PETE RADOSEVICH is a personal injury, divorce, and litigation attorney practicing in the small town of Esko, between Duluth and Cloquet in northern Minnesota. Born and raised in the Duluth area, he spent 15 years in the Twin Cities before figuring out how to get back home. He also makes some of the best pizza pies in the state.
How would you describe your practice?
Personal injury, divorce, litigation, and everything else a small town lawyer is asked to do. I have a trusted assistant, a skilled paralegal, and a small office with free parking. I also own Eskomo Pizza Pies, the local pizza joint. Running two small businesses can be stressful, but they complement each other. It’s actually relaxing to make pizzas all night after spending all day in court. And running the pizza business helps remind me that my law practice is a business, too, and needs to be treated that way.
What led you to choose a small firm practice?
In law school, every course I took, I wanted to specialize in as a lawyer. Prof. Neils Schaumann gave me some advice. He said, if you want to be a general surgeon, you go to a rural hospital. So I looked around for the best small firm that would hire me and that was the Newby Law Firm in Cloquet. They paid me next to nothing, but I couldn’t do what I do now if it wasn’t for what I learned from David Lindgren and Tom Skare at the Newby firm.
What do you value in your practice?
I have the choice to pick my clients; I have the choice to bill them or not; and I get to decide how to manage my cases. I almost always feel I’m on the “right” side of a case. I am proud that I can represent my clients without making the other side hate me. (Usually.) Nothing is more satisfying than having a future client say, “My friend told me to call you—you were his ex-wife’s divorce lawyer.” Finally, I can bill clients as I see fit. Clients will pay for results. There are plenty of clients who can pay my entire fee, but there are plenty who can’t. They all deserve competent representation.
When you face a challenge, what resources are helpful to you?
My colleagues. The listservs are great—always available for a quick answer. (Plus, they are a great way to stay up on trends in the profession.) More experienced lawyers are usually willing to talk to me; when I started on my own, many of the older lawyers told me to feel free to call them for advice. The first times I called Dennis Korman or Larry Nord on a divorce question were pretty intimidating, but they were (and still are) gracious about it. Huck Andresen still is willing to chat with me on real estate matters. Even some insurance defense attorneys give me some guidance when I need it. My goal is to someday have the newer attorneys in town feel like they can call me for advice.
How is being a bar association member worthwhile?
There’s no substitute for experience, but many of the bar perks help. The listservs, practicelaw (how did solos work before practicelaw?), Fastcase—invaluable. I’m surprised when sole practitioners aren’t MSBA members.
What activities do you enjoy away from work?
Living in a small town makes it easier to live the dream. I love politics, so I host a weekly cable TV talk show on politics and current events (Harry’s Gang). That makes me a TV star in this town! My pizza restaurant is a fun way to socialize while still working. I also serve on a few boards and committees, like many lawyers do. But easily, my favorite activity is watching my boys Tommy (7) and Patrick (6) play with their little sister, Eleanor (1), with my wife, Tara.
Where do you see the practice of law heading in the future, particularly for the small firm practitioner?
Anyone willing to work hard can continue to make a good living in a sole practice, despite the pressure from big firms and the internet. We offer a valuable service to a certain clientele—we’re people who know how to get things done, and that’s valuable no matter what. But it will get harder. I see many small firms drying up as the partners age and retire. Solo general practitioners will be obsolete. Butch Newby told me to focus on two or three areas and refer out the rest, and he’s right. Small firms will be more specialized. I’d like to keep being a general practitioner, but the more I focus on PI, divorce, and litigation, the better I get at it. I’m no longer proficient in bankruptcy, intellectual property, or worker’s comp, as much as I’d like to be. That’s the future of the practice.