Trial Lawyer of the Year

2010-11 Trial Lawyer of the Year: Dean Nasser

By Greg Eiesland and Jon Sogn

Turn on the television and you may see an ad campaign featuring “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” The actor who advises us to “Stay thirsty my friends,” however, is not the most interesting man in the world. That title instead may actually belong to this year’s Trial Lawyer of the Year Award winner, Dean Nasser.

For more than 37 years Dean has maintained a trial practice in his hometown of Sioux Falls. Dean has tried nearly every type of case imaginable—personal injury, criminal, family law, workers’ compensation, insurance coverage, property forfeiture, etc. He has been involved in nearly forty cases appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court, including groundbreaking cases such as Cozine and Bowen. He zealously represents his clients. Dean is the type of lawyer who makes you feel proud to be in this profession.

Dean has always had an inquisitive mind. He is open to new theories of liability and defenses. He is always researching some issue. In the courtroom he uses novel approaches to keep the jury engaged.

Dean devotes himself to enhancing the administration of justice and our profession. He reminds us of that great trial lawyer Sam Masten, in that Dean will close down his office and drive to Pierre to testify on rule changes before the Supreme Court or at a hearing on proposed legislation. There isn’t a client footing the bill, only an interest in establishing a better administration of justice.

Dean’s interests, however, expand far beyond the law. He earned his way through college by selling vacuums door-to-door. Dean knew the secret to a sale was making it past the front door into the home. On one occasion an angry husband blocked the doorframe. Dean tried every trick he knew, to no avail. Undeterred, Dean then circled around to the back door, knocked, and found himself nose-to-nose with the now even angrier husband. Dean smiled and said, “Am I glad to see you. The last person I talked to wasn’t very nice, so it is good to see a friendly face.” There was a long pause, until the husband burst out laughing. Dean was invited in and sold a vacuum.

Dean is a gourmet chef. It is worth a visit to his office just to see his kitchen. Stop by in the morning and you will be met with the smell of fresh baking bread. Drop in at noon and you will be invited to stay for a lunch of fresh salad, pasta and of course homemade bread, all prepared by Dean.

Dean buys fresh olives from a top-secret Californian supplier, and with the patience and persistence of a true trial lawyer, spends months curing the olives in the Nasser’s top-secret family recipe brine.

Dean is an accomplished guitarist. He owns several guitars and is a devotee of Eric Clapton. He sang in a band for many years. He still entertains his family and friends with his talents and is part of his church’s music team.

We once stopped to ask Dean about a legal question. After sharing his insight and providing copies of relevant case law, he gave us a demonstration on how he was learning to play the “didgeridoo,” a musical instrument he had received from an Australian friend. Using a beeswax mouthpiece Dean had conformed to his suiting, he proceeded to play the didgeridoo, creating the bellowing drone meant to represent the sound of Mother Earth (we wondered what his next-door tenants must be thinking).

For over 25 years his wife Carole has worked side-by-side with Dean in their law office. She is a pharmacist by education, but has worked so many years in the legal profession that she truly is his law partner. Dean readily admits that Carole makes him look like a better lawyer than he really is. More recently, Dean’s youngest son Jimmy joined the practice. Ask Dean about this new partnership, and the buttons on his shirt burst, as he is unable to contain his pride.

The journey has not been without tragedy. Dean and Carole have faced the pain of losing not one, but two teenage sons to health issues. One passed away from cancer, the other from a heart condition. Throughout, Dean and Carole’s faith has sustained them. They focus on how grateful they are for the time they had with their sons and look forward to the great reunion. They continue to spend countless hours counseling others dealing with the grief of losing a child.

Dean Nasser is a great trial lawyer. He is also a really good person. You never quite know where a conversation with him might lead, ranging from didgeridoos to the importance of family and faith, but in the end it is always instructional, uplifting, and interesting. Dean has an insatiable thirst for knowledge, serving others, and life itself. And as the commercial says, “Stay thirsty my friends.”

* This article is reprinted with the permission of the
South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association.

204 South Main Avenue | Sioux Falls, SD 57104 | 605.335.0001

204 S Main Ave Sioux Falls, SD 57104