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Breaking the Ice: Employment law issues likely as jobs go remote

Name: Kerri Nelson

Title: Shareholder, Bassford Remele

Education: B.A., English and psychology, Gustavus Adolphus College; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Kerri Nelson is fielding questions from employment law practice clients whose employees now work remotely as the Bassford Remele shareholder adjusts to working from home.

Clients are asking about technical and personnel issues and about “making sure that people are feeling supported,” Nelson said.

She anticipates privacy issues arising as employees use their own computers while working remotely under the state’s stay-at-home order, imposed in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“Is the employee going to have to download key-logging software so the employer can make sure they’re putting in the appropriate amount of time?” Nelson said. “How is this all going to play out?”

Nelson, who also handles insurance coverage litigation, went to law school at the encouragement of attorneys she worked for during more than a decade as a legal administrative assistant.

Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: I’m an introvert. Ask me an interesting or surprising question.

Q: What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally?

A: The decision was a gradual accumulation of realizations that a lot of what lawyers do is reading, writing, research and thinking, activities that I find fulfilling, and combining that with the ability to work with clients and learn about their businesses from a deeper perspective.

Q: What books are on your bide table or e-reader?

A: I am inveterate reader so I have stacks of books. The top four on my shelf are: “American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics and the Birth of American CSI.” “Re-enchanted: The Rise of Children’s Fantasy Literature in the Twentieth Century.” “Philosophy and Terry Pratchett,” about the English fantasy writer. And Terry Pratchett’s “Monstrous Regiment.”

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: One arising from my work as a legal secretary, lawyers who blame their legal administrative assistants for mistakes, to other lawyers or to the court.

Q: What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A: The ability to think for a living; the reading, the writing the research and getting to know clients.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Billing time, time entry.

Q: What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A: I like making or creating things to balance out the intellectual work I do as a lawyer. Things like baking, crochet where you’re bringing something into being, something tangible.

Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A: I would probably take them around my neighborhood in south Minneapolis. Growing up in the country, I never thought I’d be living in the city. But where we are is very walkable with shops, restaurants and parks.

Q: Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most?

A: As a female attorney I have to respect the female attorneys who are paving or paved the way. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a superhero. I had the great good fortune to work for attorney Linda Holstein. She is a force of nature and I learned so much about being a trial attorney from her. Rebecca Moos from our firm is at the forefront blazing trails for women in the profession. The first attorney I worked for as a legal secretary, the late J. Bertram Press. He showed me what it was like to be an attorney because he had this incredible compassion for people.

Q: What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A: That we spend all time in court. There’s a significant amount of time we spend in court, but so much more time in preparation and other work that goes into a lawsuit before you step foot in court.

Q: What is your favorite depiction of the legal professional in popular culture?

A: Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He’s nuanced, a flawed human being but he accomplishes something through his legal work that is quite remarkable.