When Steven Messick opened Messick Law, PLLC in June 2020, he did so amid a global pandemic and a wave of local and national civil strife following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Some may have reasoned that it was not a good time to begin a new legal venture, but not Messick. While plans to open his firm had been in the works for some time, in June 2020 he saw that people in Minnesota needed access to high quality legal services and equal
justice now more than ever.
Based in Woodbury, Messick Law is a hybrid metro and rural practice that represents entrepreneurs, small business owners, and their families in civil litigation; business law; real estate law; mediation and neutral services; elder and special needs law; trust and estate litigation; and family law. Messick says his is not a general practice firm, but one with an intentional focus on the interrelated matters than often confront small business people and their families. “I want to be the first call my clients make when a legal issue comes up. Most of the time I’m able to service that need, but if not, I have a good network of attorneys that I have relationships with and trust. I give them a call myself and talk to them about the client, and then transition the client.”
After graduating from Hamline University School of Law (now Mitchell Hamline School of Law), Messick began his legal career as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Judge Thomas M. Neuville (ret.). That opportunity not only set his career in motion with “phenomenal training” from one of the “kindest human beings you could ever meet,” it also took Messick to Faribault. There, he connected with attorney J. Scott Braden who made Messick an offer of employment and eventually made him a firm partner. “We have a great relationship, and it was a sad parting in that I really enjoyed being there. The mentorship and guidance I received from my former partners was priceless.”
Messick had a vision to continue expanding his practice and, with a strong outstate presence, he saw an opportunity to grow a mid-size firm with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Although he has established brick and mortar in Woodbury, he says a physical presence will follow in Southern Minnesota. “I really want to focus on having diverse practitioners from diverse backgrounds. We automatically think of the metro area when we have a discussion about diversity, which is a limiting view of diversity and inclusion. We have diverse communities throughout the state and vast numbers of persons who have immigrated from other countries and cultures. If they have refugee status, they enter the country authorized to work. Often, these individuals are seeking work in various agricultural and manufacturing operations in rural areas. The communities we serve are increasingly diverse, and I see a need to reflect that in our staff. Diversity is an important part of our firm’s statement of values.”
While the Great Recession upended many aspects of the traditional law firm model, the pandemic has challenged it further. In addition to a focus on diversity, Messick is adapting a decentralized business model that uses technology to serve clients with greater flexibility and comfort. “It’s still important to have physical presence in the community, but we’re doing so much more virtually. We’ve seen that clients have adjusted to that during COVID and, in some instances, prefer that. I want to leverage as much technology as possible, and as people start coming on board, I think we will have more remote options. The old rule of being in the door at 8:00 a.m. and staying late — that model has passed. That’s not the culture I want to have. I want people to be excited to work; that’s when you get the best from people. The late nights should be the exception. We’ve learned in this COVID environment that clients can be served, receiving high quality and ethical work from anywhere. Of course, there are some drawbacks. People want to be connected, and they need that communication stream to be open daily so they can be mentored and share ideas. I want to find ways to foster that in a new model that also gives practitioners more flexibility and choice.”
With the pandemic has come a whole universe of new legal questions. Messick has been busy poring over new guidelines and advising clients on unprecedented issues while waiting for government agencies to catch up. “There is no CLE on how to advise a client through a global pandemic. It’s been really interesting. Thankfully, I’ve been able to craft solutions that meet government requirements and the needs of clients.”
Moving into the “new normal,” Messick is eager to onboard talent in areas where people will have an urgent need for help, in particular, housing and family law matters — especially child custody and parenting time issues, which have been complicated by changes in work, school and child-care schedules and social distancing practices. “The people I want to bring in will be leaders. I need them to take on leadership of these divisions and bring in younger attorneys to mentor.”
Outside the office, Messick focuses on his family and serving the community. He and his wife have three young children, and they enjoy getting away to their cabin in the Cross Lake area, where they recently spent a month working remotely and connecting with extended family during the shutdown. Messick serves on the board of directors for the Minnesota Youth Ski League (MYSL). In the winter months, he coaches cross country skiing through MYSL and can often be found at Afton Alps watching his kids downhill ski. Messick also volunteers his time with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) and provides counsel to the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM).
Looking to the future, Messick is enthusiastic about providing practical solutions to complex legal matters to folks in the metro and beyond, while fulfilling his firm’s mission of “creating and maintaining an inclusive environment, where all persons are treated with dignity and respect.”
With an AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell for his strong legal ability and high ethical standards, Messick has also been recognized by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star since 2019. He is currently a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association Council and serves as a referee on the Rice County Conciliation Court.