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Affinity Groups

MWL Affinity Groups consist of members who form a group, consistent with MWL’s mission, to advance a common interest (legal or non-legal), professional goal, or with the intent to network and promote collegiality.


Affinity Groups often:
· Promote further satisfaction in the practice of law.
· Provide individual professional development opportunities.
· Promote the sharing of resources and the exchange of ideas.
· Emphasize networking, connection, community and relationship building.


Affinity Groups are offered as a benefit of MWL membership. Affinity Groups may or may not be designed to directly address MWL's core strategic priorities. However, Affinity Groups are viewed as a vital and valuable opportunity for member participation, networking, connection and/or support.


Are you interested in learning more about an affinity group or being added to an affinity group email list? Feel free to contact Debra Pexa at or one of the group leaders listed below.

If you would like further information about current Affinity Groups or forming a new group, please refer to Creating an MWL Affinity Group.


PLEASE NOTE: Given the evolving COVID-19 circumstances, gatherings are currently being held remotely.  Please visit the MWL Calendar of Events for the most up-to-date information.  Feel free to contact Affinity Group leadership for further information.

2020-2021 MWL Affinity Groups

Alternative Legal Careers


Ruth Isaacson, Attorney at Law

Tara Smith, Maxim Smith Family Law PLLC 


There have always been many ways in which attorneys could use their law degrees, and alternative career paths in the legal profession are becoming increasingly popular and relevant as law school graduates broaden their career options to include non-practice career settings. That being said, a number of current and potential MWL members have been in alternative careers (non-traditional, non-practice) for many years. The goals in forming an Alternative Legal Careers Affinity Group is to 1) promote the many career options available to newer and more senior attorneys who choose not to practice but are still law school graduates; 2) provide professional development opportunities not related to practice but to the broad range of skills and experiences represented by the many alternative career attorneys in MWL, as well as potential members; 3) create an opportunity to exchange ideas, perspectives, and career options with each other; 4) validate alternative careers as viable, intentional, and important ways in which an attorney can use her law degree, rather than a secondary, less-preferred option to practicing law; and 5) provide networking opportunities for alternative career attorneys to get to know new people, connect with existing contacts, and learn about the various ways we are all using our legal education. Gatherings will be held on a quarterly basis, alternating between happy hour gatherings, lunch informal gatherings, and lunch programming.


Book Club

Karen Bohaty, Attorney at Law
Amy Krupinski, Collins, Buckley, Suntry & Haugh PLLP

The MWL Book Club offers a casual and fun opportunity to meet other MWL members and discuss a book of common interest to the group. Gatherings are held on the second Tuesday of every month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Salut Bar Americain in St. Paul. (The MWL Book Club is currently meeting remotely via Zoom.) The group enjoys dinner together (payment on your own) and then spends an hour discussing the book selection for the month. RSVP's are requested (via email to either co-chair) to get an accurate reservation count at the restaurant.  


Corporate Counsel

Gulzar Babaeva, Target Corporation
Poonam Kumar, DLA Piper LLP

Karen Opp, Korn Ferry

Geared towards attorneys in an in-house or corporate counsel setting, the goal of the MWL Corporate Counsel Affinity Group is to provide an opportunity for its members to meet, support and network with one another, as well as to discuss issues of common interest. Gatherings will be held at least quarterly throughout the metro, and will feature focused discussions led by a speaker, and more casual opportunities to connect with one another.

Knitting Group

Shannon Harmon, Hennepin County Attorneys Office

The MWL Knitting Affinity Group seeks to recognize and foster the creative talents and interests of MWL members by providing an informal venue for MWL members to gather together and engage in knitting or other creative endeavors, regardless of skill level. The group meets on the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. at rotating locations throughout the Twin Cities and metro. Special group activities may include knitting items for donation and knitting tutorials for members interested in learning basic knitting skills. Otherwise, we just get together and create!  All creative interests are welcome!  


Legal Athletes

Autumn Gear, Barnes & Thornburg
Holley Horrell, Greene Espel

The MWL Legal Athletes Affinity Group is a fun and informal way to meet fellow MWL members while breaking a sweat! Our goal is to create a supportive space for active women and promote a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Depending on the season, our events will range from group yoga, spin, zumba, walking, running, rollerblading, golf, racquet sports, and pretty much any other activity where we can get our heart rates up and enjoy some fitness and fun! We anticipate that formal group gatherings will be held quarterly (and may be subject to a small fee, depending on our planned activity and head count), with the option for more informal subgroup meetings weekly for members with access to Lifetime Fitness (or other gym's based on interest), and members with niche fitness interests. Attendance for group events must be confirmed ahead of time for reservations and planning.

Legal Wine Lovers


Jan Ballman, Paradigm / Veritext
Nikki Keirnes, Keirnes Law Firm, PLLC


The MWL Legal Wine Lovers consists of members who enjoy tasting and learning more about wine and wine-related topics. Our goals are to increase our wine knowledge, provide educational opportunities by inviting guest speakers who industry experts or leaders, meeting new members using a common interest as the draw, networking, and FUN! Suggested topics include "Know Your Whites,” "Know Your Reds,” how to order from a sophisticated wine list, throwing a wine tasting, "impressive yet affordable wines,” and Must-See stops when planning a trip to wine country. Gatherings will be held seasonally/quarterly.

Master Lawyers

Barbara Klas, Casepoint
Heidi Fessler, Innova Law Group, PLLC
Julia Velasquez, Minnesota Title Insurance Services


Geared towards MWL's more experienced members (Admitted to the bar at least 10+ years or 35+ years old), the goal of the MWL Master Lawyers Affinity Group is to provide an opportunity for more senior members to meet, support and network with one another, and discuss experiences shared by women who have attained leadership positions within the legal profession. Meetings are typically held on the third Wednesday of every month. 

Professional Parents

Alona Rindal, U.S. Bank

The MWL Professional Parents Affinity Group hosts monthly luncheons and events, which provide a relaxed environment for MWL's working parents to meet with one another, network, and share their experiences, challenges and successes, as it relates to their families and their professional careers. Based on member input, upcoming gatherings will feature both focused discussions led by a speaker, as well as more casual opportunities to meet and network with one another. The group plans to meet on the 2nd Thursday of every other month at noon in the MWL offices. (The MWL Professional Parents Affinity Group is currently meeting remotely via Zoom.) Please refer to the MWL Calendar of Events for more information. All members are welcome to join and get involved.


Public Sector Lawyers


Anne Sexton, University of Minnesota Law School 

Shana Tomenes, Hennepin County Public Defender's Office  


The goal of the MWL Public Sector Affinity Group is to create opportunities for MWL members who work for governmental entities to build their networks and learn about other state and federal entities. Networking not only creates a sense of community but may also help members understand how different governmental agencies and entities function, facilitating their own jobs and building their understanding of how governmental entities are interrelated. The MWL Public Sector Affinity Group plans to meet every other month, usually in St. Paul, but sometimes in Minneapolis. Most events will be social but with occasional topic-focused meetings if interest exists.

RISE: New Lawyers

Maria Brekke, Bassford Remele
Molly Hough, Bassford Remele

RISE: New Lawyers Affinity Group is aimed at being an authentic and vibrant group of MWL members who support and connect with one another in their first through fifth years beyond law school. Goals include: 1) Promoting further satisfaction for women in the practice of law; 2) providing individual professional development opportunities; 3) sharing of resources and the exchange of ideas; 4) emphasizing networking, connection, and the power of community and relationship building; and 5) encourage a spacing for new lawyers to connect with each other and have fun while doing it. Gatherings will be held on at least a quarterly basis. All MWL members are welcome to participate.



Solo and Small Firm Practitioner Group


Mary Szondy, Attorney at Law
Theresa Johnson, Theresa Johnson Law

Join other MWL members who are solo and small firm practitioners to discuss issues of common interest. Meetings are held on the first Friday of each month (second Friday on holiday weekends) from 9:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. at 8120 Penn Avenue South, 1st floor conference room in Bloomington. (The MWL Solo/Small Firm Affinity Group is currently meeting remotely via Zoom.)



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Minnesota Women Lawyers
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