Get to Know Nicole Kettwick

Nicole Kettwick 2023-2024 HCBA President

The 2023-2024 HCBA president shares her advice for new lawyers, the professional risk that led her to a great opportunity, and her vision for the year ahead.

How did you get involved in the HCBA?

I became involved with the HCBA through a rather serendipitous encounter. While working in downtown Minneapolis, I received an email invitation to attend a new lawyer's section meeting. What initially caught my attention, I must admit, was the promise of free pizza, a welcome solution to my forgotten lunch that day.

At that first meeting, I found the proceedings a bit slow, but something compelled me to return. As time went on, I not only made new friends but also found invaluable mentors, colleagues, and even landed my current job through the connections made within the HCBA.

It's a testament to the unexpected and far-reaching benefits of being part of this vibrant legal community, and it's what has kept me actively engaged ever since.

As a former chair of the HCBA New Lawyers Section now in leadership, what advice do you have for new lawyers looking to get involved in the community?

For new lawyers looking to get involved in the legal community, my advice is simple: take that first step and get involved! Here are a few practical steps you can take:

Reach Out: Don't hesitate to reach out to those already involved in the legal community, whether it's someone like me in a leadership role or any other person you can find through the HCBA.

Attend Events: Attend events, whether it is the Judge’s social, a CLE, or any co-sponsored event. These events provide excellent opportunities to meet new people, learn, and grow your network. And better yet, follow step 1 and find someone else who is going. There is a good chance our leadership will be there!

Engage in Continuing Legal Education (CLE): Attend CLE seminars and workshops. Afterward, reach out to the speakers or fellow attendees to discuss the topics and make connections.

Seek Mentorship: Look for mentors within the community. Many experienced lawyers are more than willing to guide and support newer members of the profession.

Build Relationships: Once you've met a few people, your network will naturally start to grow. When you attend events with someone you know, they can introduce you to others, and this ripple effect can be incredibly powerful.

I can't emphasize enough how welcoming and supportive the legal community can be. I personally experienced numerous seasoned lawyers taking me under their wing and introducing me to others, and I'm sure the same will happen for you. The key is to take that initial step and be proactive in seeking connections and opportunities within the legal community.

What are your goals as president?

Continuity and Growth: I am committed to ensuring the continuity of the excellent work done by HCBA in the past, while embracing innovation and growth to meet the evolving needs of our members. By leveraging technology, fostering partnerships, and staying attuned to the changing legal landscape, we can position HCBA as a dynamic and relevant organization that remains ahead of the curve.

Empowering Members: Our members are at the heart of HCBA, and empowering them throughout their careers is vital. I will continue to prioritize creating opportunities for professional development, networking, and mentorship within our legal community. By nurturing a culture of collaboration and support, we can enable our members to thrive personally and professionally.

Advocating for Justice: Upholding the rule of law and advocating for justice are central to HCBA's mission. I will work closely with our members, committees, and community partners to address critical legal issues, promote access to justice, and advocate for fairness and equality within our community.

Strengthening Community Bonds: The sense of community within HCBA is a cherished aspect of our organization. I will focus on fostering stronger connections among our members, judiciary, legal professionals, and community leaders. Building bridges and encouraging meaningful engagement will promote a cohesive legal community that benefits us all.

Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion: Diversity and inclusion are essential to the fabric of HCBA. I am dedicated to fostering an inclusive environment that celebrates and respects the diverse voices and perspectives within our legal community. By promoting equity and diversity, we can enrich our collective understanding and strengthen our ability to serve our community effectively.

Financial Sustainability: To ensure HCBA remains a robust organization well into the future, financial sustainability is paramount. I will work diligently with our board and executive team to explore opportunities for stable funding, responsible budgeting, and prudent resource management.

Engaging the Next Generation: HCBA's future lies in the hands of the next generation of legal professionals. I am committed to actively involving young lawyers and law students in our initiatives, offering mentorship programs, and creating a platform for their voices to be heard.

How does your background as a criminal defense attorney inform your leadership style?

My background as a criminal defense attorney likely has influenced my leadership style. Some qualities I hope I bring to the table are compassion, creativity, and effective listening. 

Compassion: Dealing with individuals facing challenging legal situations has taught me the significance of empathy and understanding. As a leader, I prioritize approaching every situation with compassion, creating a supportive and inclusive environment.

Creativity: Criminal defense often demands creative problem-solving. This mindset carries into my leadership, where I encourage innovative thinking and adaptability.

Effective Listening: In the legal profession, active listening is crucial. This skill has translated into my leadership, where I value input and ideas from everyone to collaborate and become the best we can be.

In your speech at the annual meeting, you discussed “the power and importance of being a lawyer.” How have you experienced that in your career? 

In my career, I've consistently experienced the power and importance of being a lawyer, and this realization is reinforced in nearly every professional interaction I have.

Individuals often entrust me with their most critical matters, relying on my expertise and ethical commitment to provide guidance and solutions. This trust is a profound reminder of the weight that comes with being a lawyer, and it underscores the immense responsibility we have as lawyers, not only to our clients but to the community as a whole.

Is there a time when you’ve taken a personal or professional risk and it’s paid off?

Yes, there was indeed a moment in my professional journey when I took what felt like a significant risk, and it ultimately paid off. Early in my career, I was navigating the challenging job market, and I was presented with a full-time job opportunity. While it was a tempting offer, something inside me urged caution, and I made the tough decision to decline it.

This decision to turn down a seemingly secure job opened up the space and time I needed to continue my search. It was during this period that I came across the job I currently hold. This position not only aligned more closely with my career goals and values but also provided an environment in which I could thrive personally and professionally.

In hindsight, it became clear that my initial choice to decline the full-time job was a pivotal moment that allowed me to discover an even better opportunity. It reaffirmed the value of taking calculated risks and following one's instincts, even in challenging circumstances. It taught me that sometimes, the right path may not be the most obvious one, and that trusting in oneself can lead to rewarding outcomes.

What’s a professional strength of yours?

One of my professional strengths lies in my deep sense of care and empathy for my clients. I believe that being genuinely compassionate and invested in their well-being not only strengthens the attorney-client relationship but also leads to more effective advocacy and better outcomes. This commitment to caring for my clients ensures that their concerns are not just heard, but also understood and addressed to the best of my abilities.

You’re on the board of the local organization H2O for Life, how did you get involved with that organization?

I was working out at a gym and ran into a childhood friend’s mom who was on the board. They just had a lawyer leave the board and were looking for a replacement and asked me. We do many things, but part of the organization focuses on getting clean water, sanitation, and hygiene to children (and often schools) all over the world and it is very rewarding to be a part of. Plus, the founder is a former teacher who is from White Bear Lake, right near where I grew up!

Outside of work, what brings you joy and how do you prioritize that?

My greatest source of joy is undoubtedly my family. My three children hold the top spot in my heart, with my husband (sorry, Treye), parents, and brothers closely following. Balancing the demands of a legal career with family life can be challenging, but I'm fortunate to have a supportive firm that understands the importance of work-life balance.

Prioritizing family time is a non-negotiable for me. My firm recognizes the significance of being there for my kids' activities, making it possible for me to attend their events, enjoy family vacations, and be present for dinner whenever I can. This support allows me to cherish those precious moments with my loved ones.

I believe that nurturing a fulfilling personal life not only brings me joy but also enhances my effectiveness and satisfaction in my professional endeavors. It's a delicate balance, but one that I prioritize to ensure I can enjoy the best of both worlds: a rewarding legal career and a happy, connected family life.

Nickey’s Favorites:

Movie: Dumb and Dumber

Television/Streaming Show: The Office

Vacation Destination: Mazatlán, Mexico, Cape Town South Africa, or somewhere new!

Read: most things nonfiction

Twin Cities Restaurant: Spoon and Stable

Thing to do on the weekend: sports, games, spend time with family and friends, travel, or anything competitive!


Managing Editor
Elsa Cournoyer

Executive Editor

Joseph Satter