Call of the Wild

Critters brought North Dakota’s Wick Corwin into law. Now he is returning the favor

Published in 2007 Great Plains Super Lawyers — October 2007

As a kid growing up in Fargo, Wickham “Wick” Corwin remembers thinking how great it would be to see a peregrine falcon in action. The magnificent bird is one of the fastest animals on earth, with a hunting dive that reaches 200 miles per hour. 

“You can’t pack more action into a bird if you tried,” says the Fargo-based Conmy Feste attorney. Now Corwin is closer to the birds than he ever imagined. “My office looks right out onto the site of their nesting spot,” he says, referring to the pair of peregrines that showed up in downtown Fargo in 2000. After doing some research, Corwin contacted the two men—Pat Redig and Bud Tordoff—who were at the forefront of bringing the peregrines back to the Midwest. Next thing Corwin knew, he was the North Dakota coordinator of the Midwest Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project.

“It’s kind of informal,” Corwin says with a laugh. “I just keep an eye on them and report to the database. They had four young this year, and they’re all doing well.”

It was an interest in animals that brought Corwin to the University of Utah for an undergraduate degree in biology, and a desire to help protect wildlife that led him to the University of North Dakota to study environmental law. But after joining Conmy Feste, Corwin discovered that he “just loved trial work,” especially civil litigation, and environmental law fell to the wayside. 

His practice involves litigation for personal injury defendants and large companies, including Wells Fargo Bank, American Crystal Sugar Company and Border States Industries. Corwin made headlines recently as counsel for the NCAA, which placed sanctions on the University of North Dakota—including banning the university from post-season play—for continuing its use of the name “Fighting Sioux,” which the NCAA deems “hostile and abusive.” The university is suing to have the sanctions lifted. It is a case that lies close to the heart of many North Dakotans.

“For people who care about one side of the issue or the other, they really seem to care,” says Corwin. “Some people would say it is a terrible thing that is being done, taking away the name; some people would say having the name has been a terrible thing.”

The NCAA/UND case goes to trial in December; in the meantime, Corwin will continue his trial work and environmental advocacy. He has worked with Ducks Unlimited, serving for a few years on the national board, and has been involved with the state board of trustees for the Nature Conservancy. He enjoys taking part in organizations that “identify and focus on critical habitat and do something to preserve it.”

That includes keeping an eye on those falcons across the street.

“It has been an absolute pleasure having them so close all of these years,” says Corwin. “How lucky to have them just fall in my lap.” 

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