Interview with Douglas Mincher
April 01, 2015
The MSLA office recently had the opportunity to speak with one of our alumni, Mr. Douglas Mincher. Doug was recently named Clerk of Court for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which has has appellate jurisdiction over federal cases originating in the states of Alabama, Florida and Georgia. His new duties include leading operations for the Clerk’s Office and supervising staff for all non-judicial functions in the court.
Mincher earned his MSJA in 1989-1990 and when asked what guided his decision to pursue this degree Mr. Mincher stated,
I was originally considering a career in law during my undergrad years when a professor asked me to intern with the Court Administrator’s Office in the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas in Youngstown, Ohio. During this internship I learned the basics of how a court functioned. I found it very interesting and decided that post graduate study was the only way someone was going to hire me. I asked that same professor what program he recommended and he didn’t hesitate – DU. So, my wife and our two little kids moved to Denver for the year.
Mincher went on to state that,
I know the degree helped me in my initial hiring – it had to since I had almost no experience. I was hired in 1991 as the Assistant Court Administrator with the King County District Court in Seattle, Washington. After that, it was always a combination of experience, reputation, and education. You are not going to progress in a career in the courts without that combination. Actually, that’s probably true in any career.
Mincher credits his success to first and foremost to “the world’s greatest wife,” stating that “I married waaaay above my pay grade. Another reason is that I always had judges around that wanted their court to run better. Judges Linda Jacke and David Admire in Seattle, Judges Deborah Greene and Catherine Malicki in Atlanta come to mind. It’s always easier when the judges want to improve the operation.”
Mincher states that the most important lesson he has learned throughout his career is that of patience.
You’ll find an area that you want to change quickly and for the better, but you must be patient and explore all the ramification of making that change. I always keep Donald Rumsfeld’s quote in mind, ‘There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.’ It’s that last one that can get you in trouble.
Mincher’s favorite part about working in the courts is streamlining processes. He enjoys watching how a task is completed, then pondering the options to make it easier on staff, or more efficient, or more helpful to a judge, etc. If the options involve using technology, even better. He believes that funding is the largest issue facing today’s courts and is passionate about facilitating improvement within the courts. His favorite aspects of his job is promoting: “watching someone you hired develop into an excellent clerk or manager is fun too.”
When asked what advice he would give to those who aspire to accomplish what he has he stated “in a broad sense, you need to find your niche. Mine happens to be managing in the court environment. I find it attractive because you need a diverse skill set – IT, accounting, HR, security, facilities, case management, record management, procurement, etc. It’s a job where no two days are alike and that makes it interesting.”
Finally, when asked of any particular areas of study he would encourage us to include in the reassessing and development of our MSLA curriculum, Mincher stated that “the most difficult area for me to learn was accounting. I managed in the King County Court and the Municipal Court of Atlanta, both of which had millions in revenue from traffic fines flowing through each year. You need to understand financial controls inside and out or you’ll be on the news – and not in a good way.”
The MSLA office thanks Mr. Mincher for his time, and congratulates him on his recent promotion!
December 2014 Edition of the IACA Newsletter
December 01, 2014
Interview with Amanda Dunn
October 23, 2014
The MSLA recently had the pleasure of speaking with current student Amanda Dunn, who is presently the Court Administrator for the Fort Morgan Municipal Court in Fort Morgan Colorado. Amanda was appointed to this position as the Interim Administrator in August 2013, appointed as the official administrator in November 2013, and has worked in the legal industry since 1998 and specifically with the judicial system since 2006. Amanda was recently named Employee of the Quarter, and credits her success to her overall demeanor stating that she is a very approachable person and is not afraid to raise concerns so that they can be addressed in a timely fashion. She is someone who can be relied upon to complete tasks without being micromanaged and is always willing to jump in and assist others in departments that are not her own. She goes on to state that in this line of work you have to maintain a sense of humor and remain personable, otherwise it is very easy to lose yourself to the negativity that sometimes surrounds you.
When asked what drew Amanda to the profession, she stated that “I was drawn to this profession after working for the law firm of Pabst & Milano in Brush, Colorado. Working at Pabst & Milano provided me with an insight into the legal realm and the court system. I quickly came to realize that the legal profession is something that I wanted to continue into the future. A particular instance that made me realize this is what I wanted to do was when we were working with a client who was going through a divorce after 30+ years of marriage. Coming to the office was difficult for her and she would often time break down in tears. Mr. Milano had me contact this client to find out when she would be bringing her initial documents back to the office for filing with the court. In speaking with this particular client it became apparent that she needed some accommodation in getting her documents notarized and back to our office. I made arrangements to meet with the client at her place of employment to notarize her documents and bring them back to the office. Later that afternoon I received a flower arrangement and thank you card from the client telling me how much she appreciated me accommodating her and helping her get her documents in order. Knowing that I had made a difference in this person’s life made my job extremely fulfilling and I wanted to continue on in this line of work. “
As an administrator, Amanda is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the court. She prepares the annual budget for the court as well as presents the budget to City Council. In addition to the preparation of the budget, she is also responsible for updating contracts and preparing RFQs and RFPs when necessary. Another responsibility of Amanda’s is case flow management and data analysis of court proceedings/case filings, and she works closely with the City Manager, City Clerk, Assistant City Attorney and Municipal Court Judge to ensure that the court is in compliance with new legislation and rules. As the administrator she is responsible for implementing new policies, procedures, and programs as well as ensuring compliance with existing policies, procedures, and programs. She is responsible for record requests as well as record retention and destruction. Because she is in a smaller community she also act as the backup to the City Clerk when coverage is needed at City Council Meetings. In addition to all of the managerial tasks that she completes, she also assists her clerk with case initiation, case closure, filing, and any other duties that need to be handled on a daily basis.
Amanda went on to talk about how much she loves the people she gets to work with, even stating that this was her favorite part of her job. “I have had the pleasure of working with many great judicial officers, court administrators, clerks of court and judicial assistants. I also enjoy the challenge that this position offers. It is exciting to be able to present new ideas that will increase efficiency and productivity while streamlining the work that is to be completed at all levels.”
Amanda believes that the major challenges facing the courts today, is the overall perception by the public. She elaborates stating that there are times when the court system is viewed in a negative light and it is for a plethora of reasons: unfriendly staff, lack of knowledge, bias opinions, etc. Amanda continues to state that she is very passionate about the public perception of the court, and feels it necessary to treat everyone who walks through the courthouse with dignity and respect regardless of the reason they are appearing. Amanda believes that it is important to implement programs that assist the public with understanding the court procedures such as the Family Court Facilitator programs or the Self-Help Centers that are now housed in most courts. She states that “if we continue to help the public understand the procedures and judges ensure procedural fairness I believe that on some level we can change the public’s perception of the judicial system.”
When asked specifically about MSLA, Amanda stated that although she was accepted to law school, she came across the MSLA program and found it to be in line with her current career as well as what she hopes to continue to do in the future. She is currently in her third semester of the program, and states that Applied Leadership and Management Theory, Human
Resources, Strategic Planning, and The Business of the Courts have been the most beneficial courses to her thus far. Amanda credits the MSLA courses with providing her with a better overall understanding of the court system, and that some of the courses she has taken thus far have shown her different areas of the court that she does not typically deal with, which she believes will assist her in becoming a more well-rounded employee who has insight to areas that she may have not otherwise been exposed to.
The advice Amanda would give to others who hope to one day work in court administration is to be persistent in your endeavors but always remain true to who you are. If there is one thing that this position (as well as previous positions) has taught me is that you have to remain personable and keep your sense of humor. There are a lot of people who rely on you to answer questions and fix their problems on any given day. You cannot allow the stress to overtake your ability to satisfactorily complete your job. I would also say that it is important to be open to new ideas. Allow your employees to be a part of the “team” and acknowledge their efforts and contributions.
MSJA alumni Norman Meyer recently published an article on social media and the courts in the IJCA
June 25, 2014
MSJA alumni Norman Meyer recently published an excellent article on social media and the courts in the International Journal for Court Administration
Interview with Mark Beese
June 03, 2014
The MSLA program recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Mark Beese, President of Leadership for Lawyers, LLC, and an adjunct professor in the MSLA program. Before forming his consultancy practice focused on developing lawyers into better leaders and business developers, Mark served more than 20 years as a chief marketing officer for professional service firms across the country. In April of this year, Mark received the Legal Marketing Association’s (LMA) Hall of Fame Award, the profession’s highest honor. This honor represents the highest level of experience and leadership in legal marketing and recognizes contributions made by individuals for the benefit of the profession, the association, and its community of professionals. Following his receipt of this prestigious award, Mark sat down with us to talk about how he started his career in legal marketing, the thrill of his role in evolving the profession, and to offer some pearls of wisdom to the current generation of MSLA students.
After receiving both his B.S. and his M.B.A. from the University of Buffalo (Buffalo, NY), Mark began working at a small architectural firm in upstate New York. It was here that he learned the basics of marketing and sales. Through a volunteer project restoring a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo, NY, Mark got to know a lawyer who suggested he try out marketing skills in a law firm setting. Mark took over as the Director of Marketing for the New York law firm Hodgson Russ Andrews Woods & Goodyear. As he fine-tuned his marketing and sales skills for the legal culture, he interviewed at Holland & Hart in Denver, CO, a 450 attorney law firm with 15 offices across the mountain west. He became the firm’s Marketing Director in 2001. Throughout his time at Holland & Hart, Mark realized that the most successful law offices and practice groups are those with strong and effective leaders. He developed the idea that he could teach lawyers to be better leaders and business developers through training and coaching. He started his own consulting practice focused on this notion. Leadership for Lawyers, LLC, was established in 2008.
Legal marketing is a rather new profession. It started only 35 years ago with the implementation of basic marketing functions, which caused great debate in the legal community. Originators of the profession questioned things such as, are brochures soliciting legal service ethical? Should we be asking the clients directly for their business? Is it beneath us to advertise? And what does it mean to do sales in the legal field? Legal marketing has gotten more sophisticated in the past few years as client service and business development strategies have become mainstream. Mark’s involvement with the Legal Marketing Association allowed him to interact with other legal marketing professionals from around the world to discuss, debate, and grow the profession of legal marketing. Mark says that his induction into the Association’s Hall of Fame only heightens his drive to mentor new professionals in the field.
Mark notes that to be successful, MSLA students need to employ specific core competencies in their professional lives. These skills include leadership, active listening, change management, coaching, collaboration, innovation, influence and building effective teams. “Soft skills,” i.e. people skills, are critical to the productive functioning and survival of today’s law firms. Lawyers are trained to think differently than general businessman, and they tend to be risk-adverse. Mark’s consultancy practice aims to help the legal community utilize innovative techniques to bring profitable returns. The goal of these projects is simple: to provide quality service to clients more effectively and efficiently than ever before. Those professional service firms which are able to alter their current service model and adapt to the rapid advances in our society will ultimately be successful.
Mark’s final note of advice for current and past MSLA students: Be prepared for big changes in the business of law. Law firms and courts need to continuously leverage lean processes to meet the evolving needs of their clients. Change is difficult, but changing the function and culture of a law firm can be extremely difficult. Helping lawyers to develop their methods and think more like businessmen will help the legal community adapt to change, and it takes effective leadership to make these changes happen. Mark concludes by saying, “Getting your MSLA degree is not the end, it is just the beginning, and I hope that we have helped students to start their careers on a positive note.”
Norman Meyer - A Pioneer of Court Excellence
September 04, 2013
Over the course of his extensive career, Norman Meyer has lived and worked all over the US while wanting nothing more than to return to his home state of New Mexico. From the beginning of his career, he spent ten years as a trial court administrator in the state courts of Oregon and Wisconsin, participating in innovative programs in jury, technology, case flow, public education and human resource management. Beginning in 1989, he spent seven years as the Chief Deputy Clerk of the U.S. District Court in Arizona. From 1996-2001, he was Clerk of the Court of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Since 2001 Meyer has been the Clerk of the Court of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Mexico. For Meyer, professionally speaking, patience is not only a virtue, it is a requirement. When asked about the 24 years it took him to find a job that would bring him back to New Mexico, Meyer stated, “you have to be geographically flexible – you cannot and will not get the job you want right out of the chute.”
Meyer completed his undergraduate studies at the University of New Mexico in 1977, with degrees in both Political Science and Russian Studies. After graduation, he moved to Colorado to pursue his Juris Doctorate at the University of Denver. Upon completion of his first year of law school, however, he realized that, although he still wanted to work in a legal setting, becoming a lawyer was not the right fit. Never one to simply give up, he began to look around DU for an MBA program (or something similar) and discovered the law school had the MSJA Program. Meyer then met with Harry Lawson, then-director of the MSJA program, and was immediately sold on it as a career choice. He started the MSJA program that August and ended the program the following August. His career in the courts began when he was required to complete his externship at the Jefferson County Court in Golden, Colorado. He was then assigned to the Administrator’s office in Salem, Oregon for a summer internship (being assigned summer internships out of state was a common practice for the MSJA program at the time). After completing his MSJA degree, he applied for several jobs around the country – he laid bricks for income – until he finally landed a newly-created job as a district court administrator in Wausau, Wisconsin.
Throughout Meyer’s career in the courts, he has certainly found particular jobs more challenging than others. These experiences have led him to grow and to become a very successful and well-respected Court Administrator. While positioned as Clerk of the U.S. District Court in Eastern Virginia, (what Meyer states has been his most challenging job overall) he oversaw three separate court regional divisions, each 100 miles from each other. In addition to the troubles associated with keeping track of and traveling to each division, Meyer found the judges on the bench did not always cooperate well, which complicated decision-making. Furthermore, his predecessor as clerk had a history of discriminatory hiring practices, which upset Meyer and caused him to take action.
When asked what he believes is the hardest thing he’s had to do in his career, Meyer said that is to terminate an employee for non-performance related reasons, primarily budget concerns. Since taking care of staff is a leader’s prime concern (staff are your most important resource), for Meyer this is an emotional and horrible thing to have to put someone through, especially a dedicated, deserving employee.
In turn, Meyer has a true passion for public service and has found throughout his career he is most fulfilled when making the courts a better place for the public. He truly excels at this and has never forgotten he works for the tax-payers above everyone else. As a public servant, he draws inspiration from his grandfather, once a city councilman in St. James, Minnesota, who stated, “I have accepted a public trust and I will keep the faith.” Meyer himself has stated that, “every day, I work hard to fulfill the public’s trust in me and do my best to provide excellent public service while supporting and defending the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law is why I have a passion for what I do and it is why I am proud to be a court administrator. We in the courts work in the most important branch of government. It is our mission to protect the rights of our citizens, and without a strong judiciary, our democracy fails.” Moreover, Meyer is passionate about working and collaborating with the Sturm College of Law, attending events held by the MSLA Program as well as networking with MSLA students and alumni.
One exceptional area of work for Meyer has been participating in Rule of Law projects in Eastern Europe over the past 15 years. From teaching classes on case flow, I.T., and H.R. management to management reviews of trial courts to establishing model pilot courts, Meyer has worked in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania and Serbia. He is currently the Vice President for the North American Region of the International Association for Court Administration. At the MSLA-MSJA 40th Anniversary celebration earlier this year, Meyer was given the “Outstanding Achievement in International Court Administration” award.
Meyer’s involvement in and commitment to the National Association for Court Management (NACM) began in 1980. Meyer served on the NACM Board of Directors for seven years,
including as President of NACM in 1995-6. In July 2013 he received the NACM Award of Merit — which is NACM’s most prestigious individual award. When asked how he felt about accepting this award, Meyer was extremely humble, claiming that “[the] best kind of recognition you can ever get is from your peers. It’s really powerful.”
In closing, Meyer urges current MSLA students and recent graduates of the program to never limit themselves geographically. He credits much of his success as a Court Administrator to his flexibility and willingness to move to new places. It is imperative, according to Meyer, to be flexible in terms of career goals and location. A person who limits him or herself only limits the potential opportunities that can come his or her way. Maintaining a professional reputation and working hard is a necessity when applying and working for the judicial system. Meyer’s advice to students and graduates is to take the initiative and advantage of opportunities while NETWORKING as much as possible. When asked his opinion of the MSLA program, Meyer answered, “I think the program is on an upward arc, it’s doing very well and the alums are encouraged by the direction of the program today. We have hope for the future of the program with the great leadership on board.”
Thank you Brad Bolton for your commitment to the MSLA!
January 09, 2013
Brad Bolton is a well-respected and a lively professor in the MSLA program at the University Of Denver Sturm College Of Law. Brad also held the position of the Clerk of Court for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Colorado since 1979. Brad retired this past December from the Bankruptcy Court, passing along his position to an MSLA alum. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree from California State University in 1974 with a degree in political science with a focus on law. Brad then went on to get his Master’s in Public Administration and Judicial Administration from the University of Southern California in 1976. Brad now passes on his wisdom and experience to the new generation of Master of Science in Legal Administration (MSLA) students.
When Brad pursued the Master’s Program at USC, his original goal was to go to law school and practice law. During the program, he was introduced to the management of the law and it stuck with him. It appealed to Brad so much more than law school with the whole idea in mind that it could be an option to practice law and manage. Upon graduation, Brad was employed in the court system of Los Angeles and quickly fell in love with his career. He continued to work in various positions in the courts and really started to develop a niche for the institution.
Many people know Brad as being the entertainer and this all started when he began dancing at the age of four. Born in Massachusetts and then relocated to California at an early age, Brad’s Mother was uneasy about the new house and the busy road that the family lived on. His Mother would often tie Brad and his brother to a water spicket in order to keep them safe all the while allowing them to play outside. One afternoon, a lady came by to sell dance lessons and saw Brad and his brother playing outside. Shortly after, Brad began to dance which lead to him dancing professionally for six years. Brad eventually stopped dancing but later picked it back up in his mid-30s when he was asked to choreograph a performance for the Evergreen Community Theatre. At first, he was uneasy about the idea of choreographing and only agreed to dance, but later began to choreograph many different performances. Brad is now the resident choreographer for the Colorado Children’s Chorale.
In the mid 80s, Steven Ehrlich and Pat Campbell asked Brad to lecture on a couple of classes in the MSJA program specifically focusing on bankruptcy. Brad was introduced to Dean Yegge during his guest lectures and it was then that he realized his passion for teaching in the classroom. In 1994, Brad became an adjunct professor and has since taught various classes over the years and even earned adjunct faculty of the year in 2006. He currently teaches: The Business of the Courts, Court Space and Facilities, Applied Leadership Theory with Ron Seigneur, Project Management, and finally Statistics for the Legal Administrator.
Brad’s extensive knowledge and experience with the court system lead him to believe that there are countless valuable skills to have as a court clerk. First and foremost is having the ability to communicate with the judges and appreciate them. Brad attributes that his most beneficial skill is having a vision and to be able to have forward thinking. Brad explains that the MSLA program offers students a multitude of knowledge and skills in order to be successful in the courts. He believes that the best skill that the program offers is opening the students eyes to the institution and how the institution itself is different than a law firm and business enterprise. Students learn that the court is a service-oriented business with business sense, efficiency, and managing resources appropriately. Brad strives to provide this information as background to the students in the program and the unique culture and how to succeed in the courts. The greatest thing this program can do, according to Brad, is to teach a student how to write. This is the medium that judges use to make decisions, the ability to communicate and effectively write well. Furthermore, Brad states that an administrator must have an appreciation of the judges to be successful and build trust for the administration. The administrator must have an understanding of operational knowledge because that is the language that the judges speak.
When looking for new court managers today, Brad suggests that there are different attributes that one must possess. Quality management initiatives and using data to make decisions are the qualities that a court manager must be skilled in. It is also imperative for court managers to lead a team based environment and also continuous process involvement. Brad said he specifically looks for someone who has a great rapport with the staff and judges because this will help to foster a great work environment.
Throughout Brad’s career, he has endured many challenges and of course many successes. The greatest challenge in which Brad has faced is working with a specific judge or even several judges who did not or could not earn his respect or trust. The biggest success Brad has seen were the initiatives that were implemented in 1994. These were all long-term initiatives that took two to six years to implement. In short, it helped to save taxpayers money along with balancing a large caseload in 2005 after the new BABCPA law.
The new Clerk of Court for the Bankruptcy Court in Colorado is MSJA alum (’86), Ken Gardner. Brad is very confident in Ken and his new role as the Clerk of Court for numerous reasons. Ken has a national reputation and is very well respected by his peers. He previously ran the criminal division and has a background in operations. Brad has the utmost respect for Ken and he has seen firsthand his work ethic, working with him on a team for many different projects in the mid-90s. Brad explains that Ken will be a much better Clerk of Court because he is an extrovert and has extraordinary people skills.
In closing, Brad’s advice to recent graduates of the MSLA program is to not understate the value of learning operations and to take advantage of all opportunities that entail experience. Some students want to immediately move into huge roles, however they should have experience before fulfilling these roles.
Brad’s dedication and commitment to the MSLA program is always evident to students and faculty. Brad plans to spend his free time continuing to teach at DU in the MSLA program because teaching energizes him. He will also pursue the two bands that he is currently in and look for future opportunities for playing his guitar. With Brad’s level of energy and without a 9-5 job, rest assured Brad won’t be too hard to find.
The latest International Association for Court Administration (IACA) journal is online
December 19, 2012
Interested in International Court Administration? Check out the new IACA newsletter
October 11, 2012
MSLA Alumni in the Courts are making news: Mark Weinberg, Kevin Bowling, and Norman Meyer
September 12, 2012