Jake Barnes

Graduation Year: 2009

Major(s): Political Science

Current Position: Assistant County Attorney, Wabasha County


Please give a brief description of your current position and where you're working.

As an Assistant County Attorney I am in Court nearly daily, either on child support matters, criminal proceedings, truancy cases, or even representing the County in civil suits.  The Wabasha County Office is smaller with only three full time attorneys and two support staff, but this lends itself to creating a close and friendly environment.

What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?

After graduating from St. John's with a major in political science (prelaw route) I volunteered for a year with the BVC out in Newark, NJ where I taught high school civics. One of my favorite parts about this experience was bringing one of my classes to DC for a weekend where they participated in a first amendment conference with other high school students from around the country. Seeing high school age students get excited about the Constitution was really rewarding. I then enrolled in law school back here in Minnesota, and after graduating I took a job as a judicial clerk. About a year after taking my clerkship position, the newly elected Wabasha County Attorney encouraged me to apply for my current position as an assistant County Attorney.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?

Take Constitutional Law in undergrad; it is one of the things from CSB/SJU that I use every day.  I would also advise getting to know attorneys (get summer internships or clerkships) because having connections and mentors really pays off.  Finally, for those who may be preparing for law school, please take the time to practice and prepare for the LSAT. 

What skills are important in your field?

My ability to write, critically analyze, and think creatively have been very important to my success. From drafting a response memo which attempts to cleave an opposing party's reasoning, to structuring sentencing designed to ensure that a Defendant gets what's fair and productive rather than just punitive, to redrafting a county ordinance- I am constantly reading critically, writing strategically,  and implementing creative solutions to problems.

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?

Looking back at the experiences I had during my time at CSB/SJU I'd have to credit my time spent in courses like Courts Law and Policy, Constitutional Law, and U.S. Congress with preparing me for this career. These courses helped me realize that I enjoyed learning and using case law, and also introduced me to the process of becoming a lawyer. In addition to these valuable in class experiences, I also participated in congressional campaigns, college democrats, and took leadership positions with PRiSM. These activities helped form and strengthen a passion for justice which still guides me today.

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?

Although the role of Assistant County Attorney is multifaceted, my core function is to prosecute those suspected of breaking the law. With that noted, I would be remiss or even dishonest if I didn't acknowledge that winning in court feels awesome. When the court or jury hands out a decision in the State's favor, it is immediate affirmation of the many hours of work that I've done.   However, even more than the feeling of winning, the thing that makes this job special is the knowledge that the work I do ensures that the ideal of justice is realized.

(Fall 2015)