Herm Olsen aspired to be an attorney and to run for political office from the time he was 10.
His dream came true and he has since risen through the ranks to a number of leadership positions —most notably being named as the incoming president of the Utah State Bar at the organization’s summer convention in Park City earlier this month.
“I thought that law would be a terrific career because attorneys could do good things for people and good things for the community,” said Olsen.
Born and raised in Logan, he attended the S.J. Quinney College of Law, where he graduated in 1976. He also followed his love of politics, where he spent time working as a congressional staffer for Rep. K. Gunn McKay in Washington D.C. in the late 1970s.
After a few years of the frantic pace of life in the nation’s capital, Olsen was ready to return home to Logan to build a practice in a place where his children could grow up closer to family.
“There’s a bit of a presumption about the nature of legal services available in smaller communities,” said Olsen. “There is actually a fair number of attorneys who have located and relocated to Logan because it’s a wonderful place to live. It beats the downside of practicing in the big city.”
Today, Olsen advises clients in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, municipal law and collections law at Logan-based law firm Hillyard Anderson Olsen. Over the years, he has represented several towns and cities in the State of Utah in municipal law and currently represents the towns of Paradise, Snowville and Laketown. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors for the Navajo Legal Aid Services since 1994 and has served as a Utah State Bar Commissioner since 2005. And, he’s an elected member of the Logan City Council and has volunteered on numerous civic boards and organizations through the years.
Olsen has also spent significant time working on legal issues for the Navajo Nation. He speaks fluent Navajo, which he learned while serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Providing legal services to those who need it in Utah’s rural areas is rewarding, Olsen said.
“I have probably always been attracted to the notion that a career in law was a means to help people. I suspect that’s the dominating motive that I originally had as a child in wanting to become a lawyer and (is the motive) I still have today,” he said.
Other members of the legal community, including some College of Law alumni and outgoing Dean Bob Adler, were also honored at the summer Bar Convention in Park City.
New Bar commissioners were elected in the 3rd Division, which represents lawyers in Utah’s Third Judicial District, and in the First Division to serve out the remaining term of Olsen. Michelle Quist was elected in the Third District and Marty Moore won in the First District.
The organization’s Lawyer of the Year award went to Paul C. Burke of Ray Quinney & Nebeker. Burke, a graduate of the College of Law, maintains a broad civil litigation practice and advises law firms on ethics and risk management. He served as the chairman of the Rules Committee for the U.S. Soccer Federation from 2006-2018 and is a member of the Utah Youth Soccer Hall of Fame.
Judge of the Year was given to Judge John Baxter of the Salt Lake City Justice Court. Baxter, a Marine who deployed to Vietnam, hears cases on the Veteran’s Court, the Homeless Court, and chaired the Access to Resources for Self-Represented Parties committee for nine years.
Steven G. Johnson and Bob Adler received Distinguished Service Awards. Johnson, a graduate of the J. Rueben Clark Law School at BYU, has served the Bar since 1977 in a variety of positions, including an officer of the Corporate Counsel and Dispute Resolution sections, chair of the Fee Arbitration Panel, and Associate Editor of the Bar Journal.
Adler is a Distinguished Professor of Law at College of Law and recently stepped down after a six-year term as the Jefferson B. and Rita E. Fordham Dean. He teaches and writes in the areas of environmental and water law.
Recipients of the Lifetime Service Awards included Patricia W. Christensen, Judge Paul Michael Warner and Judge Brooke Wells.
Christensen is Of Counsel to Parr Brown Gee & Loveless in Salt Lake City. She was a founding member of Women Lawyers of Utah in 1982, and served as the organization’s president from 1988-89. She was volunteer attorney Guardian ad litem for the Third District Court and served as a volunteer on several boards, including Rowland Hall-St. Marks School, Community Development Board for the University of Utah’s College of Nursing, and the Administrative Board of First United Methodist Church.
Warner, the Chief Federal Magistrate Judge for the District of Utah, was appointed in 2006 by President George W. Bush. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brigham Young University and graduated in the charter class of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU in 1976. In 1984 he received a master’s degree in Public Administration from BYU. He served as a trial lawyer in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the United States Navy and worked as Chief of the Litigation Division in the Utah Attorney General’s office. He was appointed U.S. Attorney for Utah by President Bill Clinton in 1998.
Wells, a College of Law alumna, served as a Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Utah until her retirement in June. She spent three years as a legal service lawyer in Texas before working for the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association. She was an adjunct professor at the College of Law, and was appointed as the first woman U.S. Magistrate Judge for Utah in 2003 by George W. Bush.