Mark Karon ’76 has dedicated his career to the service of his students.
For more than 39 years, he has provided extraordinary support to students at the University of Minnesota who are facing difficult legal situations. Currently, as the Director of the University of Minnesota Student Legal Services, he and his team of seven attorneys provide advice and help to the university’s 64,000 students.
“Working with students is both challenging and rewarding,” says Karon, who typically sees 6-8 students each week with issues that can often be unique.
“With the development and continued growth of social media, they face numerous obstacles that did not exist just a few years ago,” continues Karon. “The collateral consequences of bad judgment or poor decisions could impact them negatively for years to come in both their pursuits of education and employment. International students face increasing issues relative to their status and ability to remain in the country to pursue their education.”
Karon became interested in the law after teaching high school social studies for two years. While visiting San Diego over a holiday break, he was introduced to a lawyer who suggested he go out to Point Loma and meet with Dean Castetter and talk about the opportunities at California Western.
“Dean Castetter then introduced me to Professor Murray Galinson, who was originally from Minnesota,” recalls Karon. “It being December, the outside temperature being about 70 degrees above zero (probably 80 degrees warmer than Minnesota) and hearing many positive things about the school I decided to apply.”
Karon has fond memories of the many professors, staff, and classmates who each played a role in helping him reach his goals at Cal Western. “Professors Galinson, Coyne, and Gamer were always willing to meet, speak, and mentor,” he says. “Third-year student and TA Roy Bell was an excellent resource and always willing to talk with a young, dumb 1L. Lasting friendships developed, and an appreciation of the diversity and backgrounds, as well as the skills of classmates, resulted.”
At that time, the Clinical Education program had just started at the law school, and Karon was one of the first students to have the opportunity to participate in the program.
“California Western was a leader in the development of experiential learning opportunities,” says Karon. “I was selected to do a clinical internship at the United States Attorney’s office in San Diego, working in both the civil and criminal divisions. This opportunity provided me with a great background in litigation, and the desire to work there on a full-time basis.”
Passing both the Minnesota and California state bar exams, Karon joined Minnesota law firm Robins Kaplan as an Associate Attorney, where he worked in the areas of personal injury, product liability, insurance defense, and subrogation.
Four years later, Karon joined the University of Minnesota Student Legal Services as a staff attorney, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Karon is credited with developing unique programs at the university, such as the “Career Exploration” program to assist students interested in pursuing law or a law-related profession or education.
“Watching students succeed and reach their goals is one of the great rewards of this job,” says Karon. “Seeing former students being recognized for their accomplishments and the contributions they have made to the profession and society is most satisfying.”
In addition to his role as Director, Karon has taught at Hamline University and Mitchell Hamline Law School for over 30 years. He has taught Trial Practice, Pre-trial Litigation, Torts, and the Attorney Practicum classes. In 2005 he received the “Academic Professional of the Year award at Hamline. In 2017 he received the “President’s Distinguished Service Award” at the University of Minnesota.
He finds it hard to believe that it has been almost 45 years since he graduated from law school, and his alma mater is never far from his thoughts as he relishes the daily challenges of looking after the large student body.
“California Western helped prepare me for life’s wonderful adventure, and the friendships developed and maintained will always be cherished.”