Before he learned how to read and write, Steve Scholl was making deals. When he and his brother disagreed about their toys, he enlisted his mother to write out a contract that they both signed.
As his literacy skills improved, he decided that he would become a police officer, an FBI agent and a lawyer, probably not all at the same time. His interest in the law was no surprise to his family, considering that his father served as a magistrate and municipal judge for 25 years in his hometown of Silver City. In high school, Scholl spent many afternoons in his father’s courtroom watching trials.
“When he was a magistrate, he was on duty 24/7,” Scholl says. “Sometimes, police officers would bring victims to the house in the middle of the night, followed by the person accused of a crime, who would be arraigned in our kitchen. He also did bond hearings at home.”
From these impromptu hearings, Scholl got to know the city’s police officers and during high school he spent many all-nighters inside a police cruiser as an observer. When he went off to college at New Mexico State University, trailing Chris Menefee, his high school girlfriend and future wife, he majored in police science.
For six years after graduation, he was an officer in the Dallas Police Department, where he was on street patrol and was one of the department’s youngest field training officers. He also met the last surviving member of the Bonnie and Clyde gang, who had been their driver and mechanic. His last two years on the force were spent as a member of the SWAT team.
“I did a lot of learning about how to be calm in rising situations,” he says.
His two children were born, Stephanie and Andy (`11). After being passed over for a promotion to sergeant, he turned his thoughts toward a different side of the law. Seeking to return home, he applied to the UNM School of Law.
After earning his J.D. in 1989, he joined Hatch, Beitler, Allen & Shepherd, where right away he began taking depositions and going to court, appreciating that his bosses allowed him to learn at a fast pace.
“As a police officer, I learned to assess situations, risk and rising outcomes quickly, which has helped me a lot as a lawyer,” he says. “And all of the experience I had testifying in court as a police officer taught me so much about trial practice and how it works. From this, I learned tricks about how to effectively get a story across.”
Eight years later, he joined with Lynn Sharp and Mark Jarmie to establish Sharp, Jarmie & Scholl, where he continued to practice insurance defense and civil litigation. He represented Walmart, which provided him with more than 60 jury trials in state and federal courts across New Mexico.
By 1999, his firm had grown to 14 lawyers, which propelled him to seek a more intimate practice. In 2000, he formed Dixon, Scholl & Bailey with Jerry Dixon and Brent Bailey. “We wanted to be able to say, `Serving clients since the turn of the century,’” he says. The firm now has eight lawyers, all of whom focus on civil litigation, serving both plaintiffs and defense clients.
During law school, Scholl competed in the National Trial Competition in 1989, a year when both UNM School of Law teams advanced to the nationals. He has assisted with preparing the team ever since and in 1992 he became the coach. Bailey, his law partner, now assists him.
“I love working with students who want to learn to be trial lawyers and are willing to work hard,” he says. “It’s fun watching them think their way through legal issues.” He figures he’s worked with nearly 120 students on the mock trial team, some of whom he has faced in court after they graduated.
“I’m always glad I don’t teach them all of my tricks,” he says.
In addition to leading the mock trial team, Scholl always finds time to give back to his alma mater. He is currently president of the law school’s Alumni Board, teaches trial practice regularly as an adjunct, helps out whenever asked and is seen at many law school events.
“I love doing what I do, but I couldn’t do it without a law degree,” he says. “A lot of adjuncts helped me during law school, so I feel I owe a lot to the school.”
Scholl looks forward to reconnecting wayward alumni to the school when he takes over as alumni board president in 2010. He also hopes to instill that importance of connection among the current students and recent graduates.
“The school’s greatest legacy is the people who’ve come before and the current students,” he says.
“I don’t think the UNM law school is recognized for the value it brings to New Mexico. I’m proud and glad that my son, Andy, chose to attend the UNM law school,” says Scholl. “I love the atmosphere there and I brag about it when I travel around the country. It’s a jewel in the crown of government and education in New Mexico.”
Scholl enjoys traveling with his wife, Chris, and cycling. They are serious hikers, having completed the Inca Trail in Peru and they like the challenge of hiking into and out of the Grand Canyon in one day.
As for his desire to work for the FBI, Scholl considers that an opportunity suited for someone younger and thinner.