Set on the lobby level of an inviting modern office building in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina is the law firm of Hovland & Rasmus PLLC. You can park right outside, and when you enter its conveniently located office at 6800 France Avenue, you will experience the warmth and welcome of the people inside.This general practice firm, established in the summer of 2014 by two attorneys long known in the region for their comprehensive experience and conscientious service to their clients, is dedicated to helping people solve the common and uncommon problems that occur in business and in life.
“We have tried to create an environment where people have a sense that we care about their wellbeing,” Hovland said. “Our office is a comfortable place to be, even under the most trying of circumstances, and I think our clients have a sense that the lawyers and people who work here are both competent and empathetic. When clients come to see us, our goal is to give them the guidance they need during difficult times in their business or personal lives. We stand with them, fight for them, and help guide them through the legal challenges of these experiences.”
Both James Hovland and Dan Rasmus hail from the Red River Valley – Hovland from Grand Forks, North Dakota and Rasmus, 25 miles away in Crookston, Minnesota. Today, they are both residents of Edina. They grew up with similar experiences and influences, commonalities that are the bedrock of their friendship and law practice.
“There are basic human decencies we think are important,” Hovland continued, “things we learned growing up where we did and with the parents we had. Having respect for people, listening carefully to their problems, and being a good counselor. These aren’t slogans we have hanging on the wall. It’s just the way we were brought up and the way we live our lives.” Both attorneys see client trust as fundamental to the service they provide, and their joint commitment to civility and their reputation for legal excellence engenders a level of trust that has, in many instances, endured for decades.
Hovland was attending college near the end of the Vietnam War and thinking he would soon have to serve in the military. But fate intervened and he was presented with other choices. “My parents were both teachers, and they loved their work. Loving what you do is so important and creates a platform for success. It seems everything else falls into place if you care deeply about your work. I considered following the pathway of my parents and getting a master’s in education, but the law always interested me, especially the element of providing service to others through effective legal representation. Service seems to be in my DNA. I’ve found I get my greatest personal satisfaction in serving others in the law, where I believe Dan and I both do good work, and in public service, constantly trying to make the town we live in and our region an ever better place to live.”
Since earning his law degree from the University of Colorado, Hovland has made a substantial impact, both as a lawyer and as a public servant. His legal experience spans a career of motor carrier regulatory work, mass tort litigation, acting as outside general counsel for small-to-mid-size companies, and a distinguished career in public service that includes time spent on many regional transportation and economic development boards and as co-chair of the Regional Council of Mayors, as well as many other roles. He is a past member of the Edina City Council and has been mayor of Edina since 2005. His nonprofit work includes serving on the Edina Community Foundation.
Similarly, Rasmus has devoted his career to doing good work in both the private and public sectors. Several extended family members are lawyers in varying areas of practice, and Rasmus felt the law was a good fit for him. “I’ve always seen myself as someone who is curious and likes to get in the middle of things instead of sitting on the sidelines and being an observer,” he said. “I look at my responsibility as a lawyer as being a professional problem solver. We meet people at both challenging and interesting times in their lives, and generally when they have a problem to solve. I enjoy helping clients find a solution to their legal challenges.”
Rasmus graduated from the William Mitchell College of Law and began his legal career as a prosecutor. Years later, he gained experience as a civil litigator and went on to establish his own firm where he enjoyed success as a trial attorney representing clients in diverse matters from employment disputes to medical malpractice and consumer fraud cases. Rasmus is also an adviser long trusted in matters involving estate planning, family law and criminal defense.
Aft er many years of personal and professional kinship, Hovland and Rasmus formed a partnership founded on their great respect for one another. “I’m proud of Jim’s public service and what he gives to our area,” Rasmus said. “As an outside general counsel, he is a dynamic presence when handling contracts, trouble shooting and helping clients grow their businesses. His experience comes through in his ability to provide people with what they need, and more importantly, in the way he treats people.”
By way of example, Rasmus recalled an incident from October 2016, involving a clash between an African- American individual and local law enforcement. “The incident was caught on video and went viral over the weekend. The following Tuesday, there was a city council meeting, over which Jim presided as mayor. Over 100 people showed up, and some were very upset about the incident. Jim gave everyone who wanted to speak time to make a statement and treated everyone with the utmost respect. This episode provides insight into Jim’s personality and the way he interacts with people. Several persons who spoke commented about how well they were treated during the meeting.”
Likewise, Hovland expressed his very high regard for his law partner. “Dan is as trustworthy, capable and loyal a person as you’ll find. People immediately see these wonderful qualities in him as a human being and inherently trust him to give good guidance on everything from litigation to end-of-life planning. It is an appropriately placed trust.”
While the law is constantly becoming more specialized, giving rise to a variety of boutique practices, these attorneys believe that their diversity of experience and dedication to lasting relationships make their general practice a success. “Sometimes folks will need a specialist for certain things,” Rasmus said, “but we see ourselves as filling a need for the client who is searching for more of a storefront, business and family general practice law firm where they can go for most of their legal needs and be represented by somebody they know and trust.”
According to Hovland, “It’s not unusual for us to take a call at 11 at night. Talking to a client about something that is important to them may be the last thing we do before we go to sleep or the first thing we do in the morning because time is critical and decisions need to be made. We feel like we’re like an old-time general medical practitioner who is available to deliver a baby in the middle of the night. If you need us, we’ll be there.”
There are several sensitive areas of Rasmus’ practice where this approach is especially important. “If a client or family member of a client needs criminal defense work, I’m happy to do it. I’ve also done a lot of probate litigation. It’s hard to see a family in dispute over family assets, and I bring a problem-solving perspective to that work, not just legal representation. There are also relationship issues, and you have to look at how those issues are affecting the case. In addition, I represent lawyers who are being investigated for ethical violations.These are all areas where having an established relationship with a client is a great asset.”
Together, Hovland and Rasmus, along with a consortium of lawyers from Minnesota and around the country, are also representing farmers who are suing Syngenta, AG, a Swiss-based company with its U.S. headquarters in Minnesota. Lawsuits are currently underway against the company for allegedly disrupting the U.S. corn market. Losses to U.S. corn growers are estimated at several billion dollars.
These gentleman lawyers have a reputation among their clients and colleagues for both gracious professionalism and firm action when it’s called for. In all things, however, they believe foremost in being of service to others. When you’re in Edina, just ask around. People will surely tell you good things about these two lawyers in your home town.