Lawyer of the Year — Criminal Defense: Non-White-Collar
Lawyer of the Year — Daniel E. Monnat
Monnat & Spurrier Chartered
Education: JD, Creighton University.
Years as a lawyer: 37.

Firms at which you’ve worked: Monnat & Spurrier, Chartered, 1985-present; Fisher & Monnat, 1983-1985; Shulz, Fry & Fisher, 1977-1983; Schrempp & McQuade (Omaha), 1976-1977.

Why did you choose to become a lawyer? I wanted to lend whatever boldness and artistic talent I had to those less able to stand up and fight for themselves. Whether you justify that by the Tao, the Sermon on the Mount or the United States Constitution, that’s a good thing to do. All power and authority need someone to question it. And, each of us, at one time or another, needs someone to understand us and give voice to our humanity. The combination results in what we all crave: justice and freedom.

What is your favorite thing about practicing law? The jury system. Every day, ordinary people come together and, as a group, unite to rise above the prejudices and politics of the day. Again and again, these citizens deliver justice and freedom.

What’s the biggest challenge facing the legal profession? The vanishing jury trial. The jury trial is one of “The People’s” checks and balances on the three branches of government involved in our legal system. But, increasingly, jury trials do not occur.

Who has been your mentor? I’ve been very lucky throughout my life to have had a number of very generous mentors: my parents for everything, Mike Finnigan for music, Father Bob Williams for writing and philosophy, the celebrated Wyoming attorney Gerry Spence for trial skills and understanding the group dynamics of juries. Foremost, however, I have had the mentorship and guidance of my wife, the incomparable Chinese martial artist Grace Wu-Monnat, whose intuitive and intelligent study of people, and particularly jurors, has guided and assisted me in every trial for the last 22 years. Like the culture she comes from, her wisdom is ancient and awesome.

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