Jim M. Wiederrich-36 Year South Dakota Attorney
I’m starting a new series of feature interviews. These people have inspired and/or intrigued me for years. I’ve always wanted to know what drives them and how they’ve “hauled rocks” in their own lives to create meaningful personal and professional lives.
My family and I met Jim in 2013 as participants in the South Dakota Technology Center’s Accelerator Program (Today known as Zeal.). Jim and a team of lawyers presented business law subject matter during a day’s session. Having just relocated to Sioux Falls, South Dakota from Charleston, South Carolina, we were instantly drawn to his demeanor and presence, which fondly reminded us of many Southern statesmen. It was clear he was respected by his peers and admired by those in attendance. Driving home from the day’s session, I recall our family talking about the impression Jim made and telling 18-year-old Alex to follow Jim’s approach to life-one of balance and fairness. Both Ken and I knew Jim would be an ideal role model, even if Alex didn’t choose to practice law. The way Jim navigated life and interacted with others mirrored our wish for Alex.
Introducing Jim…Hard working, Intelligent & Fair
Jim has been a South Dakota practicing attorney for 36 years. He and his wife, Karri, are the proud parents of three beautiful, grown daughters: Anne, Lynn and Sara, whom he’s always encouraged to “get good grades, find a great job and build guest quarters for their parents.”
Educational Interests Led to Law School
Jim was raised on a farm south of Tripp, SD and for eight years attended a Bon Homme County one-room country school without running water or indoor plumbing. His favorite elementary school subject was South Dakota history.
Jim enjoyed high school accounting classes and participating on the debate team. As a Tripp High School junior he decided to become a lawyer.
With the encouragement of his parents, he attended the University of South Dakota and earned a BS in accounting (1977), followed by an MBA (1980) and then a Juris Doctorate (1980). He treasures memories of collegiate apartment life, living with three other business majors. And from his college years, he developed a deep appreciation for professors who brought real-life experience to their classrooms. When thinking back on his pre-law-practice days, he remembers them with “a whole lot less responsibility than one carries as an attorney looking out for the best interests of one’s clients.”
After his 1980 graduation, Jim became an associate at Woods, Fuller, Shultz & Smith®, P.C. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Three years later, he became a shareholder and Board of Directors member of the same firm, where he remains today.
Practice of Law Over Time
For more than three decades, Jim’s greatest joy as an attorney comes when a client successfully completes creation of a new company or the acquisition of one. “Either way, new jobs are created, and hopefully profits for the owners.”
His most valued career accomplishment was the organization of all of the POET ethanol plants and operating companies. This included the purchase of real estate, development of construction contracts and marketing and licensing arrangements for 27 operating plants and a dozen operating companies. “These entities have provided thousands of jobs, lessened our dependence on foreign oil and created great wealth for investors.”
As one who wishes to be remembered as an outstanding business practitioner who understood how to negotiate a fair deal and provide great advice to clients on how to manage legal risks, Jim gets frustrated by lawyers not skilled in areas in which they are practicing. “As a result, they take positions that are unreasonable because they don’t have the background and experience to negotiate a fair and reasonable result for their client and mine.”
Jim’s seen plenty of changes in 36 years of practicing law but none greater than the government’s over-regulation of business. “Millions of new laws, ordinances and regulations have been enacted that drive up the cost of doing business beyond what is necessary to protect the public.” Regarding new law school graduates and changes over time, Jim says new graduates are more technologically proficient, which is great for efficiency. However, he cautions that reliance on the Internet, texting and social media can be misleading. “Nothing beats establishing long-term personal relationships through face-to-face interaction.”
Active Community Participant
One of the many benefits of Jim’s career is being able to be actively involved in the growth and development of the Sioux Falls community and surrounding region. Knowing he’s making a difference in the lives of people in the community matters to him. Currently, he’s concerned about the lack of affordable housing in Sioux Falls and providing adequate support to education and access to affordable health care in South Dakota.
Jim strongly believes every member of the Sioux Falls community should be involved in the local United Way and other volunteer activities. He holds the belief that community is made best when businesses, non-profits and governmental agencies coordinate and participate together.
As a man committed to his God, his family, his country and his firm, Jim serves on numerous boards within his church, his church denomination, a local hospital, Chamber of Commerce, United Way and non-profit social service agencies. He’s chosen to make time for these organizations because they provide spiritual care, help local individuals provide for their families and become self-sufficient, and grow the economic base which provides jobs for all in the work force.
In 2014 Jim was awarded the prestigious David Birkeland Memorial award for his community involvement.
Jim understands the value of mentorship and role models for young professionals. Just as we tagged him as a role model or mentor for our son, Alex, Jim’s also had a mentor in his life: Judge Stuart Tiede who practiced at Woods Fuller prior to his 2001 appointment to the Second Judicial Circuit Court in South Dakota. “Stuart was truly a student of the law and did not settle for an adequate answer, but always the right answer to the problem at hand.”
Balance in Life + Final Thoughts
Jim strives to achieve balance in his life between work and play. It’s likely most don’t know his favorite free time activity is flower gardening, that his favorite place today is vacationing on Maui, Hawaii or that he’s eager to visit Australia.
He’d like his legacy for his girls to be that he put his family’s needs first, had great judgement and compassion and was always available to listen or provide advice when asked. And, he’d like to thank his wife for managing the household while he spent considerable time devoted to the practice of law and volunteering in the community.
In spite of his busy career and heavy volunteer schedule, he never missed his children’s activities or time with his spouse. Remarkable priorities and balance.
Great Father. Devoted Husband. Outstanding Citizen. Accomplished Attorney. Role Model and Mentor: Jim Wiederrich.
Share with those blessed to know and work with Jim and those who could learn from his choices in life.
Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.
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