May/June 2023

Colleague Corner: What’s the first thing you remember wanting to be when you grew up?


Amanda Harrington is an attorney and social worker who manages the Hennepin County Attorneys’ Office Be@School program.

When I was young, I knew I was going to be an author. It was a fact that I shared with anyone who would listen and worked hard to make a reality. I wrote poems and books and had them illustrated by my friends and family. I still have the book of poems I wrote in the style of author Shel Silverstein, the book about my deaf cat named Mouse, and the one about a mermaid who was adopted by whales. I practiced my craft and entered contests to determine if I was any good. I was thrilled when I was chosen to be in a young writers’ anthology but crushed when my mom wouldn’t pay for a copy of the book. She explained that it was just a scam. 

My passion for writing wasn’t limited to fiction. One summer in elementary school I convinced my cousin to help me write and distribute a neighborhood newsletter. I focused more on journalism as I got older. I was on the school newspaper and yearbook in elementary, middle, and high school. I even attempted to write my memoirs when I was in high school—but sadly, never finished them. Graduate school and law school seem to have gotten the need to write for fun out of my system, at least for now.


Michael-DittbernerMichael Dittberner 

Michael Dittberner practices family law and is a shareholder in the firm Linder, Dittberner & McSweeney, Ltd., in Edina. He was chair of the Minnesota Lavender Bar Association from May 2021– May 2023.

The first thing I remember wanting to be when I grew up was a meteorologist. I was always fascinated by the weather and looked forward to watching the weather segment of the nightly local newscasts. I was five years old when two of the most impactful weather events in Twin Cities history occurred. First, there were the epic spring floods of April 1965, where I recall being mesmerized by standing water in our neighbors’ yards in Maplewood. Then there was the May 6, 1965 tornado outbreak in which two deadly F4 tornadoes hit Fridley and Spring Lake Park. 

On July 18, 1970, I was with my family on the far west end of Lake Miltona near Alexandria when I saw a tornado form overhead and drop down into the lake and cross to the east end of the lake, where it would eventually hit the business district of the town of Miltona—resulting in a lot of destruction but, thankfully, no fatalities. As I grew older, I realized I had a greater aptitude for the social sciences than the natural sciences. I was a political science/sociology double major at Gustavus Adolphus College and a big fan of the late-‘70s TV show The Paper Chase. I decided that being a lawyer fit in well with my double major and interests, which led to my attending law school and my career as a family law attorney. I am very happy with my career choice, but the weather still fascinates me.


Jill-ProhofskyJill Prohofsky 

Chief Child Support Magistrate Jill Prohofsky is the married mother of two great humans, one tiny cat, and two big dogs. 

I knew I would work in a helping profession from an early age. My mother was a social worker, and my father was on active duty in the Navy. Based on their examples, I knew I would do something that made a difference in the lives of others. The first thing I can remember wanting to be when I grew up was a therapist. Human behavior fascinated me, but blood and guts did not. This ruled out attending medical school to become a psychiatrist, leading me to want to be a psychologist. I envisioned treating patients with behavioral interventions, and perhaps solving some crimes along the way. I wanted to be fictional characters Alex Delaware and Clarice Starling rolled into one. 

With dreams of being a clinical psychologist who practiced for a few years before being recruited by the FBI as a profiler, I entered the University of Michigan as an undergraduate psychology student. My broad liberal arts studies eventually led me to courses like Psychology & the Law and Gender & the Law. I discovered that I could pair my interest in human behavior with advocacy for an underdog. With this realization, I abandoned my graduate school plans halfway through my senior year in favor of law school.

Immediately following my graduation from the University of Minnesota Law School, I worked at a very small plaintiff’s firm. I was sent to hearings by myself just weeks after being sworn into the bar. Going to district court and administrative hearings as a young lawyer was immensely gratifying. The first time I received a favorable ruling in a Social Security appeal, helping an immigrant with persistent mental illness get one step closer to financial independence, I knew I had made the right choice. After several years of general civil practice, I began to focus on family law. My clients were people in difficult situations who needed help navigating the legal system, which often felt like working as a therapist. I came to view the courtroom as a place where people could resolve issues in a way that helped them move forward in their lives.


IAN-LEWENSTEIN--Ian Lewenstein 

Ian Lewenstein is a paralegal and writing consultant. His article “Watch your abbreviations” also appears this issue.

Because I enthusiastically pushed a toy vacuum around the house, my family was convinced that I was going to be a janitor. I’m not so sure. I played a lot of sports, and I particularly loved basketball and winning free-throw contests like my dad did at his age. And like many idealistic youth, I remember wanting to play in the NBA. Sadly, this dream peaked at the same time that my height did. 

I’m blessed, however, that I was able to shift toward more-realistic endeavors. I had two parents in state public service: a middle-school math teacher and a state official for higher education. Looking up to my parents and their work, I knew that I had an easy decision to also serve Minnesota and the public. So I’m glad that the NBA didn’t work out and that I can use my skills and passion for plain language in service of Minnesotans. 

But I still love vacuuming, so maybe I can still work as a part-time janitor when I retire. 


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