If you weren't in the legal profession, what would you be doing?

Ian TaylorIan Taylor


I consider it an honor to be in the legal profession. However, if I used my law degree in a non-traditional way, I would be a community educator. I would use my legal knowledge and experience to help people understand legal issues that are happening in current events. 
The law shapes every aspect of life that we experience, but it is often intimidating for non-lawyers. Usually, lawsuits and criminal prosecutions are broken down in the media by commentators. They typically focus their perspectives on potential outcomes of a legal decision or the logic behind a trial strategy. A good commentator can educate and entertain, but education is not their primary motivation. 
As a community educator, my primary motivation would be to guide the average person. My goal would be to empower people by demystifying important legal issues. I could use diverse media formats for my work, including YouTube. YouTube has become a global town square for engaging content on any topic. YouTube content creators often monetize their content, which can support their lifestyle and increase the quality of their productions. Many people (including attorneys) use the tool to build their personal brands or offer an alternative to corporate media coverage of news subjects. 

There are other venues for community education as well. I used the website Anchor to create a podcast entitled “Breathless” following the murder of George Floyd. The podcast followed what was happening in the Derek Chauvin prosecution by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. It was fascinating how many friends and family members found it helpful and entertaining. The experience showed me how exciting it was to use the law in a creative and empowering way. I believe that the traditional way the law has been used to help society can evolve, as long as attorneys are open to innovation. 

Ian Taylor is an assistant county attorney with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. He graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School.



Brenda DentonBrenda Denton


Unfortunately, I’d have to give the typical lawyer response: “Well, that depends…” My interests outside the practice of law are primarily about having an active role in my community—working toward having a positive impact on the place in which I work, live, and play. 
But what else would I like to do? I would love to have a small florist shop—how rare is it to actually go into a florist these days and pick your own plants/flowers? Let’s add to that a tea room and warm tropical sitting space where one can read, drink and enjoy flora and locally made crafts; especially in the middle of winter! Or who wouldn’t want their own small-town bar for the locals and tourists to enjoy craft beers/cocktails, with a piano available to play and sing songs. Or maybe I would be an international travel guide/writer, living life on the run, assisting others in experiencing the wonders of our planet.
Or would it be to take charge of a community development group, encouraging and providing resources for small business entrepreneurs, connecting them with local support systems in order to help make their vision come to life? Or would it be to own a property development company (which I’ve just started with my spouse) and continue to purchase, update, renovate, and bring to life weathered or neglected properties in order to provide an affordable and safe home for families? Or how fun would it be to have a hobby farm and let kids/families come by to hang out with goats, geese/ducks, pigs, horses, alpacas, etc.? You get my drift, right?
One guarantee from the training I received in law school and from the day-to-day practice of law for over 20 years is that my skill set can be applied in a wide variety of vocations. Lessons learned and experiences gained from practicing law have set me up for success should I decide to pursue something else. I guess until 
I make the millions of dollars I would need in order to pursue some of my other passions, 

I will continue to practice law. Being the best practitioner that I can for my clients is the passion I am able to keep alive for now. I’ll simply keep dreaming about everything else.

Brenda Denton, a graduate of Hamline School of Law, has been a practicing attorney since 1999. She began her career as a staff attorney with Legal Aid of Northwestern MN and later opened a solo law practice in Duluth, MN in 2007, where she practices in the areas of family law, housing (landlord/tenant) law, and basic estate planning. 

Ray Beckel Ray Beckel edit


I would have greatly enjoyed teaching at either the high school or college level. Earlier in my career working for legal aid organizations (SMRLS in Mankato, MMLA in Little Falls, and the Legal Aid Society of Omaha out of Norfolk, Nebraska), I was the attorney assigned to provide services for clients and communities with funding provided under Title III of the Older Americans Act. Starting in the mid-1980s, and less and less as the years went on, this type of funding (at least as utilized by the legal aid programs I worked for) required that the organizations do community legal education work. 
For much of my time as the legal aid elder law attorney, I was my office’s point person for community legal education for the elderly. In some years I did more than 75 community legal education programs per year on various topics of hopeful relevance like powers of attorney, health care directives, guardianship, and conservatorship, planning for long-term care, and dealing with debt. I have a background as a college actor (Concordia, Moorhead) and truly enjoyed making the presentations. 

In more recent times, with adult children who are very politically aware, a spouse who works in public schools, and the seeming disintegration of democracy playing out in governments across the U.S., I have become painfully aware of the inadequacies of civic education in the schools. All of this leads to the thought that I would really have enjoyed being a teacher.   

Ray Beckel is a long-time Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) attorney who has practiced entirely within legal aid organizations for the last 38 years. He is a native of the Mankato area and a graduate of Concordia College, Moorhead and the University of North Dakota School of Law.


Artika Tyner Artika Tyner


I would be a school superintendent. I am passionate about education and committed to creating a better future for our children. For example, I would work diligently to address Minnesota’s reading crisis. One in four American children is not reading at grade level. It is almost like we created this rule of four: If you are not reading at grade level by fourth grade, you are four times more likely to drop out of school. Based on research, we also know that if you drop out of school you are three and a half times more likely to be arrested in your lifetime. This relates directly to my work as an attorney, because there are far too many instances when my clients learned how to read in prison. 
Over 80 percent of young people incarcerated in juvenile detention centers are illiterate. When we look at the adult population, we also see similarities. In addition, the vast majority of adults who are incarcerated cannot read. When we think about this, there is a real opportunity to create change. We can eradicate those pipelines into the tangled web of mass incarceration and create new pipelines to success for all students. 
This is a call to action that led to the creation of our nonprofit, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute. We created the nonprofit to accomplish two key goals: First, we seek to promote literacy in order to address Minnesota’s reading crisis and literacy gap. We are creating new pathways for young people to reach their full potential. Second, we promote diversity in books since you are more likely to find a book with a black bear or black dog on the cover than see a cover with a Black girl or Black boy. It is important to create both mirrors and windows for children—mirrors for young people of color to see a positive reflection of themselves in the books that they read, because we know representation matters. It increases reading motivation and inspires youth to find joy in reading, hence helping to bridge that literacy gap. By creating diverse books, we create windows for all children to see each other more clearly and embrace their cultural differences and help to build cultural bridges. 

My nonprofit work has compelled me to seek more opportunities to work in the educational arena. Our children are our future and I seek to invest in their lives by helping them to learn, grow, and lead.

Dr. Artika R. Tyner is a passionate educator, author, sought-after speaker, and advocate for justice.