The Honorable TIMOTHY LOOBY is a state district court judge in the First Judicial District. He is chambered in Sibley County, but travels regularly to serve in other counties in the district.
Tell us about your transition to the bench after 30 years of private practice.
When I was initially appointed and spent my first week shadowing experienced judges, I was intimidated by the high-paced criminal calendars; I thought I might never be able to keep up, and may have made a big mistake thinking I had what it took to be a judge! But with unlimited support from the bench and patience and cooperation from the attorneys involved, I quickly caught on. My law practice was primarily in the area of family law, which has been very helpful in my current role.
What significant changes have you seen in the practice of law since you started practicing? How have those changes affected you?
Obvious changes have included email, e-filing, internet-based research, and other changes brought about by new technology. In family law, the proliferation of ADR and early case management options has been a welcome change from the confrontational temporary hearings that were once commonplace. Drug courts, veterans’ courts, and similar problem-solving courts represent a significant change in approach to some persistent problems. And as we welcome those who may not be fluent in English into our courtrooms, we continue to adapt to the needs of those whom we serve.
During most of your time in private practice, you coached a Mock Trial team at Waconia High School. What does a coach do?
Coaches teach law and procedure, of course, but also critical thinking and analysis skills. And an underrated part of the experience is coaching drama, both to students serving as witnesses and those serving as attorneys, learning to make effective courtroom presentations. It is incredibly fun to see a high school kid start speaking with an accent to take on an altogether different persona of a witness he or she is portraying, or cry on demand as the purported victim. If you have never seen these high school kids in action, you would be blown away by how good they can be!
What kept you coming back to coach year after year?
Coaching is a valuable public service and good public relations for the legal profession. But as a family lawyer, I usually had only a handful of trials and evidentiary hearings in any given year. Coaching a mock trial team forced me to thoroughly relearn trial preparation and the rules of evidence each year, so I benefitted from coaching tremendously.
Do you still play a role in Mock Trial?
I have judged competition trials since taking the bench. My duties to the district come first, but I am happy to keep this up when given the opportunity.
What activities do you enjoy away from work?
A lot of usual activities, such as fishing, travel, and spending time with our adult daughters. But my wife and I also host house concerts featuring professional musicians, including a number of New Orleans jazz musicians who have become friends over the years. I have seen performers who have never met, let alone rehearsed, play beautifully together; the language of jazz is nothing short of magic.
Where do you see the practice of law heading in the future?
People now do their own legal research on the internet, complete fill-in-the-blank forms, and navigate our system without the benefit of attorneys. As virtually any judge would tell you, this is not conducive to efficient court operation. But I don’t anticipate the clock being turned back on this trend. It will become vitally important for attorneys to demonstrate that their services are not only valuable, but also cost-effective.
What advice would you share with a young lawyer today?
Don’t overlook the golden opportunities open to practice law in rural or small-town settings. Practicing law is not merely a job; it is a lifestyle and a commitment to service as an officer of the court. Embrace your opportunities for public service. Such activities build better communities and friendships, and also often lead to business connections. Keep a pro bono case open at all times. Accept court appointments on family, commitment, child protection, or other cases. And absolutely—volunteer as a Mock Trial coach!