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Should We Call Them "Super Duper Lawyers?"

William R. Sieben: Choosing Law Over Politics

Minnesota Law & Politics
August 2000

William R. Sieben, personal injury attorney of Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben, compares his profession to politics. "On an individual basis for one victim or family I do what my political heroes were trying to do for the masses," Sieben says. "Whether it be civil rights or consumer protection, it¹s really the same thing on a different scale."

A self-described political addict by the age of 8, Sieben attended political gatherings hosted by such greats as John F. Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Eugene McCarthy and Miles Lord, all of whom (with the exception of JFK) were guests in his house many times.

Sieben was inspired to practice law by his father, who was a lawyer but didn¹t practice. He taught him that it was an honorable profession, whether you wanted to pursue a career in law or in government. Sieben¹s father was a member of Governor Orville Freeman¹s Cabinet, was appointed United States Marshall by President Kennedy, served as regional director of the Small Business Administration under President Johnson and was clerk of the United States District Court.

A graduate of Hastings High School in 1970 and St. Cloud State University in1973, Sieben earned his law degree at William Mitchell College of Law. Sieben worked on Walter Mondale¹s Senate staff during law school and moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as a White House assistant to the vice president for a year and a half before heading back to Minnesota. Upon returning to Minnesota in 1978, he chose practicing law over politics and in 1980 moved to Schwebel & Associates, which became Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben in 1983.

"I have given it consideration [being a politician], but with a busy law practice and a young family the timing never worked out," Sieben says. Sieben, currently handling several death cases, represents victims of automobile collisions, defective products, aircraft crashes and unsafe premises.

"I believe in the fundamental rights of the individual and their right to have access to a fair courts system," Sieben says. "That¹s what lets the poorest people in America go toe-to-toe with the richest, and that makes our country work."

Two of Sieben¹s major settlements were a $5 million settlement in 1999 for 16-year-old Natasha Schuh, a high school student made a quadriplegic in a theater accident in 1997, and a $4.5 million product liability settlement in 1998 for 21-year-old Kim Middendorf, a road construction worker and college student made paraplegic in a 1995 accident involving a road-rolling machine. But these personal injury verdicts have been harder to come by, according to Sieben.

"It has become more difficult to get a good jury verdict as huge industries and insurance companies have marketed to depict lawyers as greedy and the victims they represent as overpaid," Sieben says.

Sieben and his wife, Joyce, live in Hastings with their children Kevin, 18, Ali, 16, and Patrick, 11.

Away from his profession, Sieben enjoys golfing, downhill skiing, European travel and helping his friends and brothers with politic campaigning. His brother Harry Jr., former Speaker of the House, is a Brigadier General in the Minnesota National Guard, while his other brother, Mike, is a lawyer in Hastings and has been a state representative for 10 years.

The profiles were written by Super Writer Patrick Emmer.