W. BRADLEY FRAGO, Frago & Lasswell, P.A., Northfield, Minnesota, limits his practice to family law, including a substantial alternate dispute resolution practice. He graduated from the University of Minnesota law school and clerked for the Hon. John J. Weyrens in Litchfield before entering private practice. Frago serves on the Executive Council of the MSBA Family Law Section.
How would you describe your practice?
My practice is limited to family law, including traditional litigation, collaborative law, and a substantial amount of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). My ADR practice includes mediation, financial early neutral evaluations, custody-related early neutral evaluations, and moderated settlement conferences.
What led you to choose a small firm practice?
I have always wanted to settle down in a small town, after growing up in a series of suburbs. My first job after clerking for a district court judge in Litchfield was with a family law attorney in Faribault. This was a great opportunity, because it got me back to Rice County where I had first fallen in love with Minnesota, and near Northfield, where I had attended Carleton College. I quickly learned that in a small firm practice, an associate is given a lot more responsibility than their counterparts in a large firm. Shortly after being hired, I was given my own case load, under the supervision of a top-notch family law attorney. I learned a lot from having direct client contact and primary responsibility for handling my cases.
What do you value in your practice?
What I find most rewarding in family law is helping people, most of whom have little or no experience with the court system, through the unfamiliar and difficult legal and emotional struggles involved in their cases. I also appreciate being able to work with my law partner and wife, Michelle Lasswell. We are able to arrange our own schedules to maximize our time with our children. Although we sometimes talk about cases at home, we have been able to achieve a balance between office and home life. We have been married 19 years and working together for 14 years. We love our autonomy!
What aspects of your practice are particularly challenging?
It can be a struggle working with clients who are extremely emotional about the breakup of their relationship, and helping them to focus on long-term outcomes rather than short-term vindictive satisfaction. That is also one of the most rewarding parts of the job. I had one client in particular who repeatedly thanked me for “talking him down off the chandelier.”
When you face a challenge, what resources are helpful to you?
The MSBA family law listserv is one of the resources I turn to first. I find that queries are answered promptly and insightfully. I also value the opportunity to discuss issues with colleagues at the monthly Family Law Section meetings. The Family Law Section meetings are particularly informative because of the discussion of proposed family law legislation and the opportunity to have a voice in the formation of public policy. I also enjoy the monthly CLEs at the section meetings.
How is being a bar association member worthwhile?
Again, the MSBA family law listserv is an incredible resource, as is the solo/small listserv. I learn a great deal just by reading the posts, but when I have a question, I often get quick and thoughtful responses from colleagues. As a member of the Family Law executive council, I have found that the relationships that I have built with other section members have been extremely helpful when I am facing a difficult issue in my practice.
What activities do you enjoy away from work?
If you were to ask this question of any of my friends and family, their immediate response would be, “He’s a weather geek.” I have always been fascinated by the weather. This interest is also reflected in some of my other hobbies, such as aviation, amateur radio, and Skywarn storm spotting. I am actively involved with Northfield Rotary, especially with the Rotary Youth Exchange program. I enjoy camping, boating, and following Minnesota sports. Of course, spending time with my wife and two children is my favorite thing!
Where do you see the practice of law heading in the future, particularly for the small firm practitioner?
I have already seen an increased interest in unbundled legal services, although many of the clients who are initially attracted to limited unbundled services eventually retain me to represent them. In addition, the use of early ADR in family law has dramatically grown. While the number of pro se litigants may be increasing, I see a continuing demand for attorneys who can help guide people through the most difficult chapter of their lives, while keeping them focused on the importance of protecting their children’s future.