Profiles in Practice: Zac McFarland


Black? White? Football player? Lawyer? These are questions Zac McFarland has asked himself since he was a young kid growing up in St. Cloud, Minnesota. “It’s kind of just my own story. So, it seems like maybe it lacks a little bit of that luster,” said McFarland as he reflected on his young life and humble upbringing.

Born in Denver, McFarland moved to central Minnesota when he was three months old. Growing up, he had a desire to play professional football. This desire drove him to work hard in the weight room, which helped him excel in high school sports and on the gridiron at St. Cloud Tech High School. While in high school, McFarland was elected “governor” to the Boys State program and later participated in Boys Nation and a trip to Washington, DC. 

During this period in McFarland’s life, his goals and career direction changed. This transformation came with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “I identified with Obama more than I had identified with any other public figure because of how similar his story was to mine.” McFarland continued, “He was like me. Half black. Half white. Raised with his mom and his grandma.”  

While visiting the White House, McFarland had a chance to meet President Obama. McFarland described in detail the moment President Obama entered the East Room filled with eager high schoolers. It was the “first and only time that I’ve ever really felt that somebody famous was an actual human being,” he said. McFarland continued, “He had the softest, most perfect handshake I’ve ever had in my life. It was like shaking the softest but firmest cloud.”

Following high school graduation, McFarland’s life journey led him to St. John’s University, where he played left tackle for the Johnnies. After working hard at St. John’s, his life led him south to Iowa for law school. “I thought I was going to go to the University of Minnesota. I was dead set that I was going to be a Gopher, and then Iowa just came in with a better scholarship offer.”

After three years of living the Hawkeye life, McFarland returned to Minnesota. “I always knew I was going to come back here,” said McFarland. “I’m through and through a classic Minnesota guy. I will always be a Gopher fan. I always wear Minnesota stuff,” he said. 

Zac-McFarland-2“I get to put the same type of dedication and continued refinement into my craft–into my technique–into my abilities that I would as a professional football player with my stance, or my routes, or my work in the weight room.”

As a successful attorney and litigator, McFarland recalls how he has translated football skills to the courtroom. “You know I still am a pro,” said McFarland. “I’m just a different kind of professional now . . . I get to put the same type of dedication and continued refinement into my craft–into my technique–into my abilities that I would as a professional football player with my stance, or my routes, or my work in the weight room.”

Just as he did as a high school and college football player, McFarland seeks to improve himself as an attorney. His hard work and efforts have given him opportunities to appear before the Iowa Supreme Court as a student oralist while in law school and the U. S. District Courts for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa and the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He credits his prior athletic experiences for giving him the motivation to write better briefs and the ability to tell a story on behalf of his clients. “I take the overall purpose and break that down into smaller, more individual elements,” said McFarland. 

McFarland also credits his ability as an attorney to learning the skill of advocacy and to being very outspoken. “I think a big part of who I am as a person is wanting to communicate and to be understood, he said. “That’s great; for what I do as a litigator is to create and develop and tell a story. Whether that’s oral or whether that’s written.”

McFarland has an overall goal of continuing to develop and to become a better person. Soon he will transition from the life of a large-firm attorney to the role of law clerk for the Hon. John R. Tunheim, Chief U.S. District Judge, District of Minnesota. “Being a lawyer, which I never even knew was an option for me, and finding out more about myself and more about the profession are what I want to do,” said McFarland. He continued, “I get to talk about my story and then talk about how we bring more people like me into our group.” 


Aaron-Frederickson-150By Aaron Frederickson 

Mr. Frederickson is the founder of MSP Compliance Solutions, which is based out of Minneapolis/St. Paul. He has nearly two decades of legal practice experience in the areas of workers’ compensation, personal injury, and Medicare/Medicaid compliance. His passions also include assisting low income persons via pro bono legal representation.

Managing Editor
Elsa Cournoyer

Executive Editor

Joseph Satter