It was clear from an early age that Susan Appelquist was destined to practice law.
“I wrote my last will and testament in Crayola in the third grade, and my dad was very proud,” she said, chuckling.
Appelquist graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in English and education from the University of Missouri in 1976 and earned her law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1979.
She clerked at Smith, Lewis and Rogers in Columbia from May 1978 to January 1979 and then worked for the legal department at the Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. in St. Louis from June 1979 to August 1980. Since then, she has practiced with her family firm in Springfield and Mount Vernon.
“I do a lot of family law; I really enjoy working in the family law area. I enjoy a lot of adoptions,” she said, “I feel like that’s a way I can give back by trying to help these families that are going through really difficult times.”
Appelquist said she has enjoyed working with people in family law for the past 40 years in southwest Missouri. During that time, she said many of her female classmates have shifted to work in other fields outside of law.
“That’s something really nice about the law, I try to tell young people that,” she said, noting the versatility a law degree offers. “For me, what is gratifying is going to court. I do have a reputation as a hard worker and a fighter. You know, I fight for my clients.”
For 10 years, Appelquist has been a member of the Missouri Supreme Court Advisory Committee as a disciplinary hearing officer, helping to deal with problems involving ethics and disciplinary matters.
The general practitioner also attends solo and small practice conferences, occasionally hosting courses on ethics for those conferences.
“I always enjoy that and am very pleased when they ask me to participate,” she said.
As a general practitioner, Appelquist handles a variety of work, but she noted there are certain cases that leave a bigger impression on her.
“Some of the cases that have really had an impact on me are cases with children,” she said, explaining that in those family law cases she found herself working even harder to gather the evidence and ensure the right outcome for the children.
Working in a small community has its pros and cons, Appelquist said. She noted that knowing people in the community is great, but that familiarity also can cause conflicts of interest when it comes to cases.
Appelquist is now representing the children and grandchildren of clients she worked with as a young attorney a few decades ago, which she said is not something every attorney gets to experience.
“It’s very frightening for people, and you are dealing with them in a time of their life that is really difficult for them,” she said. “I think [helping them] is a real plus. That’s something I enjoy.”