Practitioner in Residence

University of Iowa College of Law

For three days in February 1986 I was the practitioner in residence at the University of Iowa College of Law. I helped teach a class, made a presentation to a faculty seminar, gave a speech to an assembly of students and faculty and talked to a student group and a legal clinic seminar.[1]

Professor Patrick Bauer, a friend and former colleague at the Faegre & Benson law firm in Minneapolis, taught a first-year civil procedure class that I joined. The topic was Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that requires an attorney who submits a pleading, written motion or other paper to a federal district court to make an implicit representation that it was not presented for an “improper purpose,” that is was “warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument” for changing the law and that its factual contentions had or were likely to have “evidentiary support.” [2]

The problem for the class that day was posed by a recent case in which the court had denied a defense motion to dismiss a complaint and had directed defense counsel to submit a brief as to why they should not be subject to Rule 11 sanctions for their dismissal motion. The court thereafter decided that such sanctions were appropriate and imposed a fine on the defense counsel (in an amount to be determined).  The violation of Rule 11, according to the court, occurred because the dismissal motion was not warranted by existing law and because the lawyers had not made a reasonable inquiry to determine if the motion was warranted by existing law.[3]

In the civil procedure class, I played the role of a law firm partner soliciting input and advice from his associate lawyers (played by the students) on preparing a complaint for a new civil lawsuit. Professor Bauer at the blackboard wrote down Rule 11 issues that were created by the ideas put forward by the associates.

“Sue the Bastard! Ruminations on American Litigiousness” was the title of my presentation to a faculty seminar. I had prepared this paper while on my sabbatical leave at Grinnell College. I discussed what I saw as the causes and effects of such litigiousness and suggested changes in our legal system and national psyche.[4]

An assembly of faculty and students was the forum for my speech, “The Pilgrimage of a Hired Gun–The First Twenty Years.” Accepting the challenge of Judge Frank M. Coffin for lawyers and judges to make “interiorly revealing” comments about their professional lives,[5] I discussed my first 20 years of practicing law and my search for meaning and spiritual values in a litigator’s life.

  • The first five years were my apprenticeship period when I was learning how to be a litigator and how to function in two large law firms in two new cities while also becoming a father to two sons. The self-sufficient, inner-directed person I thought I was had found a home in the well-paid, high-powered, eminently secular law firm.
  • The next five years I saw as my yuppie period. I was becoming more proficient as a lawyer. I advanced to partner at Faegre & Benson. We bought an upper-middle-class home. Still no room for a spiritual, religious life.
  •  The next four or five years or so, in retrospect, was a time of mid-life crisis. I was increasingly skeptical of the significance of what I was doing for a living while facing personal challenges.
  • I started to sort out these problems over the next five years and started to integrate the various aspects of my life. In 1981 I joined Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church and started to re-discover a spiritual life.[6] In 1982 I took a sabbatical leave from my law firm to teach at Grinnell College.[7] In 1984, I organized a liberal arts seminar for lawyers at the College.[8] I started to do research about two lawyers whom I admired: Joseph Welch and Edward Burling.[9] Being a practitioner in residence also gave me the opportunity to reflect on these issues and to share these thoughts with others.

I concluded my “Pilgrimage” speech by saying, “I embrace the tools of the trade [and] the craftsman’s pride in a job well done and let go of the omni-competent, omnipotent attitude of the successful lawyer.”

Little did I know at the time of this speech that my then just-starting involvement in the Sanctuary Movement case[10] would be an integrative experience that would lead to my becoming a pro bono asylum attorney,[11] my making a life-changing pilgrimage to El Salvador[12] and my becoming an adjunct professor of international human rights law at the University of Minnesota Law School.[13]

While a practitioner in residence at the Iowa College of Law in February 1986, I also spoke to a meeting of the Christian Legal Society on “Legal Issues Arising Out of the Sanctuary Movement and Government Infiltration of the Churches.” This was an account of the federal criminal case against leaders of the Sanctuary Movement and the Government’s disclosure that it had sent under-cover agents into worship services and Bible-study meetings at Arizona churches involved in the Movement. I also discussed the just-filed civil case against the U.S. Government over “the spies in the churches” by the American Lutheran Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).[14]

Another activity at the Iowa College of Law was attending a legal clinic seminar. I talked about the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers and legal malpractice.[15] I shared my opinion that legislatures and courts were in the process of altering the balance between a lawyer’s role as advocate and the role as officer of the court to give greater importance to the latter. One example was the previously mentioned court’s imposing sanctions on lawyers for arguments that were not deemed in accordance with established law. I attributed this shift to increasing legal fees and the costs of litigation, the public perception that litigation processes had been abused and the knowledge that some lawyers are dishonest. This rebalancing carried with it a risk of diminishing a lawyer’s responsibilities to a client and hence an increased risk of malpractice. I concluded with this quotation: “Clients are entitled to much. They are entitled to dedication, diligent preparation, undivided loyalty, superb research, the most zealous advocacy and even sleepless nights; but they are not entitled to the corruption of our souls . . . . We do not lie, we do not cheat, we do not suborn,  and we do not fabricate. We do not lie to clients. We do not lie for clients.”[16]


[1] Duane Krohnke Is First Daum Practitioner in Residence, Iowa Advocate, Fall/Winter 1985-86, at 15. The widow of F. Arnold Daum, a 1934 graduate of the Iowa College of Law and a senior partner in a Wall Street law firm, established the F. Arnold Daum Visiting Practitioner’s Program in the Law College to support bringing leading practitioners to the law school to appear in classes and exchange ideas with faculty and students. I was the first such practitioner to participate in this program.

[2] Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 11.

[3] Golden Eagle Distributing Corp. v. Burroughs Corp., 103 F.R.D. 124 (N.D. Cal. 1984).

[4]  Post: A Sabbatical Leave from Lawyering (May 26, 2011).

[5]  Post: A Liberal Arts Seminar for Lawyers (May 28, 2011).

[6]  Post: Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church (April 6, 2011).

[7]  Post: A Sabbatical Leave from Lawyering (May 326, 2011).

[8]  Post: A Liberal Arts Seminar for Lawyers (May 28, 2011).

[9]  Post: Adventures of a History Detective (April 5, 2011).

[10]  Post: The Sanctuary Movement Case (May 22, 2011).

[11] Post: Becoming a Pro Bono Asylum Lawyer (May 24, 2011).

[12]  Post: My Pilgrimage to El Salvador, April 1989 (May 25, 2011).

[13] Post: My First Ten Years of Retirement (April 23, 2011).

[14]  Post: The Sanctuary Movement Case (May 22, 2011)(account of the churches’ completed case against the Government).

[15] Krohnke, A Litigator’s Comments on the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and Attorney Malpractice (Feb. 1986).

[16]  Miller, A Report on the Morals and Manners of Advocates, 29 Cath. Law. 103, 108 (1984).

A Liberal Arts Seminar for Lawyers

My sabbatical leave at Grinnell College in 1982 prompted me to think about ways to provide intellectual stimulation and enrichment for practicing lawyers. This reflection resulted in my organizing “Renewing Fealty to the Law: A Liberal Arts Seminar for Lawyers” at the College in June 1984.[1]

My invitation to the Seminar stated, “Have you ever been bored while sitting in a large hotel banquet room listening to a continuing legal education lecturer? Have you ever regretted your inability to find or make time to read some general books about the law? Have you ever wondered about the significance of what we do for a living? Have you ever longed for the opportunity to take time out of the hurly-burly of practice to meet with other lawyers and discuss some of the broader issues of law and the practice?”

If the recipient had ever said “yes” to any of these questions, I urged them to come to the seminar. Twenty-six lawyers did and joined  the five seminar leaders for a weekend at the College.

Frank Coffin

The keynote speaker was the Honorable Frank M. Coffin, Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in New England.[2] I had met him in the Fall of 1982 when we were both on the Visiting Committee for the University of Chicago Law School. I had mentioned to him that I had used his book, The Ways of a Judge, in the undergraduate course I had taught at Grinnell earlier that year. The ensuing conversation revealed that we both firmly believed that there was a profound need for lawyers and judges to read, think, and talk about broader issues involving law and the profession.

For the seminar I prepared a collection of Judge Coffin’s unpublished speeches that I entitled “Lawyers and Judges–The Essential Humanists in a Technological Society.” My Introduction to this booklet said that his speeches “recount the observations of a sensitive, profound individual caught in the demands of an increasingly technical, more business-like profession.” The speeches were organized into sections about constitutional law, lawyering and judging. The booklet also contained bibliographies of his judicial opinions, books and articles and reviews of his book, The Ways of a Judge.

Judge Coffin’s speech at the Grinnell seminar, Finding Serenity in the Practice of Law, defined “serenity” as “an inner calm built of three components: (1) regaining a sense of control of work and life style; (2) repositioning the individual at the center of the stage, whether we focus on the lawyer or the client; and (3) restoring a sense of framework, of perspective, of being aware of where we have come from, who we are, how to carry on a noble tradition.”

Such serenity, Coffin said, should give us “a better chance of remaining sane, of avoiding burnout, and of retaining our motivation and momentum.” It also should make us better counselors and advisors or better lawyers in the grand tradition.

To this end, Judge Coffin proposed humanizing the law office. Lawyers share their experiences and insights with others in the firm. Retired lawyers talk about their recollections. Develop “story-telling” about the law for lay people. Organize social activities. Collect oral histories. Provide sabbatical leaves. Conduct retreats and seminars on broader topics. Provide lawyers in residence for law schools. Host academics and judges in residence at law firms.

He also suggested developing other models for delivery of legal services by smaller groups. Finally Judge Coffin reminded us of the importance of being familiar with the great works of civilization that shed light on the human predicament.

This pursuit of serenity, he concluded, should help us “keep the law a humanistic profession worthy of our fealty.”

Judge Coffin, Duane Krohnke, Jim Laue

Other discussion leaders at the seminar were Grinnell’s Parker Professor of History Al Jones on “American Legal History;” James H. Laue, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Metropolitan Studies at the University of Missouri (St. Louis),[3] on “Lawyers and Dispute Resolution;”  Victor G. Rosenblum, Professor of Law and Political Science at Northwestern University, on “Jurisprudence; ” and Gene E. Wilkins, an Indianapolis attorney and Adjunct Professor at Indiana University, on “The Humane Practice of Law.”

One of the participants in the seminar afterwards said the College “has a quite palpable aura” and was “the place where [many of our enduring values] . . . were refined, buttressed or altered in an atmosphere which required the free exchange and testing of ideas.”


[1] Post: A Sabbatical Leave from Lawyering (May 26, 2011).

[2]  Wikipedia, Frank Morey Coffin, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Morey_Coffin; Lewis, Frank Coffin, Chief Judge of a Federal Appeals Court, Dies at 90, N.Y. Times (Dec. 17, 2009). See also Post: Adventures of a History Detective (April 5, 2011) (oral history interview of Judge Coffin in John F. Kennedy Presidential Library).

[3] Jim Laue was a personal friend and the husband of a high school and Grinnell College classmate. In the Johnson Administration he was working on resolving racial conflicts for the federal government’s Community Relations Service and was with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he was assassinated in Memphis in 1968. President Carter in 1979 appointed Laue as co-chair of a commission that recommended the establishment of the U.S. Institute of Peace, which happened in 1984. He was a Vice Chancellor of the Washington University in St. Louis, 1971-74; the Director of the Center for Metropolitan Studies, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1974-87; and the Lynch Professor of Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, 1987 until his death in 1993. (George Mason University Libraries, Guide to the Papers of James H. Laue, 1947-1993, http://sca.gmu.edu/finding_aids/laue.html.)

Adventures of a History Detective

Ever since my high school days in the 1950’s, U.S. politics, law and history have fascinated me. From the start, I was passionate about civil liberties, especially freedom of speech.

Joe Welch & Joe McCarthy

This interest was sparked by watching the Army-McCarthy hearings on my parents’ new TV set in the spring of 1954. The hearings were high drama, and the lawyer for the Army, Joe Welch, was a charming Bostonian, so I thought. I was appalled by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s attacks on civil liberties and free speech and thrilled by Welch’s courageous defense against McCarthyism.

Three years later, in the fall of 1957, my freshman year at Grinnell College, I discovered that Welch in fact was from an even smaller Iowa town (Primghar) than mine (Perry) and that he was a Grinnell graduate, Class of 1914. I learned this when I heard Welch speak at the College’s Convocation “American Culture at Mid-Century.” But I was too timid as a first-semester freshman to speak to Welch directly.

Burling Library Grinnell College
Edward B. Burling

In 1959, the College’s new library was being built and was named “the Burling Library.” A substantial amount of the funds for the building was donated by another Grinnell graduate and lawyer from another small Iowa town (Eldora), Edward Burling (Class of 1890). While attending American University that Fall on the Washington Semester Program, I met Mr. Burling at his office to thank him for the new library. After an interesting conversation, he invited me to a Sunday afternoon at his cabin on the Potomac River. Little did I know at the time that such a Sunday afternoon had become a famous Washington institution. I do not recall our conversation that day, but I do remember how Burling, then 89 years old in a wool plaid shirt, vigorously chopped wood on a beautiful fall afternoon.

As I continued my education and started my own career as a lawyer, I had no time to do anything about my interest in these two men. But in the spring of 1982 I took a sabbatical leave from my law firm to teach a course about law at the College. In my spare time I examined materials about Welch and Burling in the College Archives. (See Post: A Sabbatical Leave from Lawyering (May 26, 2011).)

Somehow I learned that the Boston Public Library had a collection of Welch papers, and while on a business trip to Boston in 1985 I had spare time to examine those papers. This was my first digging into original historical documents, and I was thrilled to be touching and reading such documents and attempting to make sense of them. (This was more fun, I thought, than my more common project of reviewing documents produced by an adversary in a civil lawsuit by “A” against “B” to recover a substantial sum of money.) Among the interesting documents in the Welch collection were letters between Welch and Burling after the conclusion of the Army-McCarthy hearings that were discussed in my paper about Burling, which was excerpted in The Grinnell Magazine (Edward Burnham Burling: Grinnell’s Quiet Benefactor (Summer 2009)).

I returned to Boston in the summer of 1986 to attend the Harvard Law School’s Summer Program for Lawyers. While there, I visited the Boston offices of Hale and Dorr, Welch’s former law firm, and interviewed Fred Fisher, the lawyer who had been attacked by Senator McCarthy, and James St. Clair, the lawyer who assisted Welch in the Army-McCarthy hearings and who later represented President Nixon in the litigation over the White House tapes. I also searched the Harvard Law School Library and found references to Welch in some of its collections of papers regarding the Sacco-Vanzetti case, which was discussed in my paper about Welch, which also was excerpted in The Grinnell Magazine (Good Night, and Good Luck: The Movie’s Offstage Hero, Joseph Welch (Summer 2006)).

I also discovered in Harvard’s collection of the papers of Learned Hand, an eminent federal judge and one of my legal heroes, that he and Burling had been law school contemporaries and life-long friends. This spurred my interest in Burling as I read the extensive correspondence between them, another topic of my paper about Burling.

While in the Boston-area that summer I also visited the Kennedy Presidential Library, but failed to find any documents about Welch in the papers of Robert Kennedy, who had been a lawyer for the McCarthy committee in 1954. The time at the Library, however, was not wasted when I found oral history interview transcripts of two men that I knew.

  • Donald “Duke” Norberg had been the Chairman of Iowa’s Democratic Central Committee, for whom I had worked in the summer of 1960 on a Grinnell Program in Practical Politics grant. I fondly recall seeing then Senators John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson in Des Moines to woo the Iowa delegates before the Los Angeles Democratic Party’s presidential nominating convention.
  • Frank Coffin had been a Democratic Congressman from Maine who was defeated in his run for Governor of Maine in 1960 because of the anti-Catholic vote prompted by JFK’s being the presidential candidate. Coffin recalled President Kennedy’s introducing him to Jackie Kennedy at an inaugural ball as the man whom Kennedy had pulled down to defeat. In the Kennedy Administration Coffin was in charge of the U.S. Agency for International Development and later was appointed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. (I had met Coffin in the early 1980’s when we both were on the University of Chicago Law School’s Visiting Committee, and in 1984 Judge Coffin participated in a liberal arts seminar for lawyers that I organized at the College.)

When I returned those transcripts to the library desk, I noticed a transcript of an interview of Princess Grace of Monaco (Grace Kelly), and a brief glance revealed an account of her fatalistic view of history.

This research prompted a request to a law school classmate and friend at Covington & Burling, the Washington, D.C. law firm started by Mr. Burling, for additional information about him, and my friend sent me a copy of the firm’s history. I also have been assisted in my research by another Grinnellian, James Burling (Class of 1972), who is not related to “my” Burling, but who is a partner in Welch’s law firm, Hale and Dorr.When I retired from the active practice of law in the summer of 2001, one of my future projects was to review all of the information that I had gathered and write articles about the two gentlemen, and I mentioned this project in an essay about retirement that was posted on the Internet by another law school friend as part of materials for a lawyers’ seminar.

In 2005 I was inspired to finish these papers when I received a totally unexpected call from Professor Roger Newman, the biographer of Hugo Black and a member of the faculty of Columbia University. Newman said that he was the editor of the forthcoming Yale Biographic Dictionary of American Law and asked if I would be interested in writing short biographies of Welch and Burling for that book. Newman said he had discovered my interest in these men from the just mentioned essay on the Internet. I said that I would be glad to do so and retrieved my materials, did additional research and wrote the two 500-word biographies. (This Biographic Dictionary, which was published in 2009 by Yale University Press, was the first single-volume containing concise biographies of the most eminent men and women in the history of American law who have devised, replenished, expounded, and explained law. See Yale University Press, The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law (ISBN 978-0-300-11300-6), http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300113006.)

These sketches, however, barely scratched the surface of what I wanted to say about Welch and Burling. As a result, I did additional research, including examination of several collections of original papers at the Library of Congress. While I was spooling through microfilm of the papers of Felix Frankfurter, I came across his file of correspondence with Albert Einstein. I paused and saw Einstein letters auf Deutsch in small, precise handwriting.

Two other subjects of my history detective adventures are more personal. My maternal great-great grandfather, Charles Edwin Brown, was a Baptist missionary to the Iowa Territory and then the State of Iowa from 1842 until the late 1800’s. One of his sons and my great-uncle, William Carlos or “W.C.” Brown, started working on the railroad as a section hand at age 16 and worked his way up the corporate ladders to become president of the New York Central Railroad in the early 20th century. I have done some research on their lives and written essays about them.

I have not been in a position to even attempt to research all the original and secondary sources and to write complete biographies of these men, but my work on much shorter articles made me realize and appreciate the work that has to be done to produce a major biography of a historical figure such as the one of Andrew Carnegie by my Grinnell History Professor, Joe Wall.

Although I was a history major at the College, I did not do any independent historical research or paper and instead obtained a good background in European and American history. Because I did not do any independent paper, I did not learn historical research methodology at the College, a lacuna I now regret.

Instead, I learned such techniques from being a litigation lawyer. Defining the problem or issue was the first task. You then develop an ever evolving plan to gather relevant evidence or original sources. You start with the documents and interviews of your client. They suggest other possible sources. Library (and now Internet) research provides more information and leads. They are pursued with other research and interviews using publicly available information plus information available through the formal discovery process under the rules of civil procedure. The lawyer also has the right and opportunity to compel witnesses to be examined under oath for further information. (Historians do not have this advantage.) All of the resulting information has to be evaluated for admissibility into evidence and to be synthesized into a hopefully persuasive story as to why your client should win the case.

I enjoy this investigative process, whether as a lawyer or as a history detective. There is the thrill of  the hunt for original papers about my subjects and being so easily diverted by coming across things like the Frankfurter-Einstein correspondence and the Grace Kelly oral history interview. I also enjoy the challenge of putting all of the pieces of research into a good story and writing it all down on paper. Through all of this lies an interest in finding out what happened.

My work as a lawyer and as a history detective has made me somewhat nostalgic for one “road not taken:” continuing my work as a history major into graduate school and becoming a historian.