H. Dickson Burton: Invite Others to Serve

February 21, 2019

By Marcie R. Swenson (’11)

It’s hard to believe that a simple invitation may be the only barrier stopping an attorney from serving. Attorneys, especially BYU Law alumni, have an instilled desire to serve. However, the demands of lawyering, family, and religion can often overshadow these good intentions.

I hope the recognition of our peers, and their extraordinary examples of service, can provide the motivation needed to take the step, jump, or leap into a new service opportunity or pro bono case.

H. Dickson Burton (’83) is a great example that can inspire many lawyers to serve. Burton is currently serving as the Utah State Bar President and has a powerful aphorism and motivational message – “invite others to serve.” This message is straightforward, approachable, and demonstrates an attitude of perseverance. Interestingly, these are the same words I would use to describe President Burton.

Burton spent four years working with a D.C. law firm practicing trademark litigation for companies like Nestle and the Guinness companies (think, Book of World Records). While in D.C., he met his wife, Maria Erickson, and started his family – currently consisting of 3 children and 4 grandchildren. In 1987, they returned to Salt Lake City and he continued his practice of trademark litigation with Watkiss & Campbell. In 1993, Burton joined the nationally recognized intellectual property boutique firm TraskBritt. Now the managing shareholder, he practices in the areas of intellectual property litigation, including patent, trademark, and trade secret litigation.

In addition to a successful legal career, Burton has an abundant service record. He has served with, collaborated on, and developed many outstanding professional and public service programs. His motivation stems from his desire to “serve the profession and the public, and improve access to justice for underserved populations.”

He has served with the Utah State Bar for many years, including being elected to the Bar Commission in 2010 and as President-Elect in 2017. In that capacity, he helps the Commission oversee bar admission, licensing CLE, and public service programs.

It’s impossible to list all that he has achieved, but I’ll mention a few exceptional examples to which he has contributed:

  • New Lawyer Training & Mentoring Bar Program – a program I personally benefited from and recognized as one of the best young lawyer mentoring programs in the country;
  • Innovation and Law Practice Committee – helping lawyers prepare for the future of the rapidly changing practice of law; and
  • Joint Committee on Lawyer and Judge Well-Being – A Supreme Court-created committee that Burton co-chairs with Utah Supreme Court Justice Paige Petersen that investigates and recommends ways to address high rates of legal practitioner depression, suicide, and substance abuse and explores ways to help lawyers with mental and physical well-being.

Burton also has several distinguished appointments by Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court: He chairs the United States District Court Local Rules Committee and he is part of the United States District Court Magistrate Merit Selection Committee.

Burton is a true champion of service and often expresses appreciation for the attorneys who serve by his side: “I’m amazed at the number of civic-minded attorneys that are part of the Utah State Bar.” He openly recognizes the attorneys who accept his invitation to serve and persistently helps attorneys find ways to serve. He clearly lives by his adage – “invite others to serve.”

How will you respond to the invitation to serve your communities or profession? First, decide how you’re going to serve and then accept Burton’s challenge – extend a personal invitation to another attorney to join you.