By Bilal Siddiq
Evan Berquist, a Stanford Law School graduate and member of Cozen O’Connor’s Corporate Practice, has been making headlines for the right reasons in 2020. The business lawyer’s heart for charity has earned him a series of accolades, notably for his pro bono work. Berquist’s day job involves advising clients on a wide range of transactional matters, and his practice focuses on general corporate matters.
One of the keys to his success has been his past exposure to the liberal arts. As a history major at Colorado College, where he became a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Berquist said he learned how to “read and think critically, make arguments and defend them, and identify weaknesses and shore them up.” These are vital skills that he draws on today as a lawyer. Berquist also credits the liberal arts with deepening his intellectual curiosity and his openness to new experiences. Between college and law school, Berquist worked for four years in Latin-America focused jobs, and after graduating law school, he spent two years clerking for a U.S. federal court judge in San Juan, Puerto Rico. These experiences opened his eyes to justice issues faced by the disadvantaged and how U.S. policies can have significant impact on countries abroad.
In early 2020, Berquist was recognized by the Hennepin County Bar Association (HCBA) with a 2020 Excellence Award for Pro Bono Service for his work on behalf of the First Lutheran Church of St. Paul, Minnesota. The church, which operates a daytime drop-in center for the homeless, came to Berquist after the City of St. Paul passed a zoning ordinance that threatened to shut down the center. Berquist and the church obtained an order from federal court that allowed the center to continue operating, and they ultimately negotiated a favorable settlement agreement with the City.
Steve Dickinson, co-chair of Cozen O’Connor’s International Practice, nominated Berquist for the HCBA Pro Bono Service Award, recognizing the strong work ethic and excellent service that Berquist provides for both his paying and pro bono clients.
Berquist has always had a passion for helping those around him. He recognizes that he is in a position of privilege and assisting others gives him the much-needed motivation to do pro bono work. “I feel that giving back helps eliminate some of the barriers that hinder people from living dignified lives,” he said. “I appreciate how fortunate I am and how random one’s condition of birth and privilege can be.”
Additionally, Berquist has worked tirelessly since 2015 as pro bono counsel for the New Vision Foundation, an organization devoted to teaching disadvantaged youth IT skills. In 2017, he was named a member of its Board of Directors.
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Berquist has pivoted to support an initiative led by the Catholic Church in South Minneapolis designed to help low-income and predominantly Latino immigrant tenants from being evicted due to economic disruptions in their livelihoods.
Other than the HCBA Pro Bono Service Award, Berquist has racked up a number of other accolades over the years. The Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) has twice recognized him as a “North Star Lawyer,” a distinction that honors lawyers who have dedicated at least 50 hours of legal work pro bono. In fact, Berquist currently serves as the Cozen O’Connor pro bono service coordinator for the entire Minnesota office, overseeing nearly 1,200 hours of attorney efforts overall in 2019.
In 2020, Berquist was further acknowledged by the Minnesota Supreme Court (MSC) in partnership with the MSBA’s Pro Bono Council and Access to Justice Committee. Recognized for his exceptional pro bono service, Berquist received a personally signed letter from MSC Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea.
The Minnesota Lawyer magazine selected Berquist as an “Up & Coming Attorney” in 2018, another testament to the impact his work has had among his legal peers and the community at large.
Pro bono work aside, Berquist has completed a host of mergers, acquisitions, and cross-border transactions. He notably represented Petplan, a leading pet health insurance provider in North America, in its sale to Warbug Pincus, and Eurofins Scientific SE in a number of its North American acquisitions, including the $780 million acquisition of EAG Laboratories. Berquist also has provided advice related to acquisitions and anti-corruption to various Fortune 500 companies.
Other notable cross-border transactions include work in the agribusiness, infrastructure, tourism, and cultural exchange sectors in Cuba. Berquist has also done work relating to Mexico, Puerto Rico, East Asia, Brazil, and E.U. countries.
While his career is certainly impressive, what is truly telling of Berquist is how down to earth and dedicated to improving other people’s lives he has remained. It is not surprising that Berquist continues to list his ΦBK affiliation as part of his professional credentials. “ΦBK’s principles have remained an integral part of me throughout my career and life,” he said. “There are so many other members whom I really admire and look up to, and getting a liberal arts education was such an important part of my own development that I feel it important to highlight and promote ΦBK both personally and professionally.”
Despite his many awards and recognitions, Berquist shows no signs up slowing down any time soon and remains passionate about helping his community and the world at large.
Bilal Siddiq earned his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was inducted to Phi Beta Kappa in April 2020. Rhodes College is home to the Gamma of Tennessee chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.