Jessica McCaslin


Growing up in Gary, Minnesota, the third generation of farmers to work the land, Jessica McCaslin took notice of more than soy beans and corn.

“When living on a family farm, you see the progression of the next generation taking over,” said Jessica, a paralegal in Gray Plant Mooty’s Fargo office. “You see assets (such as land, machinery and buildings) that your grandparents have worked for their entire lives being used by your parents and your siblings. I’ve seen firsthand how complicated this transition can be for everyone.”

Counseling families seeking to transfer assets to future generations is an ideal career for someone passionate about assisting others, says Jessica, who works on trust, estate, and charitable giving matters. “I like helping people. You hear that all the time from people, but it’s really true.”

A Lifelong Dream

Though her brother and sister continue to work on the family farm, Jessica had different career plans from a young age. “I feel like I’ve always wanted to practice law,” she said.

Unlike many people, she began taking tangible steps to make it happen. In high school, while a senior at Norman County East in Twin Valley, she traveled to Fargo to job-shadow a family law attorney. Later, she enrolled at nearby Minnesota State University – Moorhead, where she earned a degree in paralegal studies.

Many of her classmates were drawn to big law firms, she says, while others sought work in the prominent fields of personal injury or criminal law. Jessica had other plans.

Sandin Law

In December of 2009, Toni Sandin was finalizing some plans of her own. The University of North Dakota School of Law graduate had started her career at Dorsey & Whitney, the second-largest law firm in the Twin Cities, but left Dorsey to start her own firm in Fargo.

In January 2010, Sandin posted a job opening: PARALEGAL WANTED. McCaslin, who had graduated just weeks earlier, applied for the position. She was immediately struck by Sandin.

“I knew the instant I had the interview that I wanted to work for her,” said Jessica. “The interview lasted over two hours. We had really great conversation. I was just so impressed by her.”

Working with a seasoned attorney provided Jessica a wealth of experience and on-the-job training. And the law office soon began to grow. An associate attorney was hired in January 2013, followed by a second paralegal.

In 2015, even bigger changes were afoot. In April of that year, Gray Plant Mooty announced its merger with the boutique estate- and business-planning firm.

Jessica admits she was “both excited and nervous” when she received the news.

“On the one hand, you have more opportunities, more resources and the people we had already met from GPM were great. But, you never know how change is going to affect the great working environment we currently already had,” she said. “We have always been a really tight-knit group.”

While it’s too earlier to determine just how successful the merger will be—the union is only six months old—Jessica said all signs point to positive.

“Of course there have been changes administratively that we have needed to adapt to, as well as adjustments to the technology, but overall we greatly enjoy everyone we’ve met and people have been really helpful in training us,” said Jessica. “And even more importantly, we are continuing to provide our clients with the same small firm feel, with the valued support from our St. Cloud and Minneapolis offices,” added Jessica.

‘Doing Exactly What I Want to Do’

McCaslin, who married in 2012, said she can’t imagine doing anything else. She admits she can be hard on herself because she has very high expectations for herself and her work, but says the stress she sometimes experiences is worth it.

“It’s all about satisfying and meeting client expectations,” said Jessica, adding that the feeling of euphoria that accompanies a client win is the ultimate satisfaction.

And while she always assumed she’d eventually get that law degree, now she’s not so certain. Finding time to balance work, family, and school has its challenges. And she says she loves paralegal work, which offers great variety and often allows for more interaction with clients.

“I feel what I’m doing is exactly what I want to be doing,” said Jessica.