Dirk J. Hamel
My parents are Bill and Sharon Hamel of Dubuque, Iowa. I am the oldest of their six children. My parents have been tremendous role models for me. For most of my life, Dad worked full time as a foreman at the Dubuque Packing Company and its successors, and also worked a second full-time job running his own landscaping and snow removal business. I know there were many times during the spring and summer when he only got a couple hours of sleep a night. Sometimes in the winter he didn’t get to sleep at all.
Meanwhile, Mom was raising six children that were born over the course of nine years. Mom made sure that all of us kids had chores and duties. However, her cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, nursing, educating and general child-rearing never stopped. In her “spare” time she handled all of the billing and paperwork for the landscaping business.
I have certainly worked hard in my life, but I know I have never worked as hard as my parents.
Growing up my brothers and I always worked in Dad’s landscaping and snow removal business. We did a lot of residential sodding, and the shapes of the houses, lot lines and sidewalks required a lot of trimming.
Occasionally we got a job with an easy shape like a football field. A football field requires 6,000 square yards of sod including the end zones. That is five or six semi loads of sod, and I don’t remember how many individual pallets of sod. Laying 6,000 square yards of sod in a single day so you can start watering it was a challenge, but also very satisfying. You started the day with a plot of dirt, and at the end of the day you had a football field.
I also had a second job delivering auto parts for a few years. The delivery job gave me a good opportunity to meet and learn how to get along with a wide variety of people.
I worked for four years at Kmart while I was going to college. I spent about half of my time unloading delivery trucks and stocking shelves. I sold appliances the other half of my time. Back in those years there were many fewer shopping options, and Kmart was always extremely busy. I learned a lot about customer service in my years at Kmart.
My least favorite job was the summer I worked third-shift clean up at a meat processing plant. I was always motivated to work hard in school. Nonetheless, cleaning up a slaughter house managed to give me even more motivation to work hard in school.
I graduated from Loras College in Dubuque in 1982 with a degree in psychology. Loras had a lot of excellent professors. I took a lot of writing classes with Don Knefel that have been very helpful in the practice of law. I took a number of political science classes with Doc Clark who taught me a lot about how to make and defend arguments.
I graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1986. I think I am pretty smart, but some of my classmates were scary smart. I learned that I could compete with these folks by working extremely hard.
One of the best lessons I ever learned in laws school was from a practicing lawyer who came one day to give us some real world advice. The lawyer explained that when we went out to practice law we would run into issues or problems that we would want to leave for another day because they were so difficult or uncomfortable. The lawyer explained that we had to resist that impulse and instead make that problem our immediate priority. I do not remember this lawyer’s name, but I am very grateful to him because his advice has kept me out of trouble and on top of my cases.
While I was attending law school I was able to work as a prosecuting intern for one summer with the Dubuque County Attorney’s office, and during my final year of law school with the Johnson County Attorney’s office. These internships were a great chance to learn how the legal system really operated. I was also able to get some excellent early court room experience by trying several simple misdemeanor jury trials, and many non-jury trials.
After I graduated from law school in 1986 I was able to return to my home town of Dubuque and begin practicing with the law firm of Norman & Gilloon, P.C. in 1986. My partner Dave Wright joined the firm later that same year. I became a partner in the law firm in 1991.
When I first began working as a lawyer I had a general law practice that dealt with most types of legal issues. I quickly realized that I enjoyed trial work the most and I began to concentrate on litigation cases.
In 2000 I began to do more and more workers’ compensation cases. That trend has continued, and I now spend about two-thirds of my time on work comp cases, and my remaining time on personal injury cases.
Doing a good job for the people I represent is very important to me. I work hard for my clients and always look for ways to improve.
Over the years I have found that the keys to doing a good job for my clients are:
- Set up good systems to process the case.
- Keep the cases moving forward.
- Keep my clients informed of the progress of their cases, and answer their questions promptly.
- Work hard.
- Take the cases to trial if a fair settlement cannot be achieved.
Since I became a lawyer I have always tried to give back to the community. In 2004, I received the “Volunteer Lawyer Award” from Iowa Legal Aid and the “Pro Bono Award” from the Iowa State Bar Association. I have also helped grade the Iowa Bar exam test since 2007.
I have been married to my wonderful wife, Lorilee, since 1987. Lorilee was a classroom teacher for 25 years. In the Fall of 2011 she became the English Curriculum Director for grades 6 through 12 of the Dubuque Community School District. Lorilee and I like to spend our free time with our family, friends and Jack Russel Terriers.
J.D., University of Iowa, 1986
B.A., Loras College, 1982
Magna cum laude
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Iowa
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa
- Iowa State Bar Association
- Dubuque County Bar Association
- Illinois State Bar Association