This week we put the NBTA "spotlight" on attorney John Blackburn in Yankton, SD. John is a partner at Blackburn & Stevens and is Civil Pretrial and Civil Trial Law.

Where did you go to law school?
University of South Dakota School of Law

How long have you been in practice?
Forty eight years

Where are you licensed to practice?
South Dakota and Nebraska

Why is NBTA membership important to you?
To "measure up" above a competent level. One should seek board certification along with its "testing" to not only be confident, but, more importantly, very competent.

What would you say to another attorney about why they should become board certified?
For the above reason together with imparting information and confidence by clients and so opposing counsel will know you care about competence and you can "do the necessary work!"

What areas of law do you have experience in beyond your areas of certification?
I've been practicing so long I know a fair amount about real estate and decedent's estate law and litigation.

Were you a member of your law school's trial advocacy or moot court team?
Yes. We had a moot court team. Three of us from our won the a competition in Canada. Of interest: we three law students were all older than our law school professor who supervised the program.

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
I was a court reporter and liked what lawyers and what they did for a living.

What made you choose the area of law in which you practice?
I found tort law and other litigation both interesting and challenging.

In your opinion, what makes a successful lawyer?
Grit! Know your subject matter, the law; work hard; and have a reputation for being honest.

What's been most rewarding about your career?
What limited success I've had -- gratitude of clients; some recognition; self satisfaction and monetary reward.

What advice would you give to a young professional considering law school?
Know really why you are doing it. Do not consider being a lawyer just for the money. It may not exceed what others do in business. If you like helping people; studying; and are not fearful of hard work and confrontation, then you may be the "right stuff' to become a lawyer.

Share an example of a case that made a difference.
Recently a life insurance company denied coverage on a life policy based upon policy language. A legal intern here found the policy language was against public policy -- actually not legal in our State. We wrote one letter for the policy limits plus six percent interest. We received a confirmation letter and a check for the policy limits plus interest. It was very gratifying both for the policy beneficiaries and us!

What is your mission as a lawyer?
To help clients to the best of my ability as well as take active part and participate in our State Bar and our State Trial Lawyers' Association -- all toward maintaining and improving our great legal system.

What causes are important to you and why?
Preserving the jury system. Fighting what I call the "vice of bigness!" That is: helping people challenge big business which denies the rights of lesser folks; fairness and full compensation -- the Lil Abner play (I think) had a song to the effect of: "this is a wrong that needs a rightin!" There are many wrongs which need a "rightin." These things are important to me.