Five Questions with Dean Anthony Niedwiecki

Two years into COVID, what’s surprised you the most during this time at Mitchell Hamline?

I started as president and dean during COVID, so when we returned to having some in-person classes last fall, it was a stark reminder of how much I love interacting with students and our faculty and staff on campus. I was also surprised by how hard it was to recognize people in person when I have only met them on Zoom.

With much discussion focused on the future of the bar exam, what are your feelings about possible changes or a new approach to admitting attorneys to practice?

I’m very excited the Board of Bar Examiners has begun a thorough, two-year review of how we license attorneys in Minnesota. My official installation happened the same week last September as the first of those meetings. I used my speech to call for reforms, noting that the current version of the bar exam doesn’t measure whether someone will be a good lawyer, and it was originally designed in the 1920s to keep certain people out of the profession, including Black individuals and new immigrants. My hope is that Minnesota follows some other states that are developing additional pathways to becoming a lawyer, like an apprenticeship or some version of diploma privilege. I support those moves because I think they are more equitable and more accurately measure whether someone will be a good attorney.

The role of attorneys, the justice system, community engagement and advocacy, have been in the news a lot this year with a number of high-profile cases here in cities. What have discussions been like with students around these events?

The events in the last couple of years that began with the murder of George Floyd motivated so many of our students to use the law to make changes so these the structural issues that contribute to the deaths of Black people at the hands of police.  In fact, our students immediately began pushing for police reform in Minnesota after the killing of Amir Locke and one those students, a former law enforcement officer, testified before a legislative committee recently in favor of a bill to ban no-knock warrants in the state. More information here.

With a renewed focus on wellbeing in the legal profession, how have you taken care of yourself during this time?

I can’t say that I have been as successful at this as I would like to be.  I have been exercising more and trying to take breaks from work to relax and travel, now that there is less transmission of COVID, but I still need to work on ways to lift myself up when my work becomes so time-consuming and difficult.

How can the bar associations support this rising generation of lawyers?

The best way to support the next generation of lawyers is offering to mentor students and providing professional advice and support while they are in law school.

Managing Editor
Elsa Cournoyer

Executive Editor

Joseph Satter