A: “Project Hail Mary,” where a guy wakes up after being put under to go far into space, his two cohorts have passed away and the fate of the universe is on his shoulders. The audio book I’m listening to, “Gulp,” by Mary Roach, is about the digestive system.

Q: Pet peeve?

A: I believe that my ADHD makes me great at my job. It makes me empathetic. It gives me patience and an ability to connect with people. But certain sensory things drive me crazy. In my chambers, my home office, when the ceiling fan ticks, I cannot do anything else.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: My chambers staff and referee colleagues. We do hard stuff. We hear hard stuff. What allows us to continue to do it with kindness and humility is having safe spaces to go and ask for help.

Q: Most challenging?

A: The law can’t solve every problem. Sometimes it falls short. I’m left with an incomplete solution, where I feel like I’m making the situation worse.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: I have a kiddo who’s going into third grade. She’s 8. I co-parent her with her other mom. On weekends with me, we walk to the coffee shop. I get something with all the caffeine, she gets something with all the sugar, and we read our books. When she’s not with me, I enjoy bar trivia and once in a while going to comedy open mics and embarrassing myself in front of strangers.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: In Cottage Grove, I’d take them to Tom Moy, my favorite Chinese restaurant.

Q: Legal figure you admire?

A: Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson saying something in her high school yearbook like, “I’m going to law school and then getting a judicial appointment.” I admire her legal career and that she as a young person had clear goals and achieved them, at the highest levels.

Q: Misconception that others have about your work?

A: Nobody knows what a referee is. Referees are hired by the chief judge, usually are limited to one practice area and do not run for reelection. I serve at the pleasure of the chief judge. I do the same work as a district court judge in family court, and my orders are countersigned by the district court judges.

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

A: “Jury Duty,” a reality show where one guy thinks he’s serving jury duty, but everybody else is in on it.

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