Meet Theresa Paulson: 'The purpose of the bar is to bring together attorneys'

0819-Theresa-PaulsonTHERESA PAULSON launched her solo practice, Thrive Legal Services, in 2016. After graduating from the University of Minnesota - Duluth with a B.A. in philosophy/applied ethics in 2004, she worked as a police dispatcher for the City of Saint Paul from 2005-15. She graduated from William Mitchell College of Law in January 2014. She was a member of the End Revenge Porn Now Legislative Task Force in 2015 and has also worked as a guardian ad litem and clerked for judges on criminal and child protection matters. She lives in Saint Paul with her family, cat, and fish.

Why did you go to law school?

I wanted to help people who have been wronged find justice in the courtroom. When I applied, I was working as a 911 dispatcher and serving the community at the start of the legal problem. I wanted to work toward the end goal and see the resolution. 

Tell us a little about your law practice, and about why you chose a solo practice.

Given the economy at the time, my personal drive, and how I wanted to serve people seeking justice in a courtroom, I built my own business. My business is named after my philosophy for serving my client and the community. My practice focuses on client growth through litigation. I handle child protection defense, criminal defense, and family law matters. 

You’ve earned a lot of gratitude from your colleagues in the 19th District Bar Association for reviving the district bar and helping to connect its members to each other. Tell us some of the things you’ve done to help build those ties.

A vast portion of our legal community expressed a desire for the bar to be rebuilt. If someone told me it couldn’t be done, I kept on going. I had lunch with judges and spoke with county attorneys and civil practice attorneys to learn what they expected from the bar association. I spoke with past presidents and listened to the hurdles they encountered. The feedback I received was that the legal community wanted a place to gather as a community but didn’t think it was possible.  

Over the last three years, the question I have been most asked is “what is the purpose of the bar?” The purpose is to grow the experience and relationships of the legal community and to connect attorneys with others who have different practices. Very few areas of practice are islands unto themselves. The purpose of the bar is to bring together attorneys so that when attorneys need help, they are a phone call or two away from help. 

We decided to make events paid for by the bar and pool resources away from donations into creating and supporting events across the district. Non-members are welcome to attend any event. Non-members do have to pay for the annual meeting, but are welcome to attend any other event free of charge. We included non-members to build the community and encourage people to come out to events to connect with each other. 

In January 2017, I had a kitchen table session at the Lake Elmo Inn with several judges and attorneys whose sense of humor I adore. The goal was to make the annual meeting a fantastic experience. We decided on creating two awards. The first award, Judicial Excellence, is awarded to a judge for the work they do for the legal community off of the bench. The second award is the 19th District Pheasant Award. It recognizes the mentorship that an attorney and/or judge provides to the legal community. These awards are about character, and making the effort to grow and support the legal community. 

 We moved the annual meeting to the historic Stillwater Courthouse with catering. Having our meeting at the first courthouse in Minnesota is amazing and brings an historic feel to our efforts. The 19th District is very grateful to the Washington County Park staff, which continues to permit us use of the facility. 

Every attorney I met who lives in the district or works in the district, I invited to at least one function. I talked up the bar to others, spoke about what we are doing, and talked about past events. For some events, I have called hundreds of attorneys’ offices to spread the word. And at the Annual Meeting, I asked members to devote 10 hours of their time during the year to the bar: five hours for the annual meeting, three hours for one other event during the year, and two hours inviting others to attend events. 

I would like to thank each and every one of the judges and attorneys who have put their time and effort into revitalizing the 19th District bar. Without their grace and presence, it would never have happened. 

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Spending time with my family, baking bread, gardening, and pyrography.