The Amazing World of Nadia Hasan

When the business litigator talks pro bono work, one word keeps coming up over and over 

Published in 2015 Minnesota Super Lawyers — August 2015

It’s a drizzly, gray afternoon in April, and barely any light is filtering into the conference room at Cozen O’Connor in downtown Minneapolis. But Nadia Hasan, talking about her pro bono work, is shining.

“The people who work at that organization, and do the hands-on work, they’re amazing,” she says. The organization in question is the Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project, which seeks legal solutions for domestic violence victims. As co-chair and board member, Hasan raises funds and visibility for the nonprofit.

Hasan is also involved in fundraising and visibility efforts for Be the Match, an organization that assists in locating bone marrow transplant matches. “The technology and the storage of all the DNA information in their database is very costly,” she says. “They’re a very well-deserving organization and they do amazing work.”

This fall, Hasan will be busy, as both organizations are hosting their biggest fundraising events of the year: the Be The Match Foundation’s Celebrating Our Heroes Gala is on Friday, September 11 and BWLAP’s Journey of Hope benefit is slated for October. She’s especially excited about the Journey of Hope’s assortment of silent auction items, which range from coveted seats at sporting events to a year’s supply of donuts.

But there’s more. Hasan’s biggest pro bono endeavor is serving as adjunct faculty for the University of St. Thomas School of Law’s Bankruptcy Litigation Clinic. Since 2013, she has spent up to 12 hours a week mentoring five to 10 law students as they try cases at U.S. bankruptcy court.

“Typically in a year, we have one or two trials, which is amazing for the students and an amazing benefit for the client—because the client certainly couldn’t afford to have an attorney represent them in the case at all let alone through trial,” she says.

So how does the full-time business litigator find the time to put in so many pro bono hours a year?

“I learned you can’t just push pro bono work to after work hours,” she says. “You have to do your pro bono work when it comes up, as it comes up,” or else you risk minimizing its importance. As a member of Cozen O’Connor’s national pro bono committee, she hopes all lawyers understand the value of contributing.

“I think everybody has the responsibility,” Hasan says. “Law is a very specialized discipline and we have a responsibility to use it to help people who don’t always have access to it.”

Most cases referred to the clinic fall into one of two categories: student loan discharge cases and fraud cases. The latter are an especially good learning experience for students, since it can be extremely difficult to prove fraud, says Hasan. She worked on such a case in 2013 when a debtor sought to discharge a debt in bankruptcy court.

Hasan and Kerri Kovalesky, a law student in the clinic who graduated later that year, represented a man who had loaned close to $40,000 from his daughter’s college fund to a relative, who agreed to use the money to bail himself out of jail and then repay the loan. “Unfortunately what happened was that the [debtor] took the money to pay his attorney,” says Hasan. “He had no intention of using it for what it was required to be used for.”

The debtor sought to discharge the debt in bankruptcy court, which would have left Hasan and Kovalesky’s client, and his daughter, in the lurch. They argued that the debt should remain valid. The night before trial, the opposing counsel agreed.

Hasan enjoys the opportunity to work with students like Kovalesky, passing forward the lessons she learned from mentors like Cozen O’Connor senior counsel Tom Kane. “He’s certainly assisted in making me the best lawyer that I can be, so I’m hopeful that I can help people when I can the way he’s helped me,” she says. “I think ethically he’s second to none and his strategy decisions are amazing.”

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