Why I Made a Change: Tim Baland


Tim Baland made the switch from the spending time in the public library to the law library. Read why he decided to turn the page on his career and pursue a legal career.

Before I went to law school to become an attorney, I was a librarian. I went to library school right after college, and worked at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York, and then the Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota (going from New York to South Dakota was quite the change, let me tell you). Then, after a hiatus for another round of graduate school, this time in Classics at the University of Iowa in Iowa City—I became a law librarian at the Minnesota State Law Library, working in the Law Library Service to Prisoners outreach program.

In this role, my colleagues and I would visit state prisons in Minnesota on a regular basis, interview prisoners who had signed up to see a librarian, find out what information they needed, research the answers back at the Minnesota State Law Library, and get the information to them. By having this program, the Department of Corrections satisfied its obligation to provide a law library and “meaningful access to the courts” to prisoners under Bounds vs. Smith, 430 US 817 (1977). I am not sure that the same obligation exists under Lewis vs. Casey, 518 US 343 (1996), but that is an article for a law review for somebody else to write.

Sometimes prisoners would need general information, sometimes they would ask for specific cases (I recall that Blakely vs. Washington, 524 US 296 (2004) was extremely popular, when that decision was issued by the United States Supreme Court), and sometimes prisoners need you to research an in-depth legal problem or do a legislative history.

Dunnell Minnesota Digest quickly became my friend and was—and still is—a go to resource. I also used the Prison Litigation Manual, Trial Handbook for Minnesota Lawyers (I actually bought this book when I became an attorney), Rights and Prisoners, Search and Seizure, and several other treatises. The Minnesota Statutes Annotated and Minnesota Rules of Court were also quite useful. Whenever I have a question about a legal issue, I go to the law library.

I decided to go to law school because I wanted to help others.

I decided to go to law school because I wanted to help others. In many ways, being a librarian was limiting, because the information that I would find and deliver to prisoners would not by itself secure release, win a trial, or prevail in an appeal, and I wanted to be able to do more.

After law school, I clerked for Judge Dan Kammeyer in Anoka County and promptly opened my own solo practice in Anoka after Judge Kammeyer retired, after a short-lived stint working for a small law firm practicing mainly family law. Kammeyer handled civil and criminal cases, and handled OFP calendars, but otherwise stayed as far away from family law as he could. That must have rubbed off, because I just do not have the stomach for family law these days. I tend to refer family law cases that come my way to attorneys who focus almost exclusively on family law.

With my background working with prisoners and in criminal law, you would figure that I would end up practicing criminal defense, or maybe prosecuting, but there are just too many attorneys who know a lot more and do a much better job than I ever could representing criminal defendants. As more and more landlords kept hiring me to represent them and as time went by, practicing criminal law became less and less realistic.

I prefer civil law anyway. The criminal justice system is just too adversarial and allows for a lot less flexibility and creativity in coming up with unique settlements that actually fit the parameters of the case and leave both defendants feeling like they got something.

Fast-forward 20 years, and the young man who went to law school is now an attorney helping landlords get rid of problem tenants. I represent landlords in evictions and landlord-tenant law. I am also a Rule 114 Qualified Neutral.

Tim-Baland-150Tim Baland

Tim is an attorney who helps landlords legally get rid of problem tenants. Tim also represents clients in personal and small business bankruptcies, real estate, probate, and administrative law. Tim is also a Rule 114 qualified neutral.

Managing Editor
Elsa Cournoyer

Executive Editor

Joseph Satter