UIU degree and faculty support alumnus on path to law school and own practice

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When Jeremy Masterson returned from deployment to Kosovo in 2004, he settled in to life as a salesperson for a Des Moines-based Coca Cola distributor. Masterson quickly realized he wanted more. He wanted a college degree.

Masterson turned to the Upper Iowa University - Des Moines Center. He knew what to expect with UIU, and he knew he would get the education he wanted and needed. His father, Charles Masterson, had graduated from Upper Iowa in 2001 with a degree in public administration. “For me, the decision was easy once I looked at UIU’s faculty, staff, class schedule and offerings,” said Masterson. “I would be able to maintain full time employment, continue my National Guard commitment and still have time for my family.”

In 2009, he graduated summa cum laude from Upper Iowa University, walking the stage during commencement on the UIU Fayette campus the same day as his sister, Jessie Masterson (business administration).  With a bachelor’s degree in finance in hand, Masterson knew he wanted to attain more and even thought about pursuing a master’s degree in finance. “I was blessed to have several professors who also happened to be practicing attorneys in my community who mentored me through the process,” he said. “With their guidance and the confidence gained by doing well in the UIU curriculum, I took a leap of faith and took the Law School Entrance Exam (LSAT) that ultimately led to where I am today.”

Three members of the UIU faculty regularly encouraged Masterson in his pursuit of the Juris Doctorate. “Without Bob Jeppson’s constant encouragement and support, I would not have done as well in the classes that challenged me,” Masterson added. “Without the counsel of Jim Heinchseid, I never would have taken the LSAT. His insight, experience and opinions have helped shape who I am as an attorney, and without the teaching methods of Kris Kragnes, I would never have seen the remarkable overlap between the finance degree I earned at UIU and the practice of law.

“The Upper Iowa faculty provided constant encouragement, guidance and knowledge that allowed me to be educationally competitive with traditional students in a well-regarded private law school.”

Masterson was able to balance family and career while attending Upper Iowa University. He often worked 50-60 hours each week, attended class at the UIU-Des Moines Center three nights each week, and maintained his commitment to the Iowa Army National Guard. “I am blessed to have a fantastic wife and overly supportive family. The focus and forced time management enabled me to successfully transition from night adult learning centered classes to a full time traditional educational matrix,” he said.

After scoring well on the LSAT, Masterson was accepted to Drake Law School in Des Moines. While there, he and another classmate recognized that there wasn’t a student organization dedicated to business law. So, they started one. “Our goals were to provide students with an opportunity to network, learn about, and ultimately practice law within the various facets of business law,” said Masterson. “We were lucky enough to have a Business Law Certificate passed during our first year in existence where students could graduate with an emphasis in business law studies; and, starting this fall, the Drake Legal Clinic will include a transactional segment centered on the various areas of business law.”

Masterson graduated a semester early from Drake and sat for the bar exam last February. Rather than join an existing law office, he and fellow Drake Law alumnus R. Charles Bottenberg formed Bottenberg & Masterson, LLP, based in West Des Moines. Of the decision, Masterson said, “Opening my own law practice right out of law school has been the most rewarding, terrifying and exciting experience of my life. The emotions that this journey conjured rivaled my decisions to marry, my experiences during deployment, and the fear of the unknown that followed the birth of our first child. However, even with these emotions I still rank the decision to open my own law firm as one of the best I have ever made.  I was blessed to have superior mentors during law school as well a few internships and law clerk positions that built on the foundation laid at UIU, which gave me the confidence and skills necessary to go out on my own. While joining an existing practice is a goal of most law school graduates, I wished to be able to control not only which cases I took but also how those cases where handled and how the client was ultimately treated.”

Masterson achieved notable accomplishments during his time at both UIU and Drake. He earned the Robert J. Kromminga Award for excellence in clinical work, Drake Law School Student Bar Association President’s Student Service Award, business law certificate and Upper Iowa University Outstanding Senior Award for the Finance Bachelor of Science Degree Program.

“I truly believe that my experience at UIU led me to where I am, and I welcome every opportunity to add value not only to my degree but to all Upper Iowa alumni degrees by helping to spread the word,” Masterson said.