2023 Excellence Awards: Amanda Kruse

2023-06 Kruse Banner

Amanda Kruse was selected for the 2023 Excellence Award for Providing Pro Bono Service. She has been a dedicated pro bono volunteer for Volunteer Lawyers Network. She fully represents low-income Minnesotans looking to expunge their state records, increasing their chances to find stable jobs and housing. She has also served as a mentor to other attorneys looking to do pro bono expungement work. 

1. What has been a meaningful moment in your pro bono service?
The moment that sticks with me the most is a phone call I received from a criminal expungement client after she was able to volunteer at her children’s school for the first time. The school district had a policy that required a background check for all volunteers—including parents—that prevented her from volunteering at the school for many years. She was in tears and was so grateful. It was amazing! I feel guilty sometimes because the pro bono work that I do is so straightforward and yet can have such a transformative effect on someone’s life.  

2. What do you wish more attorneys knew about pro bono?
You don’t have to be an expert to participate in pro bono. Step out of your comfort zone and just do it. Try out a few different things and see what resonates with you. Many organizations, like Volunteer Lawyers Network, offer great training and support and will help you throughout the entire process.

3. Who is a legal hero/mentor to you?
In law school, I participated in a clinic led by Professor Brad Colbert that provided legal services to individuals incarcerated in Minnesota prisons. The clinic gave me an insider’s view of the criminal justice system and the prison system in the United States. Professor Colbert exposed us to the collateral consequences of criminal convictions and the flaws of our legal system—a system that often compels individuals to plead guilty to something they did not do, without any explanation of the lasting consequences a criminal conviction may have on their lives. The clinic was eye opening and set the tone for my pro bono efforts going forward.

4. How would you like to see the legal profession or our local legal community change?
I would like to see more equal, meaningful access to legal representation. For so many people, access to legal services is simply out of reach. This can mean the difference between having employment, a place to live, or experiencing homelessness for long stretches of time—sometimes over an issue that is not complicated to fix. We, as lawyers, are in a unique position to help. When society confers on us the privilege to practice law, we accept the responsibility to make justice equally accessible to all people, regardless of the ability to pay.

5. What do you do to unwind and recharge from your work?
When I am not at work, I am generally taxiing one of my two boys (12 and 14), to their many sporting activities. I enjoy travelling, particularly to any destination where I can throw on dive gear and jump in the ocean, trying new restaurants, reading, and golf—a sport that I both love and hate (sometimes simultaneously).

Managing Editor
Elsa Cournoyer

Executive Editor

Joseph Satter