A Legal Precedent
Grad’s Law Career Centered on Compassion
With accolades naming him a "Super Lawyer," one of the "Best Lawyers in America," and an invitation-only member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, it’s evident Paul Godlewski knows what he’s doing as an
attorney. What may not be so obvious is the source of this success: his compassion.
"When I graduated high school, all I wanted to do was play college football," Godlewski says. "I wasn’t particular which division, I just wanted to play." And play he did at Bemidji State. But a series of injuries sidelined that dream permanently, and Godlewski quickly realized he needed a new game plan. "What am I going to do?"
Godlewski recalls asking himself. "For the first time in my life, I started focusing on my studies."
Well into his college career, Godlewski refocused his goal on studying, setting a high standard for himself. "I read each of my textbooks three times – cover to cover," he recalls. "And I never missed a class." By
the time he finished college, Godlewski was consistently on the Dean’s list and an "A" student, missing the chance to graduate with honors by a mere tenth of a point.
This redirected determination awakened in Godlewski a desire to make a difference, leading him to a profession where both empathy and determination have proven highly valuable. As an attorney for some 36
years, Godlewski has worked on countless cases, helping numerous people find justice and establishing new legal precedent along the way.
During his first significant case, Godlewski’s talents as a personal injury lawyer emerged. In the case, he represented a young northern Minnesota mechanic whose skull had been crushed while changing a tire.
The case was against tire-industry giant Goodyear, and Godlewski won.
"Up until then, there was no responsibility required by manufacturers after the product left them," notes Godlewski, a 1970 graduate with a major in psychology. As a result of the case, Minnesota was among the first states to require warranties after production. As for the client, he received some $7.5 million to live a better life despite a multitude of health problems.
In other major cases, Godlewski became a champion for victims and their families. "When we can prevail in cases and create some quality of life for our clients, it is really rewarding and fulfilling," Godlewski says of emotions that remain tempered.
"There is no elation. Nothing will put them back to where they were. It’s very sobering, very humbling," he observes, noting that his most significant reward is the honor of serving people who’ve lost and
suffered so much.
Today, as a partner at Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben in Minneapolis, Godlewski appreciates the path he found at Bemidji State that led him from the football field to the courtroom. "God had a different plan," he
Part of that plan now involves a new position as board chair of the Brain Injury Association. "It’s humbling working with the people on the board," Godlewski says. "The association has provided a lot of services
to my clients; it’s my turn to give back."
It’s apparent Godlewski gives a lot to his clients and the system they depend on for justice and restoration, to the extent it is possible, when faced with unfair losses. Yet, Godlewski’s wise and selfless nature
is apparent when recounting what his work and clients give him. "It’s an honor," he says. "My clients have rare insight on life. Their life-changing experiences are my life-changing experiences."