"By learning you will teach; by teaching you
Learning a new language, says Jim Manahan, is both intellectually exciting and a way to stay young. He could also say it has presented opportunities for growth and service that are beyond the reach of many, but then again Manahan has a resume that would be the envy of most.
A native of Madelia, Minnesota, and a graduate of Harvard Law School, Manahan had already accomplished much as a lawyer before he decided, in 1998, that it might be fun to learn Spanish. Undaunted by his memories of a C- in French as an undergraduate, he pursued his new interest with gusto and, in May 2001, received his B.A. in Spanish from Minnesota State University - Mankato.
While continuing to study Spanish, Manahan searched for an opportunity to apply his skill overseas and found notice of a Fulbright scholarship for a Spanish-speaking expert to teach criminal law in Chile. He quickly applied and, following a highly competitive selection process, was awarded the scholarship. In February 2002 he began six months' service as an instructor in criminal law and procedure at the Chilean Universidad Austral.
His skill in Spanish was, of course, not the only qualification that impressed the Fulbright Board. Manahan is certified in both civil and criminal trial advocacy and his career includes 20 years' work as a part-time public defender as well as private practice in the areas of personal injury, criminal law, and family law. Following the journalistic example of his mother, who for many years edited the Madelia Times Messenger, Manahan served as publisher of the paper from 1979-83 while still practicing law.
In the 1960s he and a few colleagues began providing free legal services for low-income persons in the Mankato area, an initiative that evolved into our current legal assistance to the disadvantaged coalition. He has frequently served as a continuing education lecturer and has also served as an assistant professor at MSU-Mankato, teaching law enforcement and mass communication courses.
Manahan's grant was in support of Chile's interest in introducing American trial techniques to its criminal law system, including opportunity for direct and cross-examination, introduction of exhibits, and presentation of expert witnesses. Manahan expects the changes to be in place by 2004, and he will travel to Latin America again in April 2003 to teach criminal law for nine weeks.
Minnesota lawyers need not travel overseas to employ skills in a second language -- whether Spanish, Hmong, Russian, or Somali, to name but a few. But we are indebted to leaders like Jim Manahan who awaken us to opportunities beyond our own backyard.
James H. Manahan
JON DUCKSTAD is president of the Minnesota State Bar Association. This month he visits James Manahan, in Mankato, Minnesota.