Gaskins Bennett Birrell LLP is known for strong trial advocacy in matters spanning criminal defense, police misconduct, personal injury and business litigation. Each of the firm’s managing partners is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers with a distinguished record of counseling and advocacy on behalf of corporations and individuals engaged in consequential legal combat. The next generation of attorneys among their ranks are also fierce advocates and passionate defenders of justice who are already battle-tested and winning the tough cases.
Paul Dworak and Kathryn Bennett are firm partners and accomplished trial attorneys who climbed fast in their careers because of their willingness to tackle the most rigorous cases, matched by a commitment of the firm’s senior attorneys to provide challenging assignments with the guidance to succeed.
Dworak worked as a business analyst and firefighter for four years prior to law school. While handling emergencies for the public, he learned to think fast on his feet and remain level-headed during tense circumstances – skills that prepared him for his true calling in the courtroom. Dworak earned his law degree from the University of Minnesota and joined Gaskins Bennett Birrell, where he continues to run toward his clients’ problems. For example, Dworak was an integral part of a team which aggressively and successfully defended a national paving contractor from claims of racketeering, anti-trust, fraud and breach of contract brought by an international corporation. Dworak defends and prosecutes cases for businesses, big and small.
Dworak is still putting out fires. “They’re just different kinds of fires now,” he says.
Bennett’s competitive edge and propensity for teamwork manifested early as a four-time letter winner and captain of the St. Olaf College hockey team. She worked as a law clerk at Gaskins Bennett Birrell while earning her law degree at William Mitchell College of Law. After graduation, she joined the firm as an associate. She quickly made her mark as a key member of the Kucera trial team, for which the team members earned the distinction of Attorney of the Year from Minnesota Lawyer in 2014 for their work on the jail suicide case. Today, Bennett is a keen trial advocate with a practice centered on federal civil rights matters and personal injury actions.
“The managing partners here are very accomplished lawyers with heavy caseloads, and we were both able to earn their trust early on,” Dworak says. “With that came more responsibility that turned into trials at a young stage in our careers.”
In just his second year of practice, Dworak was an integral part of a team that tried a three-week federal jury trial. He has since won a number of trials on his own.
Dworak and Bennett both became partners after just five years of practice.
“We got into depositions and courtrooms right away,” Bennett says. “My first jury trial experience examining witnesses came just days after passing the Bar, in a case where a minor suffered a blinding injury from an illegal firework shot off by another individual. We won a very significant jury verdict for our young client.”
The trust and confidence they have earned from the managing partners has led to Dworak and Bennett handling cases from start to finish on their own. Teamwork figures prominently in the firm’s success and that of its individual attorneys.
“With our firm, clients get the benefit of a team approach,” Bennett says. “Whether it is a large, complex case that may be staffed by numerous attorneys or something more easily managed by one attorney, we are always using each other as resources.”
“We all recognize each other’s different skills, backgrounds and view of cases,” Dworak adds. “We talk to each other about cases that we’re handling collectively or individually, and bounce ideas off each other to get the best result for our client.”
As firm partners, Dworak and Bennett are learning to balance the additional responsibilities of bringing in new cases and keeping the office lights on with their lives outside the law. Both are parents with small children who are benefiting now from the trust they earned in the early stages of their careers.
“I had my daughter on the first day of a federal trial,” Bennett says. “The trial date was pushed back, and I ended up at the hospital as the team was walking in to court to select a jury. Other partners were great about stepping in. I believe they were confident that the work I had previously done over the years on the case would live up to their expectations. And it did.”
Both Dworak and Bennett are inspiring other young lawyers by providing leadership in the profession. In law school, Dworak learned practical applications from adjunct professors who were also legal practitioners. Today, he is paying it forward as an adjunct law professor at his alma mater, teaching in the civil rights and civil liberties moot court program. Bennett is an active contributor to Minnesota Women Lawyers, where she is currently working on an initiative to study the status of women in law and advance opportunities for women practitioners.
These legal warriors are taking a stand for justice and winning important victories in high-stakes matters from civil rights to catastrophic injury cases. Whether a case is large or small, they exert the same vigor and dedication to getting results for their clients.
“I think we both have the fighter’s mindset,” says Dworak. “We enjoy being the person clients hire to fight for what is often the biggest issue in their lives at that point in time.”