Susan Gallagher: Building A Bridge To The Future

Susan Gallagher
2024 Feature Nominations

Family law practitioner, Susan Gallagher, finds satisfaction in helping families of divorce build a bridge to the future, and then seeing them safely to the other side.

Inspired by her mother, who cared for Gallagher’s ailing father until his untimely death when Gallagher was only 5 years old, she began her professional journey as a registered nurse who practiced in the most challenging hospital environments, including the intensive care unit and ER trauma. She also flew numerous missions as a helicopter rescue nurse with North Memorial Air Care.

Gallagher’s transition to law occurred aft er she became chief steward of the nurse’s union at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. There, her tendency to fiery advocacy came to the fore as she began helping her colleagues with grievances, unfair labor practices and contract negotiations.

“I was working with attorneys out of the national office, doing district work and then national work with the union. The attorneys out there said, ‘You’d make a really good lawyer.’ It was the first I’d thought of it.”

Gallagher attended William Mitchell College of Law, now Mitchell Hamline, and continued to work in the emergency department and as a helicopter rescue nurse. Gallagher first began working at a small firm in Western Minnesota in a civil practice.

After a year’s practice, Gallagher returned to Eagan, got married and opened her solo law practice. She now offices in Eagan, and her practice is solely focused on family law matters. During her more than 23 years as a solo practitioner, she has channeled her passion for solving complex problems into helping families bridge the necessary transition in family law matters.

Her extraordinary dedication to the well-being of Minnesota families has prompted her to take on many roles in the resolution of family law matters. She is a qualified neutral under Minnesota Rule 114 and works as a mediator, social and financial early neutral evaluator, parenting consultant, parenting time expeditor and arbitrator. She is now on the roster as a moderated settlement conference evaluator in Dakota County.

“Throughout my practice, I’ve been fortunate to work with people and issues I really believe in. In my neutral work, it’s satisfying to help people resolve cases and move on with their lives. I think I’m effective at helping people to understand what I think the court is likely to do in their case. While I enjoy litigation, I find the most satisfying area of my practice is evaluative work.”

Gallagher has been recognized time and again as a Top-Rated Family Law Attorney by Super Lawyers and is a Minnesota State Bar Association North Star Lawyer for her more than 50 hours of annual pro bono legal service.

Gallagher has a high regard for education and is an active leader in numerous professional organizations. Among them, she is a Minnesota Association for Justice board of governors emeritus and a master level member of the Warren Burger Inn of Courts. She is also a regular mentor to William Mitchell College of Law and University of St. Thomas Law students.

“There is always something to learn,” she said. “In nursing, I was always reading and taking classes, and the same is true in the law. I constantly teach, read and study. I think as professionals, we have a duty to keep ourselves informed and aware of current research.”

Her enthusiasm for education also shows up in her methodology for counseling clients.

“A big part of nursing was focused on patient education, helping patients to learn about the issues surrounding their health and then manage it. It translates well to my law practice. I take the counselor at law component very seriously. I will get people the resources they need to address their own issues and those of their children. I want my clients to move ahead aft er this process and be better parents and have better lives. Complex custody cases are my favorite to work with, figuring out the obstacles and mechanisms to assist overcoming them.”

During what is oft en an emotionally volatile time for families, Gallagher encourages clients to be respectful in their communications, and she sets the example by showing civility to her colleagues.

“It’s almost like having a third conscience out there with the court overseeing everything. Clients oft en lack insight into their behavior and how it may be perceived by the court.”

Becoming a parent herself has had great bearing on Gallagher’s empathy for the families she counsels. Gallagher concedes she had “high hopes about being a mom.”

“Having children has completely exceeded my expectations,” she says. “Our two girls are from different parts of China. They are both smart, funny, successful and loving people. Being a mom has made me more tolerant and more understanding of the challenges people face and exactly what is at stake.”

She has also learned the joys of step-parenting with her 28-year-old stepdaughter.

She wouldn’t have it any other way. Gallagher has given her entire career to helping people through some of life’s greatest ordeals and constructing a bridge to a new future.

“Helping clients work through conflict is an important part of my service. I’m not just getting them divorced. I want them to feel proud about how they related to the other person during the process and feel like a dignified human being when it’s over. Part of my goal is to see them get to the other side and do well. I think that’s value beyond.”

H.K. Wilson

H.K. Wilson is a contributing writer for Attorney at Law Magazine. She has been writing features for the publication for more than four years.

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