Sheila Engelmeier has a long and distinguished career in Minnesota employment law, both counseling and litigating, for both employers and employees.
In the interview below, Sheila’s heart, her commitment, her candor, her hard-won expertise and experience, her humility, and her generosity all shine.
Her dark outlook on the current climate of the practice of law, though, came as something of a surprise. In spite of Sheila’s decades of success, she cautions that the job is tremendously difficult. “The system is not fair. The system is not cheap…. [I]t’s a job to be taken very advisedly.” We have all been fortunate to have the likes of Sheila Engelmeier calling it like it is and fighting hard to make it better.
Seth Leventhal (“SL”): Let’s start with your professional history in a nutshell.
S. Engelmeier: That’s kind of a funny story. I never knew anyone who was a lawyer. No one in my family was ever a lawyer. I went to law school because I wanted to help people. I was a paralegal the whole time I was in law school. Before that I was a secretary, in a law firm. Those are good things. Every lawyer should be those things first — law clerk, paralegal and secretary –before working as a lawyer. And when I was in law school, I found my first gray hair, so I dyed my hair purple jazzy. It was a great suggestion by my hair lady. It made it hard to find a job with purple hair. Not only purple hair, but purple, asymmetrical hair; shaved on one side, and big, curly on the other. Kind of funny that I look like Hillary Clinton now, really boring. But in any event, I couldn’t find a job when I got out of law school.
SL: When was that?
S. Engelmeier: 1986. Even though I had worked as a paralegal doing a lot of things new lawyers do for a long time, and I did well in law school, I was one of the last people in my law school class to find a job. Finally, I dyed my hair back to a natural-looking color and interviewed for the few jobs left. Initially, I took a job in St. Cloud at essentially an insurance defense firm. The commute turned out to be too much, so I came back and worked at another insurance defense firm in Minneapolis. The good stuff about that is having a more generalized background… So I did personal injury defense and workers’ comp defense. You learn a lot about a lot of different things, including insurance coverage issues.
And then I went to a commercial litigation firm, Mackall Crounse & Moore where I was from ’88 to 2000. When I started practicing, I didn’t ever think I would be an originator; I was a kid from north Minneapolis. But I was good at helping solve people’s problems. So by the third year I was a lawyer, I was generating more than $200,000 of my own work. I think clients want to hear you have a sincere interest in helping; be that an individual or be that a company.
At Mackall, I did all kinds of litigation. I started doing work defending early childhood education providers in claims and, then, working primarily on employment related stuff developed over time. I started focusing on employment related stuff when it dawned on me, maybe three years into my practice, that everybody needs an employment lawyer. You’re either an employer or an employee. And everybody needs an estate planner. I couldn’t do either tax or dead people law. (No offense: It’s great business; my husband’s an estate planner/tax lawyer.) So I started focusing my marketing efforts on employment law. My work for individuals started with one of the firm’s big trucking clients — the owner of the trucking company’s kid was mistreated at work. So I helped with that.
And then that turned into doing sex harassment cases. For a period of about 5 to 10 years, I did sex abuse cases, mainly therapist sex abuse cases. That work is very intense; those people are really harmed. And that’s hard. And you know, if someone came to me with rape case, I’d do that again, but it takes a lot.
So by 2000 I had served on the board at Mackall, I’d been chair of the employment group, practicing employment law and representing early childhood education providers, and doing a kind of mishmash of one-offs from employment. And I went to Rider Bennet where I was from 2000 to 2007. As you know, Rider Bennett imploded in 2007 and in that time I continued to do both sides of employment, both individual and company representation. And I start mediating sometime late while at Mackall, I believe… Mediation struck me as a really big opportunity to make a favorable difference without a five-year fight on either side.
So I was at the Rider Bennett law firm until the very last day that the law firm was operating. We didn’t have any coffee; we didn’t have any paper. It was quite something to go through a law firm going bankrupt. It was a good life experience in terms of it makes you appreciate more, what folks go through when it’s economically tough times. As an employment lawyer you think, “Sure, of course you should spend $5,000 on me doing your handbook because that’s going to save you $750,000 if you get sued.” Not everybody has $5,000 lying around. And that was a real reminder of that whole reality.
What was most important to me when I left Rider was finding a firm that was willing to offer a job to most of the lawyers and other professionals with whom I was working. Moss & Barnett essentially offered everybody with whom I was working a job. And so that’s where I went. I had been wanting, since I left Mackall, to hang out my own shingle. I’ve worked with the same paralegal/secretary for more than 25 years. When we left Mackall, she flatly refused to do the small firm gig. She was like, “I am not doing that; I do not want to be the copy guy and the IT guy and every other kind of guy.”
But by the time I had been at Moss for a couple of years or close to that, we had a health issue in the family. And I realized life is short; if you’re going to do your own thing, you’ve got to get to it. So I had to tell my beloved paralegal/secretary, “Hey, I’m doing it. If you want to come, great. If you don’t, that’s okay.” And so we started in February 2009 with three lawyers and three staff.
SL: Did the paralegal/secretary come with?
S. Engelmeier: She did. So it’s now been 27-ish years working together. It might even be more. But she left me hanging for months before I knew.
SL: You mean for months when you were on your own?
S. Engelmeier: No, meaning: so I decided this is what I got to do; I let Moss & Barnett know this is what I feel like I’m called to do. There was a period of six months of transition and in there, it was not until maybe a month before we were leaving that she’s like, “Okay, I’m in.” So thank God my other long time paralegal, Jamie Flom, was for sure on board from minute one. As I said, we started with three lawyers, three staff and now we’re seven and a half lawyers, about the same number of staff.
I think we’re 14 employees and one of counsel/independent contractor and we always have a legal intern, somebody who’s deciding do I want to be a lawyer or not. I try to dissuade them all; unfortunately, the first one I didn’t dissuade very effectively. He’s now at Georgetown, going to law school.
So that’s my tale. What I would say is unique about me is: over this journey that I just described to you I’ve represented individuals, I’ve represented companies. I’ve done counseling both for individuals, how to get reasonable accommodation, how do you negotiate your contract; and on behalf of companies. E.g., what do you do to optimally enhance performance and avoid lawsuits and accommodate disabled workers without getting in trouble? And, I litigate on both sides. And for me there’s always been a real natural ebb and flow between litigation and counseling.
If all you do is litigate, I personally find that not very rewarding. At any point in litigation, if you’re from the employer side, the clients just look at you as a dollar sign. Like, “Oh my God, I made one mistake and now I can just pay and pay and pay and pay.” Whether you win or lose, you pay and pay and pay. And I really liked the perspective that the whole upside of a problem happening that results in litigation or whatever are the lessons you learn.
I want to be part of that solution. Maybe the employer client needs a better selection criteria. Maybe we need a better process for performance management. Maybe we need a better process for what we go through before we decide to pull the trigger and let someone go. And the same thing, frankly, is true for individuals. What did you learn from whatever caused you to get in this challenging situation?
So there’s a lot of folks who I’ve represented from the individual side four or five times. It might be somebody who was the victim of sexual assault. In fact, I was just on the phone this morning with somebody who was a victim of sexual assault 20 years ago and then she went on to be a C-suite executive and she needed some help negotiating her contract. Then she exited from one job into another job and then she needed an estate plan and my husband helped with that and then she set up her own little business. I don’t do that work, but my husband does.
SL Who is your husband?
S. Engelmeier: Ivory Umanah. So our law firm, Engelmeier & Umanah, is my husband and I and a number of other talented legal professionals who are also good people.
I was going to start my own firm when I left Moss & Barnett and I wanted to call it Bitches Inc. And then my husband said, “Well, I want to come too,” and I’m like, “Then I suppose we could be Bitches Inc. & A Boy.” And he didn’t like that very much. So that didn’t end up having legs. So we do a smattering of things: litigation and counseling, employment law and estate planning, wealth management and business stuff is always mixed in on that. We work representing individuals and companies. Also, we’ve done investigations, training and that sort of a thing as well.
And simultaneously as a human, I’ve been investigated; that’s really quite something. I’ve also been sued. I think every lawyer should be sued. Here’s me out in the community as somebody coaching companies about how to do the right thing and cross your T’s and dot your I’s so you don’t get sued. And I got sued in the mid-nineties. That was not fun!
SL: What were you personally sued for?
S. Engelmeier: Discrimination.
SL: What kind of discrimination?
S. Engelmeier: I was accused of discriminating against somebody because of their sexual orientation.
SL I’m guessing the case settled.
S. Engelmeier I fought for a year and a half. I fought hard because I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong. And that’s a great experience for a lawyer to have, to understand how hard it is to prove everything. It’s not just what the truth is, it’s what you can prove. So digging through emails and you have one that looks goofy but if you see the 50 that come before and the 20 that come after it doesn’t look the same… That’s just a really good life experience.
I’ve also sued someone. Not for discrimination, but I sued someone with respect to an assault situation. I, did, however, once personally file an internal grievance with regard to discrimination. And those are all really good life experiences for being able to understand all the different perspectives of the employment relationship as it were. So I like having all those many facets in my background and I think that helps me a lot in mediation. And I enjoy mediation because it comes and it goes. But I also enjoy helping people avoid problems and helping people when they have big problems. For example, if they have to sue someone or if they are sued, even though they tried their best to do things right. I enjoy all of those opportunities.
SL: Have you ever represented real bad guys? Say in these cases of sexual impropriety.
S. Engelmeier: Yeah, that’s interesting. I’ve represented people accused of being real bad guys. I didn’t think they were real bad guys or gals.
SL: Would you represent someone who was a real bad guy?
S. Engelmeier: I haven’t had that experience. Someone I wouldn’t represent is somebody who said, “I did these horrible things and I want to get by with it and I want to torture someone for the next four years in litigation because they need to know that they can’t mess with me.” That I wouldn’t do. Maybe that’s obvious from someone talking to me. For cases where people make mistakes, I’m the biggest advocate for learning what you’re supposed to learn from it. Solve the problem, and move on. So I wouldn’t be a good fit for the folks who want to fight to the death just for the sake of torturing someone. I’m not that guy.
SL: Have you had any surprises or disappointments about running your own firm?
S. Engelmeier: I would say that the biggest surprise is that it’s harder than you think. It’s a lot of work. If you have an absence problem with an employee, that’s hard. Someone can’t help it if they’re sick, but it’s still a bummer that they’re gone a lot. And how do you deal with that and you know, personality conflicts at work are hard things. Or, some clients are really nice people who pay the bills right away and other clients just are grumpy no matter what you do. And having the bottom-line responsibility that if somebody doesn’t pay or if one of my colleagues or I make some mistake, I have bottom line responsibility for all of that. That’s a lot.
I wanted to get out from lots of meetings needing to fill out three forms to do this or that. And here’s what I’d say: I’ve practiced in a variety of law firms, including my own, and we all have great things and we all have warts. There’s no magic… At least there hasn’t been for me. Someone was telling me the other day that they wanted to find a job they absolutely loved. Well, if it exists, let me know. Because I think there’s awesome in everything and warts in everything.
SL: You said earlier that you’ve tried to dissuade interns from going into the law. I’m not sure if I heard it correctly. I’m not sure if you were joking.
S. Engelmeier: I wasn’t joking. I think this is a tremendously difficult job and it is an all- encompassing job. And if you do it really client focused, there’s a lot of disappointment. The system is not fair. The system is not cheap. If you can get a thrill out of making X hundreds of thousands of dollars, there’s less disappointment if you are the kind of person that is… “I’m cool because”… But I find that when I started practicing, probably not that different than you, if some employee was being hooted at and howled at and had their butt grabbed at work, that was a big deal and that wasn’t to be tolerated. And now we have case law like we have in the area of sex harassment that causes me to ask myself, “What the heck planet are we living on?” And so there’s only so much you can do to favorably impact the circumstance. So you have to be a pragmatist to practice law and some people are better at that.
For the first 10 years I practiced, I thought if you work hard enough you can make something good happen in any circumstance. And that’s just not true. So for me personally, I feel like it’s a job to be taken very advisedly. You either have to be willing to draw a line, like not take those calls in the middle of the night when your sexual assault survivor, individual client is wanting to hurt themselves and just say, “Nope, I don’t do that.” Or, practicing law will really have a tremendous impact on your life. And I haven’t been able to say no to those things. I have an 18-year-old and an 8-year-old. And my 18-year-old always says her youth was, “One more email, one more email, one more email.” And my eight-year-old now comes and grabs the phone and takes it away from me and says, “You’re done!” and she talks to whomever on the other line, and says, “She’s done now.” So I think that’s a pretty high price.
SL: Do you ever think about doing something else?
S. Engelmeier: What else am I going to do that I am as good at as I am with this? If I had it to do over again, I’d be an engineer.
SL: And what appeals to you about that?
S. Engelmeier: I think it’s a great place for women. You have the opportunity to develop things that improve people’s lives. Those are two of the things I can think of.
SL: When you say it’s a great place for women, do you just mean that women are underrepresented among engineers?
S. Engelmeier: Yes.
SL: Okay. So it might be a bad place for women?
S. Engelmeier: It might be horrible. It might be just like the practice of law.
SL: You mentioned the distinguished Rider Bennett law firm where you worked and which dramatically collapsed. Do you have any thoughts or insight as to why or how Rider Bennet imploded?
S. Engelmeier: Here’s my take on the Rider Bennet implosion. And at the time I was pretty upset about it. Rider was a firm that was very focused on collegiality. I remember getting called into the managing partner’s office because I was grumpy at the receptionist. At the time, I’m thinking, “I’ve billed 200 hours this month, of course I’m grumpy!” I think when you spend that much time focused on culture, sometimes the dollars and cents piece is not as front and center as it should be. And at the time that it was imploding, I was mad. I was like, “How can we not focus more on the dollars and cents?”
And in retrospect there was a lot of really spectacular lawyers who came through that place and a lot of really good people, both. And I think that may have come from, in part, such a focus on collegiality… I don’t think it was happenstance that it wasn’t like an earlier Minnesota firm that fell apart, Popham Haik, which I understand imploded because there were greedy people fighting with one another. This was just the opposite. People at Rider Bennett cried when we took the vote to disband. At the time I didn’t really have that much appreciation for how special that bond was. Looking back, Rider Bennet looks quite remarkable in the rear-view mirror.
SL: You represent employers and employees. How are you able to bridge that divide and other people aren’t (or don’t want to)?
S. Engelmeier: It’s a lot easier not to. It’s easier if you stick on one side, because you don’t get crosswise. If you’re over here advocating on the employee side for some development in the case law, that might hurt an employer client someday. I personally think I do it for three reasons. One, I think the people only do one side are, for the most part, not all, much too jaded. You know, employees’ lawyers who are sure that all corporations are out to get people. And frankly, I’ve met as many corporate entities that are genuinely trying to do the right thing as I’ve met individuals who’ve been harmed.
People make mistakes and if you really want to favorably impact the world, helping employers have a culture that favorably impacts the workplace morale, communication, all those things, really matters. So for those who are so “I must only do employee work,” I think there’s a missed opportunity from the counseling side of employers. And frankly there are lots of employers that have been, I don’t know if wrongfully accused is the right phrase; I would say, “misunderstood.” Most disputes are not very simple. From the employer side there are equally as many jaded employer lawyers who are like, “Oh yeah, those making claims are scamming. They’re only talking a lot about the fact that they have cancer because they just got a bad performance review. They knew they had cancer for months and now they’re raising it to try to make a disability claim out of the situation.”
What I would say is I think you’re a much sharper lawyer when you do both sides. I was just talking to someone about that today. You learn a lot sweating through a contingent fee case worrying, “Oh my God am I going to get paid?” Many defense lawyers don’t have any appreciation of what that’s like and how sort of scrappy and desperate, on occasion, you become after living in that paradigm. And it’s not just even mostly about the lawyers getting paid, but it’s more about this person (the plaintiff) might end up with nothing. Zero, nada. That is really scary.
And similarly, I don’t think employee-side lawyers appreciate how difficult it is to be the employer trying to guess – – both from a counseling side or litigation side – what employees are looking for. Employers always feel like employees have more knowledge or information. When I am mediating disputes, I’m always struck that assumptions of the people on opposite sides are so different. So walking in those shoes of actually helping people to try to avoid problems really contextualizes that for me… Some people may be totally out to get you, and that certainly happens. In the last 10 years I’ve seen a lot more of that than I had in the 20 years before that. But more often than not, there’s a genuine disconnect between the parties in an employment dispute.
SL: So, you’re saying, in the last 10 years, you’ve seen more of what?
S. Engelmeier: What I would say is that, more recently, for the people who want to mistreat folks, there’s a lot more bravado about doing so, an attitude of “I’m going to squash you.” Over the 35 years I’ve been practicing, it was a rarity in the first two decades to see, in my opinion, mean spirited people who are desirous of crushing another person. I feel like it’s not a coincidence that the Me Too movement has happened. I feel like people have, over the time I’ve been practicing, become more and more brazen with respect to the desire to mistreat and bully.
For example, I’m working on a case right now. The head of HR jokes openly about how if anybody ever complained about the conduct of a particular employee, which HR allowed to take place, he should be fired. However, he’ll never be fired because he has dirt on some senior leader in the business. You know what I mean? And so there’s a culture of “Now I can do whatever I want, without consequence…”. That’s the thing that there is a lot more of, in my opinion, in the last 10 to 15 years then I saw the first 20 years of my practice.
SL: I would’ve thought the exact opposite. I thought we’ve been changing for the better…
S. Engelmeier: Right. Yeah, and that’s one of the things that when I think about having worked this hard for this long, you hope that you’re pushing a ball towards better and the ball starts getting super heavy when it doesn’t feel like that’s happening.
SL: You touched on the “Me Too” movement…
S. Engelmeier: So let’s talk about that for just a minute. Here’s a good example of that whole pushing the ball uphill. So I’ve represented more than a thousand individuals, most of them women. I don’t know how that happened; I didn’t do that by design… I wanted to help people with race issues, that was my real passion, but it just didn’t turn out that I got a bunch of race cases. I got a bunch of gender cases and retaliation cases. And it’s very interesting to me that here you have courts and legislators, all across the political spectrum, in favor of laws that protect breastfeeding and other women’s issues. It’s very en vogue to be supporting women, the rights of those who are pregnant, etc.. But simultaneously, at virtually every law firm in the country, there’s still unequal pay issues with respect to women. And at virtually every law firm in the country, certainly the big ones, there is still a vast underrepresentation of women in management and among senior partners. So why is that? Why if we’re so interested in making life better for women, why hasn’t it happened yet? For example, I am thinking of the DLA Piper case; it’s a sex harassment issue. And, then, there’s the Jones Day type gender discrimination/retaliation case.
In my opinion, these cases reflect the Me Too movement… Maybe, more accurately the unfair pay and underrepresentation is “Time’s Up” instead of Me Too. But, in my view, Me Too has two subcomponents. One is sexual assault is not okay; and sexualized behaviors are not okay. But the second thing is that we as women are tired of being underestimated, underrepresented, underpaid. So pay equity to me is a subset of Me Too.
SL: You mentioned earlier that playing both sides in the employment context makes it perhaps more difficult for you to advocate for legal change because some of your clients on either side might take exception with whatever changes of the law you would like. Are there any changes in the law that you think are or would be appropriate?
S. Engelmeier: Yes. I’ve been testifying in front of the legislature for the past couple of sessions about changing the severe or pervasive standard in harassment cases under Minnesota law. I have a couple of hundred employer clients; some years it’s only $500 of services for an employer because you have one phone call the lasting less than an hour and a half. Hopefully, over a long-term relationship, you’ve taught them everything you know about avoiding problems and they only come back if there was a big non-compete fight or some other huge issue. But I can tell you that I didn’t lose any employer clients by advocating that a standard that allows people to use the N-word 18 times in a six month period and not be held accountable for a hostile environment based on race or that allows flopping around the penis at work for three minutes, without legal consequence. None of my employer clients disagree with the position for which I have advocated. So I’ve had the good fortune of not having employer clients who are upset by my employee practice.
The employer clients who are drawn to me understand that there’s a real benefit to them to understanding how employees think, what avoids problems. I wrote a book chapter on how to handle a termination in a way that avoids claims, and being respectful in the performance management processes is a really big part of that. I learned a lot of that from talking to hundreds of people who want to sue people because of how they were treated in that process. And that’s a great benefit to employers to know how to do that. So for me, that’s a good example of where people have drawn the line: I’m only going to do this side. If you really want to help to make employees be more respected, you can help employers understand how that benefits them and that helps the whole. So it’s a win-win scenario; win for employers because they avoid getting sued and they have happier employees; win for employees because they avoid being disrespected.
SL: Can you think of anyone, whether a lawyer or a judge or anyone in the legal community, non-lawyer, non-judge who you consider to be an unsung hero?
S. Engelmeier: Well, I feel like my colleague April Paul is a pretty big one. My 27-year shoulder-to-shoulder colleague. Anybody who comes to our office often, like my repeat visitors on mediations, understands that I can only do what I can do in terms of helping people solve problems because I have a lot of support. And I’m sure there are hundreds of people – not very many as incredible as April – but hundreds of people in this town who help lawyers stay focused on how to help clients because of their phenomenal organization skills or because of fielding questions, managing tech issues or similar “unsung” tasks.
SL: Imagine you’re on a soapbox and you can send a message to the Minnesota bench and/or bar. Do you have anything you would say to the Minnesota bench or bar?
S. Engelmeier: I have learned the hard way is it is exceedingly unwise to assume we’ve got it all figured out. Don’t underestimate your opponent. Don’t underestimate your opponent’s client. Don’t make assumptions about ill motive. It’s super easy to be in a big fight and it is not super easy to stay above the fray and try to see things in ways that build common ground. And I think it’s absolutely imperative. But for the most part, the employment bar is pretty competent and professional, not jokers. There are some outliers, but for the most part people try to be reasonable. And I think that takes an everyday, all day effort.
I have a couple of cases right now where the lawyers on the other side are so difficult and uncooperative… people hired by those who want to just tweak everybody for the sake of tweaking everybody. I’ll tell you what, especially post the health crisis in my family, I try not to hold a grudge about just about anything. But these two lawyers I’m dealing with right now, I can’t wait till I have a case that I would deliberately not settle for a long time just to have accountability for that level of unprofessionalism.
SL: Are they on the plaintiff’s side or the defense side?
S. Engelmeier: Both are on the defense side that I’m thinking of. I mean, I’ve certainly had jerk plaintiff’s lawyers too.
SL: I asked you about changing the law and you mentioned that you’ve testified before the legislature on the severe or pervasive requirement for cases of harassment. Any other changes in the law that you would advocate for?
S. Engelmeier: I think the way that the federal bench in particular, in the Eighth Circuit specifically, interprets the summary judgment standard in employment cases has gone so far to weighing facts that it makes it just a horribly unfair environment for employees in court in this jurisdiction. Sadly, that is true in both federal and state court (because some of those federal court standards spill over into the state court). I can appreciate judges being sick of lawyers and claimaints who whine. In some cases, even things that are not a big deal are made into a big deal. But way too many cases are getting kicked out on summary judgment and it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
SL: Why do you say that it’s going to get worse before it gets better?
S. Engelmeier: Because of Trump’s most recent appointee to the Eighth Circuit. So it’s an interesting time because now we have a fairly majority left-leaning state Supreme Court, and the Eighth Circuit is as conservative as it’s ever been, especially since Murphy died.
SL: That’s an ominous note to end on, but you’ve given readers a lot of material to think about, I am mindful of your time, and for myself and our Minnesota Litigator News and Commentary readers, I thank you for your time.
[Previous Minnesota Litigator Profiles of Minnesota litigators: Mike Rothman, former Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Kevin Dunlevy, Minnesota real property authority, Inti Martinez-Aleman, a third generation lawyer from Honduras enriching the Minnesota bar, Brent Primus, a 40+ year Minnesota litigator with decades of experience in cargo and transportation law, Emily McNee, employer-side employment litigator, Anna Voss, Civil Chief of the United States Attorney’s Office, Kenneth U. Udoibok, fighting for justice from Nigeria to Minnesota and beyond, Bill Tilton, 40 year St. Paul civil rights lawyer, Kristine Kubes, advisor and litigator for construction professionals, Rachhana Srey, plaintiff’s side wage-and-hour litigator, Eric Nilsson, banking/lending litigation, Roshan Rajkumar, products liability defense, Jerry Alcazar, products liability defense, Liz Kramer, Arbitration Maven/Author of Arbitration Nation, Tim Nolan, Lawyer/poet, Laurie Vasicheck, 25 year veteran of the Minneapolis office of the EEOC, Jake Holdreith, an IP litigator for “drug dealers” (better known as pharmaceutical companies), Pam VanderWiel, lawyer for Minnesota municipalities, Bill Dossett, Executive Director of Minnesota’s Nice Ride bike-sharing program, Christina Snow, lender/servicer real estate and foreclosure lawyer, Clayton Halunen, plaintiffs’ employment lawyer, consumer rights lawyer, Stephen L. Smith, straddling a civil and a criminal litigation practice (and later appointed to the Ramsey County District Court bench),Vildan Teske, consumer rights class action litigation and service members class actions, Jim Behrenbrinker, civil rights/excessive force cases, Eric Cooperstein, “ethics maven“, Mike Flom, Gray Plant’s General Counsel, Phil Gainsley, veteran solo civil litigator, John Halpern, collections, Elliot Olsen, foodborne illness litigation, Dave Potter, railroad industry litigator, Katherine Mackinnon, ERISA plaintiff’s lawyer, Kristine Boylan, international IP/Complex Litigation lawyer,Karin Ciano, free-lance “federal sherpa,” Jerry Alcazar, products liability defense.] [For Minnesota Litigator profiles of judges, see: Retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey J. Keyes, Hennepin County Judge SusanRobiner, Retired U.S. District Court Chief Judge James M. Rosenbaum (D. Minn.), Hennepin County Chief Judge Peter Cahill, Hennepin County Judge Thomas Fraser.]