Entering 'Phase 3'
At various times in her life, Mary Sorum has been a homemaker, a nurse, and for the past 23-odd years, an attorney, practicing family law at the firm of Thorwaldsen, Malmstrom, Sorum & Majors in Detroit Lakes.
Now the Moorhead native and longtime Pelican Rapids resident is entering what she calls "phase 3" of her life: retirement, and "being a grandma."
Thursday, March 19 was Sorum's last official day on the job at the firm where she has been a full partner since 1988. This past week was spent "cleaning up odds and ends" in her office.
"We first started planning for the transition (into retirement) two years ago," Sorum said.
Though she's going to miss her colleagues, clients, courthouse staff, and all the other friends she's made through the course of her professional career, Sorum said she feels she's leaving her practice in good hands.
"I've been really, really fortunate to have good partners," she said. "We've got a wonderful court system, with terrific personnel, and we're fortunate to have good judges as well," she said. "There's a collegiality here among the court staff, the judges, the lawyers... people are treated with respect.
"Part of the reason I'm walking out of here with a smile on my face is because I've had such a good experience (with the court system)."
Though Sorum said she "always wanted to go to law school," she had to put off that dream for many years after graduating from high school in Moorhead.
After she and her husband, Chuck, were married, she spent her time raising their three children, while he served in the Marine Corps.
"We traveled around a bit," she said. "He (Chuck) was stationed in Vietnam (during the war), California, (Washington) D.C., Quantico (Va.)... we lived in a suburb of Quantico called Woodbridge.
"It was really nice there -- a beautiful area to live in."
After Chuck was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1973, he and Mary were "drawn back to Minnesota."
"It was our home," she said simply. Chuck took a teaching job in Pelican Rapids, and Mary once again "took a sidestep" from her plans of pursuing a legal career.
"I got an undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Science) in nursing, and I did that for a number of years," she said. "I worked in public health, outpatient services, intensive care -- which was really a wonderful preparation for going into law.
"I do a lot of the same things now as I did in nursing -- just from a different perspective," Sorum added. "The techniques are very similar."
For instance, helping people put together their wills or powers of attorney is similar to giving them a tetanus shot. Bringing a juvenile into court because they got in trouble with the law is a lot like taking a child to the emergency room.
"It's all about crisis management or (maintaining) ongoing wellness," she explained.
Sorum's practice has varied considerably through the years, from representing juveniles in court to probate and estate planning to representing people who needed to present evidence of disability or illness so they could collect Social Security before retirement age.
"I didn't specialize," she explained. "Family law is so broad and so varied, it involves everything from bankruptcy and real estate issues to employment and taxes."
While she found the law to be both stimulating and challenging work, Sorum is more than ready to move beyond it.
"I have a daughter who lives on the West Coast, and a son in Alaska, as well as a son who lives here," she said. "Part of what I'm going to do now is travel. I'll be spending a lot of time with my grandchildren.
"I have lots of books to read and stitching (i.e., needlework) to do," she continued. "I have a lot of interest in and devote a fair amount of time to my local library (in Pelican Rapids) on a volunteer basis. I'm on the board of directors.
"I'm going to buy a laptop and figure out how to use it efficiently. I'm looking forward to that. I think I might even start practicing piano again. I also want to learn to make good soup -- I love soup. I even bought some recipe books.
"It's going to be a blast."