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Alexandria lawyer honored for helping poor

Doug Hegg

An Alexandria attorney, Douglas Hegg, received a statewide honor in October for his work helping the area's poorest residents.

Hegg contributed 650 hours of pro bono, or free, legal work in 2016, far surpassing the 50 hours a year the American Bar Association encourages attorneys to contribute, said Anne Hoefgren, executive director of Moorhead-based Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota.

Hegg received the Dawn Carlson Family Advocate Award, named after an attorney who also helped low-income clients through her work with Legal Services, a law office that provides legal advice and representation to low-income clients.

"He has a hard time saying 'no' when someone comes into his office in need," Hoefgren said.

In one case, he helped a divorced woman secure full custody of her children after her ex-husband began drinking heavily and exposed himself to his minor daughter, she said.

Besides pitching in at Legal Services, Hegg runs a private practice that deals with real property law, land use, family law, civil commitments, child protective services, guardian and conservatorships, and probate. He is a solo practitioner, which means he has no partner to generate income while he helps those who can't pay him.

He works as a Judicare attorney with Legal Services, the legal aid equivalent of Medicare. Through the program, Legal Aid might pay him for six hours of work on a case that take twice as much time, Hoefgren said. Besides the low pay, the cases are often tough, dealing with emotional family issues.

Hegg could not be reached for comment.

However, Hoefgren emailed the Echo Press the comments he made after receiving the award at a statewide banquet in Alexandria.

"I am very grateful for being recognized, but until this event, I really didn't think that anything I had done was in any way exceptional," he said. He further noted that the Legal Services staff attorneys still overshadow his own contribution.

"I'm guessing that nobody is doing legal services work for the fame and fortune, so my bet's on job satisfaction," he told those at the banquet.