Charles DeMakis, a Minot native and a product of Minot schools and the University of North Dakota, was recently elected president of the State Bar Association of North Dakota.
DeMakis graduated from the UND School of Law in 2004 and has been working in Minot for the past 12 years, in private practice since October 2012.
"I'm kind of like any other lawyer, a jack of all trades," he said of his own practice. "It's hard to specialize in North Dakota. There's just not a heavy demand in any specific area."
Charles DeMakis of Minot was recently elected president of the State Bar Association of North Dakota.
DeMakis was, however, very involved in the complicated field of oil and gas law during the boom years.
His general practice now focuses more on real estate law, trust and estates, and business planning.
Asked how he became interested in becoming a lawyer, DeMakis cited a conversation he had once with former North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Herb Meschke. DeMakis was about to conclude his undergraduate work and uncertain about how to put his criminal justice degree to use. Meschke was his grandfather's attorney at one time and a family friend, and encouraged DeMakis to pursue a law degree.
"So I went to law school. And it agreed with me," DeMakis said.
After law school DeMakis came home to Minot, where in 2011 he became involved with the bar association, running unopposed for board position representing the old Northwest District, and later represented the North Central District.
He was elected to a one-year term as president in June and will remain on the board for another year as past president.
The purpose of the bar association can be partially defined by its programs. It offers no-cost and low-cost continuing legal education to members, ethics opinions, mentorship programs, client access, lawyer referral, and volunteer opportunities. It seeks to "improve professional competence" and "uphold the honor of the profession of law," according to the association's mission statement.
"Day to day, it's staying on top of issues affecting the profession," DeMakis said of his role.
Being in any leadership position with the bar association is time consuming, especially when the Legislature is in session.
According to DeMakis the association is called upon to be a resource to lawmakers, to help educate and give advice when new laws are considered.
During his term as president DeMakis is devoting time to developing a strategic plan for the association, "where it's been and where we're going."
That includes addressing such issues at making attorneys more accessible to clients living in rural areas, which is a growing concern considering the aging population in rural parts of the state. The elderly are less inclined to use technology such as email or Skype like young lawyers find useful, so they choose to travel to get representation. DeMakis and the association are considering ways that might be remedied, such as finding money for young lawyers to reduce their education debt in exchange for service to rural clients.
Time will tell whether that particular idea will be implemented, DeMakis said. But he is well aware of the effort law students put into preparing for careers in law, having spent a lot of time in the law library while a UND.
"The first year is tough. Once you get through that, you're OK," he advised.