Partner, Stinson Leonard Street LLP, Minneapolis, MN


Liz KramerI left Yale Law School wanting to do important, public interest work, but in Minnesota (not NYC or DC). My husband and I both had clerkships in the Twin Cities (I clerked at the Minnesota Supreme Court). Plus, I had grown up in the Twin Cities and knew it had a great quality of life. During my clerkship, I looked for work at various governmental entities and non-profits, but the economy was not strong and none of them were hiring. So, I started looking at law firms. (I had not summered at a firm in the Twin Cities; I was at the Attorney General’s office.) I was fortunate to have interest from a number of firms, but chose (what is now) Stinson Leonard Street because the partners seemed genuine, similarly public-minded and liberal, smart, family-oriented and kind. So, although the open position was half in “construction litigation,” which I had never heard of, I accepted the offer.

Fifteen years later, I am still at Stinson. I still do a mix of construction litigation and other kinds of commercial litigation, but have developed a specialty in arbitration law. During my clerkship, I helped work on a case that brought Minnesota law in line with federal law on arbitration. That sparked my interest in arbitration law. That interest grew as I learned that most construction litigation happens in arbitration. In 2011, I started a blog about arbitration, www.arbitrationnation.com, and since then that has been my primary marketing technique and the biggest source of my business. My blog has been recognized as one of the best in the nation by the ABA Journal since 2012, and in 2017 was named to its “Blawg Hall of Fame.” I get invited to speak about arbitration law at national conferences and have helped clients seek certiorari of arbitration issues at SCOTUS three times. 

My days are a mix of: writing briefs; talking to clients; answering queries from potential clients; preparing for/participating in hearings with judges/arbitrators; delegating case tasks to younger attorneys; participating in firm management; reading arbitration cases; participating in non-profits and bar association activities. I bill about 1600 hours/year to clients, and then spend another 600–700 hours on marketing/CLEs/community activity/firm management. This is not unusual at my firm and is part of why I am happy we practice in the Twin Cities market. I have breakfast and dinner with my husband and two children 95% of week days.

What I like most about my work is the variety. There is a lot of variety in my cases and in the clients I serve. Plus, it turns out that large corporations are not all evil entities as I had suspected when I was in college and law school. My clients are well-meaning people with reasonable differences in how they interpret contracts or the law. I also feel supported by my Firm in my efforts at business development and community leadership. I still get to do public service too — I started a pro se clinic at our appellate courts, lead our Firm’s efforts to take pro bono cases from the public defender’s office, and handle other pro bono cases through our partnership with a community clinic.

The hardest thing about my work is not knowing which marketing efforts will be successful, if any. I am at a stage of my career where I want to bring in enough work to keep myself busy and some associates. I spend a lot of time marketing, but I can’t predict which efforts will bear fruit. The other hard thing is the lingering sexism and implicit bias in our society. I am treated differently by clients, colleagues, staff, and opposing counsel. But that would happen anywhere, it is not specific to my firm.