The year 1883 was a momentous one for a small town in Outstate Minnesota called Fergus Falls. The first Northern Pacific Railway depot was constructed that year, the Fergus Falls Daily Journal began circulation and attorneys William L. Parsons and James A. Brown became partners in what was to be a successful law practice. Their legacy endures today in Pemberton Law Firm, one of the oldest firms in Minnesota and one of the largest outside of the Twin Cities.
With 22 attorneys and experienced staff at four offices located in Fergus Falls, Alexandria, Detroit Lakes and Wadena, Pemberton Law delivers big-city legal representation with home-town spirit. Residents in the area know they can count on Pemberton Law for reliable counsel and fierce advocacy in a wide range of legal matters.
Samuel S. Rufer is a partner in the Detroit Lakes office. He represents clients from individuals to Fortune 500 companies in civil litigation matters, with a focus on personal injury, products liability, real estate and business disputes. Minnesota Law and Politics magazine has repeatedly recognized Rufer as a Minnesota Rising Star and named him a Super Lawyer in 2021 and 2022.
Rufer explains that over the years, the firm has grown with the community and adapted to meet its expanding needs. “Our practice areas are designed to provide these smaller, rural communities with legal services that are comparable to anything they would find in a big city law firm. We have evolved to offer a wide range of practices so we can serve the needs of clients in those towns. But we also have clients who have nationwide and worldwide business practices. Our firm can meet just about any legal need right here locally.”
Originally from Fergus Falls, Rufer is a third-generation attorney at Pemberton Law in the tradition of his father and grandfather. “I’m proud to be part of that legacy,” he says. “It drives me constantly as something to live up to, and every day it motivates me to get a little better and work a little harder. Because of the legacy, I wanted to make my own path and spent the first four years of my career working for a Minneapolis firm. But eventually, the firm purchased a practice in Detroit Lakes and needed somebody to work with that transition. It was a good fit for me and a great opportunity to come back and work with my dad, and then to be a partner with him. My grandpa also practiced law in the area for long time, so it’s been amazing to meet people who have worked with both of them and hear the stories.”
Nicholas J. Heydt practices estate planning, probate law, real estate law, land use law, business succession, real estate law, agricultural law and business/corporate law. He represents a variety of clients, including individuals, title companies, banks, cities, counties, employers, businesses and farming families. Heydt was named a Rising Star by Minnesota Law and Politics magazine for five consecutive years. He currently serves as the chair of the Seventh District Fee Dispute Arbitration Committee.
Heydt is an Alexandria native who was delighted to open an office for Pemberton Law in his hometown. “These are all thriving communities with a lot going on for our clients,” Heydt says. “In the larger cities, I don’t think they realize what outstate clientele are able to do or how they’re expanding. Our strategy is that as our clients grow and have needs, we grow with them.”
For clients, Pemberton Law offers more than just local access to skilled lawyers. It also provides the security of working with familiar faces. “Our clients are people we see at sporting events, schools, the grocery store — we run into them constantly,” Rufer says. “With it comes a greater sense of accountability. There’s nowhere to hide in a small town, so you put your best foot forward at all times. Knowing that, and seeing our reputation locally, people are more than willing to trust us with big cases and to go toe-to-toe with attorneys across the country.”
Pro bono service and good works also help Pemberton Law maintain close ties to the community. “We’ve always taken the approach of being involved in community events and nonprofits,” Heydt says. “The firm encourages all our attorneys to be out there and engage with our community passions.”
Pemberton Law has always excelled at collaboration across practices and offices, giving residents throughout the region access to each attorney’s expertise. Since the pandemic, the firm has become even more adaptable, refining its use of technology to accommodate clients both inside and outside the region. This means more opportunities for attorneys who would like to live in a smaller community and still engage in a robust law practice.
“We’re always looking for good people who would like to live in a community surrounded by natural resources,” Heydt says. “Attorneys should know they don’t have to just practice in the big urban areas to do high-end legal work. The same opportunities to do challenging, quality work are right here.”
“As Nick said, quality people are the key to our success,” Rufer states. “Some great attorneys have moved to come work out here. The lesson is to never underestimate the attorneys in Outstate Minnesota. We are committed to providing the best legal representation our clients can get while maintaining local community ties. It’s what drives each of us.”