Meet Nora Huxtable: 'A career in the law seemed perfect'

0220-Nora-Huxtable-150NORA HUXTABLE attended the University of St. Thomas School of Law (J.D., 2019) and Northern Michigan University (B.S. Electronic Journalism, B.S. Theatre, 2013). Bar involvement (past and present) includes: board member, Minnesota Lavender Bar Association; Elder Law Diversity Committee, Elder Law Section; and Jerry G. Dygert Clerk, Probate Section. She is a former on-air host for Classical MPR. 

Why did you go to law school?

The inciting moment for law school came in late 2015, when I was fired from a job for “coming out” to my boss. What followed was a period of intense self-doubt and confusion. I was unsure whether the termination was legal or illegal, whether I had done something wrong, or whether there was any recourse. After a few weeks, I had an epiphany—if I, with all my privilege, could be so lost and helpless, there must be many more who would benefit from someone on their side. 

There’s a saying that your career should be the confluence of your passion, your skillset, the needs of the world, and earning enough to live. When I contemplated my options, a career in the law seemed perfect. It was a chance to help people and attend to those in periods of transition. Thanks to the encouragement of family and friends and the generosity of St. Thomas’s faculty, staff, and administration, I can now proudly say I’m an attorney. 

After you got your JD, you embraced a chance to move to Grand Marais to start your career. Why did you choose Greater Minnesota?

The Twin Cities is an incredible place, filled with unique, brilliant legal professionals doing exciting work. I truly enjoyed my time living and working there, the relationships I made, and the many amenities of a larger city. Practicing in Greater Minnesota, though, offers several advantages, among them a slower pace of life, greater work-life balance, and a chance to be an attorney for the community. 

People need to do what they find fulfilling, whether that’s intensely complex legal puzzles, high-stakes litigation, or policy work. For me, it’s relationships. I love nothing more than meeting a new client, shaking their hand, looking them in the eye, and asking how I can help them with their life goals. The sense of community is strong in a small town, and it has been a pleasure to join this one. 

You’re doing two distinct jobs. Can you describe them?

I work half-time as an associate at Smith Law, PLLC, a three-attorney general practice firm in Grand Marais, and half-time as an assistant public defender for the State of Minnesota. My private practice predominantly focuses on transactional work, with an emphasis on real estate. The public defender position allows me to help the people of Cook County in another capacity. It’s been a pleasure serving in both positions, and I admire the work done by my colleagues at the firm and the 6th Judicial District Public Defenders. 

I also want to take this opportunity to address an issue facing Greater Minnesota—access to justice. There is a significant shortage of legal representation in rural areas, so I encourage any attorney, law student, or legal professional seeking a change of pace and a more balanced life to consider small-town practice. 

What’s the best advice you ever received?

That’s a tough question! I have had many wonderful mentors over the years, and each of them has offered their own advice. Some of my favorites include the importance of relaxing and being confident in yourself (from a judge after a memorably dismal interview), using scrutiny to your advantage (a UST mentor commenting on being a minority), and learning to pay attention to the canary in your emotional and ethical coal mine (a St. Thomas professor). 

But my best advice on how to live a decent life comes from my parents. My mom is fond of the saying, “Eyes forward.” It is a reminder to learn from mistakes without being consumed by them. My father is a pastor, and his favorite benediction, one which I take to heart, reads:

Go out into the world in peace.

Have courage.

Hold on to that which is good.

Give to no person evil for evil.

Strengthen the fainthearted.

Support the weak.

Help those who are suffering.

Honor and serve all people.

Rejoicing in the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy everything Minnesota’s beautiful north shore has to offer, from mountain biking to hiking, trail running to skiing, snowshoeing to rock climbing, and spending an afternoon in a hammock with a good book. I also enjoy making, consuming, viewing, and listening to art, and I volunteer with the Cook County Search and Rescue team.