Minnesota Lawyer and Finance & Commerce – Partner Content
Authors: Dan Heilman – Owner/independent writer and editor at Daniel S. Heilman LLC
As Art Boylan joined the executive committee at Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie, he was reminded of a catch-all expression phrase one of his early mentors used to describe the job of lawyering: This is a hell of a way to make a living.
“I’ve applied that comment to many circumstances,” said Boylan, “When you’re successful in court or breaking your back working on a case or you’re working through a tense moment with a client, the expression fits — so long as you love what you’re doing.”
With the added responsibility of helping to run the law firm, Boylan feels like that catch-all phrase has taken even more meaning and it is clear Boylan loves what he does. Since he joined Anthony Ostlund five years ago, he has seen his practice expand considerably and he was enjoyed every step of the way.
“I started my career in what was considered a large law firm at the time. It was great — I had terrific mentors, complex work and wonderful colleagues,” he said. “But that firm expanded through a merger. It was the right move for the firm. But the change gave me a chance to reflect on what was the right for me personally.”
“I wanted some flexibility around the clients I work with, the matters I get involved with and how to approach the cases,” he said. “I wanted to be able to try cases and that’s easier in a boutique firm.” Boylan likes “really knowing my clients well, and helping them solve problems as creatively and efficiently as we can.”
Like all good trial lawyers, Boylan relishes a battle. “The cases that are the most gratifying are the ones that go to trial — for me, anyway,” he said. “In the past six months, I’ve had three different cases go to trial. One a two-week jury trial for a breach of contract, one was a bench trial between two business owners, and another involved the sale of business. It’s the trial work that sticks out for me. That’s a signature of my practice, and of this firm in general. We love to be in court and try cases.”
For many years and on a variety of cases, Boylan has worked with Lighthouse Management Group and its clients. Lighthouse is a corporate renewal adviser helping clients resolve difficult business issues, including turnaround, crisis management and debt restructuring. Tim Becker, a principal at Lighthouse, has worked with Boylan on many cases. “He is a perfect blend of skill, creativity and common sense — and that leads to great results in court.” said Becker. Having seen Boylan in court many times, Becker says that Boylan is “as good as anyone on his feet in the courtroom.”
An example of Boylan’s willingness to get his hands dirty in court came when he represented John Arundel, the owner of Appcon, a designer and builder of dry bulk material handling, processing, and conveying equipment and systems for industrial processing facilities.
Boylan represented Arundel in a nasty, protracted dispute with a former employer. Arundel started out as the defendant in the case, but Boylan countersued and turned the tide in favor of Arundel. In fact, immediately before trial, the Court entered an order allowing Arundel to seek punitive damages against his former employer. “He’ll fight for you, and you never get the sense that he’s doing something only because it might be a feather in his lawyer cap,” said Arundel of Boylan, whom he met through a mutual friend. “His focus was on me and my problem the whole way.”
In another case, Boylan sought to enforce an oral promise between two business owners over about $1 million. “Not an easy case to win,” Boylan says, “but we had a great client and a good story to tell.” Ultimately, after trial, the jury awarded all of the damages sought by Boylan’s client. Since then, Boylan successfully defeated the defendants’ attempt to overturn the jury verdict on appeal.
Looking forward, Boylan sees changes coming in the legal profession. But some things will not. “In my view, clients will always want their lawyer to know their businesses, to care deeply their problems, and go to court and win.”