An Uncommon Level of Common Sense

Super Lawyers Magazine, By Adam WahlbergJuly 08, 2015

Super Lawyers Magazine, By Adam Wahlberg

Jim Carey spent the first part of his life unsure of his path; he’s spent the second at a full sprint.

Swarthout was trying to figure out what had happened. It was April 20, 2008. One moment he’d been riding his motorcycle and the next he was in the trauma unit at Regions Hospital. Doctors were talking about amputating his left leg below the knee. What was going on?

Traffic had been heavy that day, and many vehicles were right up against the line. One guy with three golf-course beers in him just happened to go over it. Swarthout mainly remembers flying through the air.

Now, a decision had to be made about his leg. Swarthout and his wife authorized the amputation. Swarthout’s wife did one more thing: she called Jim Carey. By August, Swarthout had a seven-figure settlement. 

Plenty of attorneys have the law in their blood. But with Carey, one gets a sense he might actually test ABA positive.

The Carey name goes way back in Minnesota, particularly on the Iron Range. Carey’s great-grandfather, after whom he’s named, was a judge in the city of Virginia from early in the century until 1946. Carey’s father, Thomas, practiced insurance defense on the Range before becoming a judge in Hennepin County. His uncle John ran a small firm in Fairfax before coming to SiebenCarey.

He grew up in the union brotherhood; his friends were the children of steelworkers. He played sports and went to Catholic mass with them, and figured his life might be similar to theirs. A law career wasn’t on his mind. The military perhaps, like his uncle John, who served in the Marine Corps before becoming a lawyer. He wasn’t sure. He just knew he didn’t like school that much.

But he enrolled at St. John’s University in Collegeville anyway. It was a good four years. He did well and made a lot of friends, yet career inspiration still hadn’t struck. People kept telling him to go to law school. He wasn’t sold on anything other than marrying his high school sweetheart, Molly, and starting a family.

Which meant he needed a job. And that’s when being a Carey proved to have advantages even outside of the Iron Range. His father called his old courtroom adversary Harry Sieben, a personal injury lawyer with his own firm who also happened to be the speaker of the state House of Representatives.

“Tom asked if I would talk to him,” says Sieben, 71, of that conversation in 1982. “I liked Jim. I put him in a research position for the DFL caucus, and he did a very good job. He was really good at boiling down complex issues for people, which is a lot of what he does today.”

Politics would have been a good fit for Carey. He had the gifts: a warm demeanor, a social personality, a Clinton-like gift for making other people feel important. But it was working with Sieben in politics that finally convinced him that he wanted to work in the law.

“I guess I needed to try some other things first,” says Carey from his office in downtown Minneapolis. “Once I started at William Mitchell, I knew it was the right decision. It was the first time in my life I actually enjoyed schoolwork.”

He and his wife lived in a duplex a couple blocks from the law school in a not-great neighborhood. The property owner and resident of the other unit was a biker, and he often had five or six buddies over. There constantly were Harleys parked out front, for which Carey was grateful. He always knew Molly was safe when he was away buried in books.

While in law school Carey clerked for Sieben at what was then Sieben, Grose and Von Holtum. “I knew I wanted to be a trial lawyer and represent individuals, not banks or insurance companies. My time with Harry only confirmed that,” he says.

When he graduated in 1987, a job was waiting for him. And that’s when Carey learned something about himself: he had a lot of ambition. He wanted responsibility. And he wanted to push himself. When an opportunity came up, he seized it.

“We had a farm accident case where the plaintiff had brain damage. The case came to trial and I wasn’t available to do it,” Sieben says. “Jim wanted to do it. I cleared it with the client and Jim did a great job with it.”

He also soon nabbed his first million-dollar jury verdict, which raised eyebrows around town. “A verdict of that size back then was pretty rare,” Sieben says.

The rest of his career has unfolded like a William Mitchell recruiting brochure. Big cases, big recoveries, big reputation. He had the name of a movie star and a legal career to match. City life suited him, but he never stepped too far from his union brothers and sisters on the Range.

“I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but I’m really proud that I can go back up and can help the people that I grew up with,” Carey says. “I work a lot with plumbers and pipe-fitters and carpenters. I know these people.”

What he has is common sense. Carey should have it on his card right next to “know your rights.” It comes up in almost any conversation about him. Proof:

“I believe in common sense and that’s what Jim has,” says client Swarthout.

“Jim always leads with a warm smile and a firm handshake and follows up with a common-sense argument that a jury can understand,” says Jim Schwebel of rival personal injury firm Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben.

“He has an uncommon level of common sense,” says Sieben.

But Carey’s success comes from more than that, says Schwebel. “It’s about Jim’s integrity. One of the best proofs of that is that on many occasions he’s been selected by both plaintiffs and defense counsel to serve as the sole arbitrator to resolve a case. That’s rare,” he says.

The courtroom can be a macho, adversarial place. Carey can fight, but he can also show compassion.

“Most lawyers have a hard time expressing their feelings about these things, but not Jim,” says Sieben.

He’s realistic about how much what he does helps clients. “You’re talking about exchanging money for someone’s loved one,” Carey says. “It isn’t equal. If you think it is, you don’t have a heart. We can help people get their life back on track with compensation but that only goes so far. It’s hard.”

Some lives do turn around. Take Swarthout. He is thriving again, thanks to ongoing physical therapy and smart management of his settlement money. He and his wife thank Carey. “I used to think lawyers were all the same until I met Jim,” he says. “He made me eat my words.”

Not every case works out. Take the case of Kevin Harms. “That’s one that still keeps me up,” Carey says.

Harms was a patient in a psychiatric ward at Mayo Clinic when he went out for a walk one night in 2009 and jumped to his death from a parking ramp. Carey sued for negligence. It was a civil case against Mayo tried in Rochester—tough to win. And he didn’t; Mayo was cleared of liability. But Carey still thinks about it.

His opinion? “This was a relatively young guy going through a bad bout of depression and was let out of a secure ward when he shouldn’t have been,” he says. “It sticks in my craw because we should have won. It’s the one case in my mind where I think about some of my choices. Maybe if I had done this a little different, the outcome would have been different. That’s a hard one for me to let go.” 

Carey is 55 and has three kids out of the house. He has the look of a contented, proud family man—and the look of a TV or movie dad.

Ten years ago, Carey and his wife packed up their Edina house and moved into a secluded area in Forest Lake, which reminds him of his childhood. “It’s beautiful,” he says. “We don’t have any close neighbors, probably a quarter mile away, and we have wildlife, solitude, quiet. We have our 40 acres.”

Even though he’s now the managing partner of the firm, a position granted him four years ago in a decision Sieben says was unanimous among the partners, he still carries a heavy caseload. Carey has between 80 to 120 files he’s working on, and a whiteboard in his office with 14 cases being prepped for trial. He works like he’s making up for lost time.

Client Reviews

out of 37 reviews
Sarah Peterson

It was a great experience working with Jim and his entire team! Always felt well taken care of and someone was always there to answer my many questions! Thanks!

Sharon Peterson
We were very pleased with Jim Carey and his staff. We were well taken care of after our automobile accident.
Aaron Lundgren

When I needed help, after an auto accident,  I was unsure who to turn to. A family friend has suggested SiebenCarey to because of their prior experience.

I will tell you this, there is no one else I would recommend after the excellent service I was given.

They stayed on top of everything, they kept me in the loop, most of all they gave me piece of mind. I felt confident that there was nothing to worry about with such fantastic people on my side.

A big thank you to the folks at SiebenCarey!

Christopher Revord

They took all the rights steps to settling my case fast!

John Zemlicka

My wife and I were involved in a car accident on October 4, 2018 when a driver approaching us decided to make a U turn and hit us. My wife spent nine days in the ICU with 10 broken or fractured ribs and multiple other injuries, and I had a broked rib and lacerations from my seat belt. The car was totaled.

We contacted SiebenCarey on the advice of a lawyer friend who we asked, “Who is the best injury lawyer in the Twin Cities”? We were interviewed within hours and the wheels were put in motion for medical benefits and recovery of our property and damages. We were advised that a complete settlement could take over a year, but our bills were paid and a settlement reached in less than 8 months. 
 Jim Carey called us several times during this period of time to update us on the progress of our claims. We are very happy and satisfied with the way we were treated and the results of our claim.  
Jenny and John Zemlicka

Heather Beal

When someone asks me to refer them to a personal injury lawyer, I immediately give them Jim Carey’s name and contact information at SiebenCarey in Minneapolis. Jim is more than a top-rated, expert personal injury attorney, he is an empathetic and compassionate listener. He sees people, not simply case files. He has represented my friends well by sincerely caring about the immediate and lasting effects that injuries from car accidents, negligence or other circumstances have had on their lives.

Roger Danielski
My name is Roger Danielski and I was represented in a personal injury accident by attorney Jim Carey from Sieben Carey. It would be easy to say that this is a good firm, but “good” isn’t the word I want to use. The staff, from day one, at this law firm was fantastic. From the office staff to the investigator that came to my home to get information to Mr. Carey’s secretary and Mr. Carey himself, everyone’s taken such good care of me and my wife that I can’t say enough good things about this firm. Jim was very receptive to listening to everything that we had to say to doing a great evaluation of our situation and getting us to a resolution of our claim. I’ve had two interactions with the firm now and the second was equally as good as the first. They took care of all the details that had to be taken care of. Everybody has been so pleasant and helpful that there are no words to express our satisfaction with the SiebenCarey law firm. Great Job Jim and staff and I wish you well in the future.
Michelle Hanks

After suffering a life changing traumatic brain injury, Jim Carey and his staff made my recovery process so much easier. They guided me through all of my medical treatment and mediation and made me feel supported the entire time. Even though COVID-19 put a spin on things and process changes, everything was so smooth. I would recommend this team any day!

Paul Stearns
I had a very good experience with JIm CAREY and colleagues. Recommend him to anybody. So helpful throughout the whole experience.
Sharon Jensen

Jim Carey and his staff were great. Returned calls promptly and answered any and all questions in layman's terms for me. Exceeded my expectations. I've already told family and friends that if any of them should need personal injury representation to contact SiebenCarey. I wouldn't hesitate to contact them again if necessary.

Lisa Gariepy

The entire Minneapolis team that worked with me was amazing.  Always proactive in sharing what to expect and taking time to explain things.  In a stressful, unfamiliar informed and supported. Wonderful group!

Maggie Healy

Having known Jim my entire life as a good family friend, I’ve always admired his ability to make others feel welcomed and excepted in any setting. This is why I didn’t hesitate to chose Jim and SiebenCarey when I needed a personal injury lawyer. He proved to be extremely thorough and professional and he made sure I was comfortable throughout the entire process. I’m only 18 years old so much of the legal process was new to me but Jim was very patient and I felt that he was there with me every step of the way. It’s clear that Jim truly cares about his clients and after my experience with Jim and the whole firm I now understand why SiebenCarey is so widely respected.

Katie McGuire

Jim was very helpful and made the whole process much easier to manage. I’m grateful for all of the help from him and his team.

Geoff Anthony

I started working with Jim from SiebenCarey after my wife and I were in a car accident a few years ago. We were referred to them by someone in the area and we are so grateful we worked with the firm. Jim and his team were very caring and very responsive to all needs and questions. He made sure that all of our medical bills and expenses from the accident were paid and took care of all of the questions and needs from insurance companies and medical facilities. It was so nice to have someone who was on our side. I would highly recommend working with Jim!

Julie Larson

Such a great experience - Angela and Jim were beyond easy to work with - always helpful and friendly, no matter how many times we asked the same question. Very quick to get back to a message or email - would highly recommend this firm.

Christine Butina

Jim Carey and his staff were excellent at their jobs. They were very understanding and were always available if you had questions on something with my case. They treated you as if you were their only client that they had. I would definitely recommend sending anyone to SiebenCarey because they really do care about you.

Roger and Merle Landro

We wanted to thank you so much for all that you did for us. This was a very difficult time in our life and you made it possible for us to get through it with a good outcome! Angela and Jane were also so good and helpful to us. We will never forget everything your firm did to be there for us. Life can have some difficult times, but people like you make it possible to have better days! - Roger & Merle Landro

Sean Beggs

I was referred to SiebenCarey by a friend after I was involved in a bicycle accident. Jim Carey represented me and throughout the process I was never anxious about the case because he and his team were in constant communication. I knew where we stood and the course of action we were taking which gave me peace of mind throughout my recovery. Everyone I encountered at SiebenCarey from the first phone call until the final resolution treated my case as if it were top priority and they did so respectfully, professionally, and achieved results beyond my expectations. It was a pleasurable experience during a difficult time.

Cameron Lulic

2 years ago I went through a traumatic personal injury while I was in college. Through all of the chaos that was happening in my life as a result of this event, I cannot thank my father enough for referring me to SiebenCarey Personal Injury Law. Through a long and complicated process, I spent little time worrying about the legal battle when I had personal battles to fight on my own in addition to finishing my senior year. For that, I am eternally grateful to have had Jim Carey by my side to give clear and thoughtful advice for how to maneuver the legal challenges that my personal injury case faced. Thank you, Jim. If there was a silver lining that came out of a horrific experience, it was having the opportunity of working with you. You are tenacious, fair, and always willing to go the harder path to make sure your clients are well represented.

Cheryl Nelson

Jim Carey is down-to-earth, understanding, compassionate, extremely focused and downright brilliant in his skillful and highly successful resolution to my serious injuries resulting from a car accident. I can't say enough about how grateful I am and how pleased I am with his representation and the service from his entire team. Thank you.

Greg Christiansen

My wife and daughter were killed in a vehicular incident.  I was referred by a good friend to SiebenCarey . Jim Carey personally handled my situation. The compassion, professionalism, and competence was beyond excellent.  In a most difficult  time for my son and me the help we received was immeasurable and in fact, helped our healing process.  I want to personally thank Jim and his team for their assistance.  I would recommend this organization unreservedly and totally to anyone who needs help in a tough time.

Steph Mackey

I was injured in a car accident and I was becoming more and more stressed dealing with the insurance companies and their requests. Jim Carey took my case and told me to concentrate on healing and he would take care of the rest. What a weight off my shoulders! I would highly recommend Jim and his competent paralegal team.

Dorothy Larson

I'm glad Jim and his staff were on my side after my accident in 2017. Everybody was so helpful and answered all of my questions. I had more than just the accident taking a toll on me at the time! I was still in the midst of having Chemo Therapy. Everyone was so kind to me and Jim was so helpful along with Rachel, Jayne, Lori, and Angela.

I also appreciated the fact that Jim called personally to let me know what was going on. Thanks to everyone and I would recommend Jim to anyone in need.

Lora O'Hern

Mr. Carey and his staff were so professional  and helpful dealing with our accident. Their communication was excellent. Working with the SiebenCarey team was the only bright spot in our horrible accident experience. We always felt we were represented by extremely knowledgeable and caring people. We appreciate the outstanding service we received.

Henry M Buffalo Jr, Esq
I have practiced law for over 30 years but not in the area of Personal Injury. When it comes to Personal Injury law I refer my family, clients and clients family to SiebenCarey. All of the referrals praise the handling of their case and the results - start to finish. In my humble view SiebenCarey are the best in the state.
Henry M Buffalo Jr, Esq.
Elaine Kollar
Jim Carey and his staff took very good care of me after a serious facial injury. They always explained every step of the process completely.They made a difference and made the experience go as smoothly as possible. I would highly recommend Jim Carey as a personal injury lawyer.
Randy Ridout

The team at SiebenCarey was extremely dedicated in helping me with my case. Jim and his staff were knowledgeable, caring , friendly, and sympathetic throughout the entire case. They are like family to me. I would highly recommend them.

Barbara Heinzen

On November 17, 2017 I was involved in a car accident with a friend. A young man ran a red light. Both of us were ambulanced to the nearest hospital. With in three hours I had a friend call Jim Carey's office because they had used them . I had someone by my bedside the very next morning, and Jim Carey and his staff took such good care of me. They really did take the worry off my shoulders. Bottom line, it took about a year and a half and they were with me the entire time... Jim and his staff Angela, Jayne, and Lori, were all amazing. Got back to me fast, answered my questions so I could understand, and Jim would call if I needed to ask him a question. I felt I was the most important client!! If you need someone who will show that they care, you will not go wrong with Jim Carey and his staff.

Jazz Smith

SiebenCarey is a professional and dedicated law organization that help accident victim.

Jesse Bukal

In need of a personal injury attorney? Well you're if you're reading this you're in the right place. You'd be hard pressed to find more competent attorneys than the ones here at SiebenCarey.

They took my case to trial and an amazing job presenting the facts and fighting for my best interests! Three years ago I was unsure of what my future would bring; now that it's over I can rest a bit easier. With SiebenCarey as my counsel, I believe I had the absolute BEST representation a person could've asked for. I knew that I wanted the absolute best representation when searching for an attorney to handle my case and I most definitely received it.

If you need a personal injury attorney, look no further. Can't recommend highly enough.

Jenna L. at Insider Pages

I have had nothing but great service with these guys. They are very knowledgable on a wide variety of subjects and topic. They will help you with any case you need!

Carly R.

My boyfriend was hit by a car and while all the attorneys he talked to said he didn't have much chance of a case, SiebenCarey took him on and gave him a fighting chance. He's still recovering, but SiebenCarey is making it a lot easier.

St. Paul Local 12

Thanks for everything, your experience paid off BIG!!!

Renee Goneau

SiebenCarey is a great personal injury law firm that really cares about their clients.  Highly recommend!

Eric Petoletti

Even though I was states away and could only talk on the phone, they listened and did everything that they could to win my case. I felt like I was a part of the family.

Morgan Petoletti

My husband had an amazing experience with this firm. They listened and took the time to understand our case.

Daniel Ball

Really good professionals, they solved my issues in no time using the most impressive and advanced approach. Really good, highly recommended.

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