Photo by Eliesa Johnson
College football at the University of Minnesota may be one of the only things Lee Hutton III hasn’t excelled at. Even then, he scored “some touchdowns,” which quite frankly makes him better than most of the current Gophers. He’s been a partner at two Minneapolis law firms (now at Zelle Hofmann), named a Minnesota “rising star” lawyer for the past six years. (Note to Super Lawyers: I think his star has risen.) More recently, he’s been gracing the pages of TMZ. Because when you’re the attorney for the ex-husband of Kim Kardashian, you’re going to grace the pages of TMZ.
Where We Ate
On Sundays before a big trial, Hutton gets to the office early, then takes a break for brunch at Amore Victoria in Minneapolis’s Uptown neighborhood. “I love the family that owns this place,” he says, talking about Jenna and Alex Victoria. Hutton always orders Grandma Chole’s chilaquiles: corn tortillas, eggs, and potatoes, all tossed in a tangy salsa.
He drinks a small milk, small orange juice, and small coffee. I drink a bloody mary.
Lee, I don’t get why NBA crowds booed former Gopher Kris Humphries after Kim Kardashian dumped him. How does he become the bad guy? I’m squarely on Team Humphries in this one. “The Kardashians are marketing geniuses, but they are really fraudulent. They’ve been able to criminalize a very good individual.”
Were you at the wedding? “I was.”
Lee, you could have prevented this! Why didn’t you stop him? “Kris was significantly in love. For him it was going to be his first and last walk down the aisle.”
You were in a spot a lot of us have been: when we see a friend about to make a bad relationship choice. “It happened so quickly, from meeting to wedding to the end, that you didn’t really have a chance to take the time and breathe. He was certainly very, very excited. Where do you break the support, to [say], ‘Hey, don’t do this! Think again!’”
Our kids are in the same age range: my boys are 6 and 8; you have 9- and 5-year-old boys and an 8-year-old girl. I spend a lot of time on soccer fields. “My 5-year-old plays soccer. My daughter is in gymnastics and Chinese dance.”
That’s a thing? “That’s a thing.”
And you coach your oldest’s football team in Hopkins. “To see 9-year-olds run a no-huddle offense to perfection—I may give Leslie Frazier some of my plays.” [Hutton laughs at the thought and then turns serious.] “It’s a thing of beauty,” he says, when his quarterback son calls audibles at the line of scrimmage. [Third grade Hopkins football is intense.]
How do athletes achieve so much in one area and then make such absolutely stupid decisions in other areas? “Poor training.” [Hutton points out that high school and college athletes spend up to 80 hours a week working on their sport, which leaves almost no time for working on academics or personal growth.] “People think athletes are dumb. They’re not—not at all.”
Hutton took ballet while he was running track and playing football, and he considers himself his daughter’s first dance teacher.
Come on. There are dumb athletes. “I can show you some people who run companies who are getting sued because they’ve done very stupid things.”
Nobody thought you’d be where you are today. Your dad almost didn’t go to college. “He was going to be a chauffeur, he actually had the license.” [But a buddy who didn’t want to go to college by himself took matters into his own hands and filled out an application for his friend. The elder Hutton went to college and became a urologist.]
And you’ve had to overcome the dumb-jock thing. “Especially in law school, you have to show individuals you’re working twice as hard to be seen as average.”
A common rip of this community is that we don’t have a large minority middle class here. Is race a factor for you here? “It’s definitely a factor.”
You would think your success would make your race a non-factor. “It has at times. Because I played football I’ve been able to connect with alumni and business leaders who want to talk about my gridiron days. I get the ‘Oh, you’re so articulate.’ Yeah, three years of law school will do that.” [Laughs.]
But you like it here. “I think Minnesota’s a fantastic place. There are issues here. There are difficulties in retention of minority talent. It’s a significant issue. How to fix it? I’m not sure.”
Could you imagine living anywhere else? “No.” [Pause.] “Bali.”
And you’ve had success. “I don’t know if I’ve been successful. I’ve tried many cases, and I can tell you the two I lost and exactly what I should have done differently.”
I know I’m my worst critic. “Me, too. And my 9-year-old son.”
Right! Whenever I even think about getting a big head, my kids make fun of my thinning hair. “I was on TMZ. My daughter sees my face, and she says, ‘Dad, they caught your bad side.’”
Jason DeRusha anchors WCCO-TV’s morning and noon news. He also asks some really good questions.
A few of Hutton’s clients: Hank Baskett (Philadelphia Eagles), Kendra Wilkinson (actress), Kris Humphries (Boston Celtics), Jack Brewer (Arizona Cardinals), Travelle Gaines (NFL trainer), Sharrif Floyd (Minnesota Vikings), E.J. Henderson (Minnesota Vikings), Abe Elam (Kansas City Chiefs), William Blackmon (Jacksonville Jaguars).