Hennepin County Bar Association Honors Nine With 2021 Excellence Awards

by Nick Hansen | May 05, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS— The Hennepin County Bar Association (HCBA) recognizes nine attorney members with its 2021 HCBA Excellence Awards. The awards honor members for their service to the local legal profession, the community, and the association. The HCBA selected eight members for their work from among six different categories, and one member, who passed away in December 2020, for career contributions to the profession. These members will be recognized in the September issue of the Hennepin Lawyer. The awards will be presented at an HCBA member event during the 2021-2022 Bar Year. 

 • Alexander Kim (Greenberg Traurig) for Mentoring in the Profession: Through his leadership in numerous affinity bars and boards, Kim has been an advocate to diversify the IP field by meeting with and mentoring attorneys who are traditionally underrepresented in the practice.

Inti Martinez-Alemán (Ceiba Forte Law Firm) for Advancing Innovation in the Profession: Martinez-Alemán’s firm, Ceiba Forte, works to ease anxiety and remove barriers to justice for their Hispanic clients by leveraging technology. The firm uses a VR courtroom experience, a gamification intake process, mobile document upload service, and YouTube videos for Spanish-speaking clients to put them at ease throughout their case.

James Jacobson (Medica) for Mentoring in the Profession: Throughout his decades-long career, Jacobson has always made mentoring law students, advocating for new attorneys, and connecting individuals a priority. He is well-known at Medica for always being willing to meet for coffee and be a resource for those looking for guidance.

Lica Tomizuka (Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath) for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion: Tomizuka has been a tireless advocate for diversity in her own firm, the bar, and the greater community overall. Serving on committees at Faegre, advancing initiatives through organizations like the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, and taking on leadership roles with community organizations like YMCA demonstrate Tomizuka’s passion for diversity and inclusion work.

Sonja Beddow (Ballard Spahr) for Providing Pro Bono Service: With the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Beddow stepped up and expanded her pro bono service. Already a dedicated volunteer for the Children’s Law Center, she took on additional cases after the pandemic made it difficult to train new volunteers. She also learned immigration law to assist people with various immigration matters.

Timothy Griffin & Andrew Davis (Stinson) for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion: Griffin and Davis led a team that won a ruling from the Minnesota Court of Appeals that gave a transgender student the right to use a locker room that aligned with his gender identity. Called a “landmark ruling” from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, this case affirmed rights for transgender and gender nonconforming students across the state.

Veena Iyer (Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota) for Improving Access to Justice: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iyer’s leadership allowed ILCM to continue to serve clients in desperate situations. She’s also worked to provide more accessible and timely information on immigration court rulings via issuing fact sheets and conducting livestreamed social media sessions.

Thad Lightfoot for Career Contributions to the Profession: Lightfoot, who passed away last December, served as HCBA president from 2017-18, and was a champion of the bar and always made sure it was a welcoming place. He was a beloved adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline, and he made sure to connect with the New Lawyers Section. His contributions, leadership, and support of the Hennepin County legal community will be sorely missed.  

The Hennepin County Bar Association is the largest of Minnesota’s local bar associations, with a membership of over 8,000, serving the profession and the public.