Joey Balthazor’s path to studying business law at Mitchell Hamline grew out of his passion for sports.
Balthazor, who grew up in a suburb of Milwaukee, played as a linebacker for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team from 2009 to 2012. After earning his undergrad degree in economics, he went on to get a master’s degree in sports management from the U of M.
During a summer internship with a California-based sports agency, he realized he was fascinated with not just the business of sports but the intersection of business and the law.
“What I found was that I enjoyed the advising and the negotiation side of the agents’ work,” Balthazor said. “Getting in the trenches with the parties, trying to figure out what happened in a dispute, and trying to solve it. That’s where my interest in business came about.”
Balthazor saw getting a Juris Doctor as his best way into the business world. He feels he found the right combination of law training and business experience in Mitchell Hamline’s Center for Law and Business.
The center’s rigorous coursework intertwines business law, ethics, research, writing and problem solving in the classroom with real-world experience in the business and legal world. It prepares students for a wide range of careers in business law and even sets them off on the right foot toward starting and running their own business.
“It’s taking someone who has the legal skills and then adding all the business skills in law school so they graduate with both,” Balthazor explained. “The center does a great job of connecting students with people out in the business world so they can go out and get that business acumen. Then students can take what we learned in the classroom and translate it to the field.”
Balthazor’s own in-the-field experience came during an externship with Jeffrey O’Brien, an attorney with the Minneapolis firm Lommen Abdo. O’Brien is known for helping craft breweries and distilleries with their specific legal and business needs. Balthazor said the externship gave him an inside look at how attorneys can help businesses succeed.
“Lawyers possess the tools and skills that really set us up to be successful in the business world,” he said. “Whether it’s starting our own company, being a founder and CEO, advising clients who are in the business world, or being a vice president of a company.”
That experience was on Balthazor’s mind when he became the symposium editor for Volume 43 of the Mitchell Hamline Law Review. The symposium – “Lawyers as business leaders: the unique skills, knowledge, and perspective of a legal education” – will be held March 22 at Able Seedhouse + Brewery in Minneapolis. It will include panel discussions covering, appropriately enough, craft beer law in Minnesota, as well as crowd-based funding, recruiting for short-term legal employment, and a wider discussion around the benefits that lawyers, and legal education, bring to the business world.
After he graduates from Mitchell Hamline in the spring, Balthazor will clerk at the Minnesota Court of Appeals for a year. Then he’ll join Briggs and Morgan, where he plans to put his legal and business training to work in the firm’s business litigation group.