Many little girls have been known to make their younger siblings play dolls with them. Not Beth Forsythe ’06. She forced her brother to play lawyer. Decades later, Forsythe is a trial associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Dorsey & Whitney, L.L.P.
“Being a lawyer is what I have always wanted to do,” Forsythe said. Her father, Jim, who practices in Winona, Minn., strongly influenced that desire. Winona was a great place to grow up, in fact, Beth calls it “arguably the best spot in Minnesota. It’s the perfect little college town nestled in the Mississippi River bluffs.”
Forsythe attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, selecting it for its program that allows students to earn both a bachelor’s and a juris doctor degree in six years. Eventually she realized that she wanted to gain some work experience between college and law school, so she earned only her bachelor’s degree in 2000 and worked as a CPA for Arthur Andersen, L.L.P., and Deloitte.
Establishing an Ethical Framework at UST
Forsythe wasn’t considering St. Thomas for law school when she attended an information session with a friend in 2002. “I was blown away by the solidarity among Dean Mengler, Scott Swanson and the students,” she said. “They were totally confident that this new school would be a wonderful success.” Having experienced firsthand how the failure to focus on ethical obligations contributed to the unraveling of Arthur Andersen during the Enron debacle, Forsythe was impressed by UST’s emphasis on each student establishing an ethical framework within which to practice law.
The first word out of Forsythe’s mouth when asked how she would describe her years at UST Law was, “idyllic. It was exactly what I had hoped law school would be like.” She found the culture to be collegial, without the intensely competitive and adversarial atmosphere so common in law schools.
That atmosphere was created by the people Forsythe met at UST Law. At the top of the list is Tom Holloran, for whom she worked during her third year. “We met Friday mornings, and I always went away feeling inspired to work relentlessly but quietly. He has such quiet confidence, and is brilliant,” she said.
She also mentioned Lisa Brabbit as the perfect advocate for UST Law, and said she admires Neil Hamilton for his tireless devotion to the School of Law’s mission. Of course, her classmates were influential, as well. “Even the security guards were an important part of the atmosphere. Everyone was positive and helpful,” she said.
Part of the Bench and Bar in Washington, D.C.
After graduating in 2006, she took the bar exam in Minnesota, got married and moved to Washington, D.C. She worked in Dorsey’s D.C. office for a year before returning to Minnesota for a two-year clerkship with Judge Diana Murphy of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which Forsythe said is a highlight of her career. She returned to Dorsey in Washington in June 2009.
About half of Forsythe’s practice is commercial litigation, the other half white-collar criminal defense. “I love being the advocate for my client’s story, whether it’s being told to a judge or jury in a civil case, or a prosecutor or FBI agent in a criminal case,” she said. “Knowing my clients’ stories is essential when framing the technical arguments in my civil practice.”
The work has its challenges, both for her and for her clients. “Particularly with white-collar criminal work, I am mindful that this is probably the most stressful and isolating period a client has endured,” Forsythe said. “We provide one of their only outlets for expressing those emotions, so it is a challenge to acknowledge that fear and stress while, at the same time, encouraging clear-headed decision making.”
Forsythe’s work echoes UST Law’s mission. “Respect for human dignity is woven into the way St. Thomas teaches its students to be lawyers. It’s a big part of what attracted me to the school – what I love about it. The humanity of the legal practice is front and center at the School of Law. I try to keep it front and center in my practice.”
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