In-Laws in Law
Dan O’Connell and Lindsey O’Connell bridge the generational divide
Published in 2022 Minnesota Super Lawyers magazine on July 18, 2022
For two of the lawyers at Maplewood-based Tuft, Lach, Jerabek & O’Connell, family law is literal.
When Lindsey O’Connell joined the firm in 2015, she went into practice with her father-in-law, family law mainstay Dan O’Connell. “I am married to Dan’s youngest son, Kevin,” Lindsey says. “He and I went to UMD together. The very first time I met Dan, they came up to visit us in Duluth. I got to go out to dinner with Dan and Lynne. I had known I wanted to go to law school, and I had no lawyers in my family. But Kevin’s whole family, including both of his parents, are lawyers. It was quite nerve-racking for me.”
It must have gone well.
“It’s one of the joys of my life that I get to work with my daughter-in-law,” says Dan, 67. “And it comes on the heels of working with my brother for 30 years. He retired, and a week later Lindsey and I started working together at our present firm. I’ve basically been working with a family member my entire career.”
The two have an easy rapport that’s quickly apparent.
“I’m supposed to be Lindsey’s mentor, but she has such good judgment that her participation in cases is very helpful to me,” Dan says.
To that, Lindsey, 33, laughs. “Pretty much all I know is because of Dan,” she says. “He is so patient, and that’s something I try to work on. It’s never a bad time to ask him a question. He makes his clients feel at ease. That helps him get settlements, because everybody who comes to him feels like he listened, understood, asked questions, and took the time.”
Dan makes it plain that the mentorship doesn’t only go in one direction. “I’m lucky to have Lindsey,” he says. “She grew up with technology, so she can teach me things. Otherwise, I think I’d be lost. When I started, you’d get a letter, the response would go out maybe the next day, and it would take three days to get to the other side. It was the next week before you got a response back.”
Says Lindsey: “I think about Dan and those letters in the mail. Now our clients expect to hear from us daily. When you were sending letters, you couldn’t do that. You didn’t necessarily have that ‘all-the-time’ contact.”
Dan also graduated from William Mitchell, but he says the law school experience was much different 40-some years ago.
“We felt like the administration there wanted people to flunk out,” Dan recalls. “They weren’t on our side. That’s totally changed now. They’re much more welcoming and supportive and on the side of the students.”
Lindsey nods. “Dan had it way worse. It’s still competitive, but we had way more support than Dan did. During midterms, they would bring in therapy dogs. I doubt Dan ever had therapy dogs,” she says with a laugh. “That’s a big shift we’ve seen—just more awareness of what anxiety and stress can do. They’re more focused on making sure we’re all healthy mentally.”
Their chemistry has been a boon to the firm. “When Lindsey and I started working together, I had no doubt that she was going to do a good job and work hard,” Dan says. “And I knew people would like her. Basically, I trusted her, and she did not disappoint. You think with family members, Well, what if they’re not working hard or pulling their weight? That’s never been a concern of mine whatsoever with Lindsey.”
So do O’Connell family Thanksgiving dinners ever get bogged down by shop talk? Nope. Dan and Lindsey have that covered, too.
“Every once in a while, we find ourselves on a legal tangent,” Lindsey says. “But for the most part, our family time is our family time and our work time is our work time.”