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Profiles in Practice: Camille Bryant

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Camille Bryant’s job title is public defender, but she views her role as problem solver and change maker.

As an assistant public defender for Hennepin County, Bryant provides legal counsel to low-income clients charged with crimes. She has over 15 years of experience in the role, including representing juveniles charged with delinquencies and persons involved in child protection actions. 

Law is Bryant’s second career. After studying chemical engineering at Clemson University, Bryant came to Minnesota to work as an engineer at 3M. After a few years, she decided it was time for a career pivot. “I wanted a profession that was more about people, less about things,” she said. At first, she considered becoming a midwife. “Midwifery appealed to me because of the magic of birth,” she said. But when she learned that none of her undergraduate credits would apply to the requirements for a midwifery masters program, she explored other options. 

Bryant decided law school was the right direction and she enrolled in Hamline (now Mitchell Hamline). Attending law school as a single parent was challenging. “For a long time, I felt like I was on my own, trying to figure things out,” she said. She has since mentored law students to help them navigate the profession. 

Bryant’s engineering background influences how she practices law. “I think like an engineer first, a lawyer second,” she said. “Both professions are primarily about problem solving. Both require the ability to collect relevant information, determine the applicable rules, and think creatively about how to apply those rules without breaking them in order to obtain a desired outcome.” 

According to Bryant, the most important trait for an effective public defender is the ability to see and hear clients without presumption or judgment. The job can be frustrating at times. “My biggest challenge is feeling as though I will never be able to do enough to disrupt the flow in the cradle-to-prison pipeline,” she said. She is passionate about making positive changes for this population.

Bryant serves on the board of The Bridge for Youth, an emergency shelter for young people experiencing homelessness. “It provides a stable and supportive place for youth in crisis to connect to services,” she explained. “I am interested in disrupting harmful cycles. The Bridge works to do just that.” 

Social change starts with listening and having conversations. Bryant is the visionary behind a project called Deep Listening for Social Change. “Deep listening is about listening for understanding and connection,” Bryant explained. “It is listening to understand and be fully present with what is happening in the moment without trying to control or judge it. It should be easy, but it is not.”


Camille-Bryant-2“I am also intrigued by the interplay of might and compassion, how and when one versus the other leads to change.”


Her commitment to social justice is why Bryant writes about racism and criminal law for Buddhist Justice Reporter and she chairs the legislative committee of the MSBA. 

Bryant’s passion for social change is inspired in part by Mahatma Gandhi and Genghis Khan. “I am interested in individuals who make things happen as outsiders—from unexpected, atypical paths,” she said. “I am also intrigued by the interplay of might and compassion, how and when one versus the other leads to change.” 

In her free time, Bryant enjoys live music and theater. Pre-covid, she and her adult daughter had planned a trip to Broadway, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. She looks forward to the return of live shows. Cedar Cultural Center is her favorite performing arts venue.   

Bryant also likes to travel. During law school, she studied abroad in Italy and it remains her favorite tourist destination; however, there are other places she would like to experience, such as Machu Picchu. “I have a long travel wish-list,” she said. 

At home, Bryant enjoys cooking. “I like trying new dishes and I have a few Thai-inspired stir fries that I make,” she said. When her daughter visits, Bryant will cook her daughter’s favorites. 

She enjoys being outside, gardening or hiking. “Nature is my most consistent antidote for stress,” Bryant said. Growing up in South Carolina, however, she isn’t a fan of Minnesota winters. “The main goal I set for myself in the winter is to spend some time outside every day in whatever way I can convince myself to.” Despite the cold, she enjoys learning new winter activities and looks forward to trying ice fishing and snowshoeing one day.

In the meantime, Bryant will continue her quest to be a problem solver for clients in the justice system and a catalyst for positive change in the community. 

  


Lisa-Buck-150By Lisa Buck
buck.lisamarie@gmail.com

Ms. Buck practiced corporate law in Minneapolis and was an adjunct professor at William Mitchell College of Law. When she isn’t writing for the Hennepin Lawyer, you can find her behind the lens at Lisa Buck Photography.

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