Judge Laura Thomas: New to the Bench

Judge Laura Thomas’s journey to the bench began long before she ever set foot in lawPIC - THL - Thomas school. It was in her eighth-grade civics class where she fell in love with American 
government and the principles upon which this nation was founded. In high school, her participation in mock trial ignited her quest to embark on a career in law. For Thomas, the advocacy, finding of the facts, and developing a story around the evidence, all pushed her to pursue litigation. “The courtroom is one of the best ways to get as close to the truth as possible.”

Thomas studied political science at the University of St. Thomas before attending law school at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. It was important for Thomas to learn how to practice law in an environment that would not only teach her how to be a technical, excellent lawyer, but a lawyer with a good heart. Describing herself as a person with a “boundless interest” in people, she recalled Loyola was a place where she felt at home. Thomas also discussed the importance of ethics and professionalism as an integral part of the culture of the law school. “As a lawyer, one is responsible for making swift ethical decisions each and every day.” 

Upon graduation from law school in 1996, Thomas served as a law clerk for Otter Tail County Judges Thomas Stringer and Harlan Nelson. After her clerkships she worked for Minneapolis product liability firm Hanson, Marek, Bolkcom, and Greene, Ltd. Thomas later practiced general civil litigation, insurance defense, and family law at Rider Bennett. In 2002, Thomas founded a solo family law practice which she maintained until 2014. She also served as a conciliation court referee for six years.

In 2007, Thomas became a clinical professor at the University of Minnesota Law School.  Over the next 13 years, Thomas helped develop the Law in Practice course at the Law School.  As a professor, she had the opportunity to nurture, mentor, and supervise student attorneys. Thomas and her colleague Professor Prentiss Cox realized there was a need for a basic textbook to provide students with practical legal tools useful for litigation, client and witness interviews, depositions, and many other skills. To address this need, they co-authored a nationally recognized textbook, “Law in Practice” in 2014.  In 2015, Thomas became the Law Clinic Director at the Law School – overseeing the clinical program while continuing to teach her Family Law Clinic and co-direct Law in Practice.  

Thomas emphasized the importance of ensuring every individual who comes into her courtroom has an understanding of what is happening regarding their case and why it is happening. “As a judge, I have the ability to affect hundreds of lives.” Thomas is committed to making sure she is a judge who is fair and takes the time to explain to each individual before her why she decided the way she did. 

Her experience representing individuals on both sides of civil disputes gives Thomas a deeper understanding about how quickly cases change and managing client expectations, which will help her empathize with the attorneys who appear before her. 

With experiences ranging from associate attorney, solo practitioner, clinical law professor, and conciliation court referee, Thomas brings many skills which will guide her in this new role as a judge. Thomas has a strong grasp of what is required to manage her chambers, the courtroom, and new responsibilities.

Career Timeline
•  Clinical Professor of Law
(2007 – 2020)  and Director of 
Law Clinics, University of Minnesota Law School (2015-2020)
•  Solo Practitioner, 2002 – 2014
•  Rider Bennett, Associate, 
1999 – 2001
•  Hanson Marek Bolkcom & Greene, Associate, 1997 - 1999
•  Law clerk, Otter Tail County Judge Harlan Nelson and Otter Tail County Judge Thomas Stringer, 1996 - 1997
By Dorothy Summers
Ms. Summers has joined Cousineau, Waldhauser, and Kieselbach as an associate attorney, after serving as a law clerk to the Hon. William H. Koch in Hennepin County District Court.