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2020 MWL Conference for Women in the Law: Program Agenda



CANCELLED: Minnesota Women Lawyers’  leadership has been closely monitoring the evolving COVID-19 circumstances over these last weeks and has made the decision to cancel the 2020 MWL Conference for Women in the Law, along with MWL's 48th Annual Meeting, both scheduled for April 24th, 2020

Please review MWL's full announcement related to this cancellation, as well as all other measures related to the current COVID-19 pandemic.




2020 MWL Conference Program Agenda


MWL is pleased to announce its 2020 MWL Conference for Women in the Law program agenda.  CLE credit has been approved for each session, as designated below.  


View the 2020 MWL Conference "Agenda-at-a-Glance." 

Friday, April 24, 2020

7:30 a.m. Registration Opens; Continental Breakfast and Networking; Welcome and Brief Remarks at 8:00 a.m.

  Serving the Justice Gap
( 1.0 Standard CLE credit will be applied for. CLE event code #297166.)

The “justice gap” is an expression that refers to the unmet need for legal services among moderate and low-income individuals.  About half of low-income people who are eligible for free legal assistance are turned away because legal services nonprofits simply lack the funding and personnel to be able to help them. Many moderate-income people who do not qualify for free legal assistance must either hire a lawyer or try to handle their legal problems without one. 


With "access to justice" as one of MWL's core community focus areas, this breakout session will focus on how attorneys can structure their law practices to provide affordable legal services to clients who typically would fall within the justice gap, and still have the firm thrive financially.  Each of the panelists will share their strategies for building a successful practice, and provide tools for practitioners interested in providing greater service to low to moderate income clients.


     Karin Ciano, Attorney/Owner, Karin Ciano Law PLLC (moderator)
     Emily Cooper, Attorney/Owner, Cooper Law, LLC
     Chris Courtney, Attorney/Owner, Courtney Law Office, PLLC (moderator)
     Kathleen Gomez, Attorney/Owner, Kathleen Gomez Law PLLC
     Taylor Kaspar, Attorney/Owner, Taylor Kapsar Law, PLLC
     Jenna Westby, Attorney/Owner, LEGALnudge

  Bend But Don't Break: Flexible Work Arrangements and Their Challenges and Opportunities 
( 1.0 Elimination of Bias credit will be applied for. CLE event code #297166 .)
In order to be inclusive and foster the culture needed to maintain broad diversity in the workplace, organizations and the legal profession at large must make flexible work arrangements a viable and practical option for their attorneys.  Doing so can be a "win-win" opportunity to foster greater attorney engagement and retention. However, support is needed to ensure that attorneys "bend, but don’t break." This panel will provide some foundational background on flexible policies, as well as share perspectives from both the managers or supervisors who are creating and facilitating the policies, to attorneys who are making use of the arrangements.  Presenters will offer specific strategies for advocating for the creation and use of flexible arrangements, navigating potential challenges, spotting and eliminating implicit bias, and balancing some of the negative trade-offs that may occur. Finally, the presentation will address the positive role that flexible work arrangements can play to support wellness, and the impact that has for both attorneys and employers.
        Cody Blades, Associate, Greenberg Traurig
      Joan Bibelhausen, Executive Director, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers
      Kendra Brodin, Chief Attorney Development Officer, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
      Veena Iyer, Executive Director, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
      Betsy D.S. Parker, Partner, Dorsey & Whitney LLP
      Libby Stennes, Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig (moderator)

  The Business Case for Empathy
(1.0 Standard CLE credit will be applied for. CLE event code #297166 .)

Research has demonstrated that empathy is an important quality for success in business, particularly for lawyers in making meaningful connections with clients, co-workers, professional contacts, judges, jurors and in other personal relationships. Although this ability to identify and readily understand other people's emotions and feelings is an inherent trait for some individuals, it can also be developed for those to whom it does not come as naturally.  This presentation will make the business case for empathy, using both research and data to highlight the important role that this quality plays for all lawyers in their practice.   Research shows that the use of empathy in practice and in professional relationships results in a measurable increase in productivity and positive business outcomes.  Seminar participants will gain a clear understanding of the science of empathy and learn techniques for enhancing their own empathetic skills.

        Aaron Fahrenkrog, Partner, Robins Kaplan LLP
      Teresa Fariss McClain, Partner, Robins Kaplan LLP
9:45 a.m.
(1.0 Elimination of Bias CLE credit will be applied for. CLE event code #297166 .)
Remarks by Leila Hock, Director of Legal Department Partnerships & Inclusion Initiatives, Diversity Lab
  Director of Legal Department Partnerships & Inclusion Initiatives at Diversity Lab, Leila works with employers across the country on innovative ideas and solutions that boost diversity and inclusion in law. Experimental ideas are created through their Hackathons and piloted in collaboration with more than 50 top law firms and legal departments across the country. Through its work, Diversity Lab leverages data, behavioral science, design thinking and technology to further develop the ideas, measure the results, and share the lessons learned, to the benefit of the greater legal community. MWL is so honored to have Leila j oin us .
Leveraging Diversity: Thriving as the "Only" 
( 1.0 Elimination of Bias CLE credit will be applied  for. CLE event code #297166.)

Being the "only" in a room is an experience that many women attorneys can relate to. The only woman, the only person of color, the only new-Minnesotan, and more.  Join us for a candid conversation with a panel of women attorneys who often find themselves in these "only" spaces, from areas of law to areas of our state.  The panelists will discuss how to not only survive, but how to thrive in these often-challenging environments.  Panelists will share their personal experiences, provide concrete ideas for using one’s “only-status” to their advantage, and engage in a larger conversation about steps to bring greater diversity to all corners of the legal profession.

       Dionne Blake, Senior and Assistant General Counsel, Target Corporation
     Shannon Harmon, Attorney, IRS Office of Chief Counsel
     Jumi Kassim, Patent Attorney, Patterson Thuente IP
     Jessie Sogge, Associate, Quinlivan & Hughes
     Stacey Deery Stennes, Attorney, Conlin Law

Practice & Progress: Diversity and Inclusion in the Minnesota Legal Community
( 1.0 Elimination of Bias CLE credit will be applied for. CLE event code #297166 .)

In recent years many legal employers in the Twin Cities have made significant efforts to increase diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace. While these efforts have been well-intentioned, legal employers are varied in what initiatives they have used, what accountability there has been; what successes have been achieved; and what new policies or practices are now in place. This panel discussion will be led by attorneys with broad experience in D&I initiatives from across the legal community. In considering current trends and practices related to D&I, the panelists will discuss both successes and challenges in the Minnesota legal market, and offer guidance on best practices for legal employers of all sizes.

        Aleida Connors, Senior Associate, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
      Leila Hock, Director, Legal Department Partnerships & Inclusion Initiatives, Diversity Lab
      Ann Jenrette-Thomas, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Stinson LLP
      Mara Garcia Kaplan, VP and Senior Counsel, Wells Fargo
      Lisa Lodin Peralta, Owner, Peralta Appellate Law PLLC

  Understanding "The Four Tendencies" and How They Can Make You a Better Attorney 
(1.0 Standard CLE credit will be applied for. CLE event code #297166.)

Do you want to scream when clients or colleagues are vague about expectations or deadlines? Do you work best when you have “accountability partners” or are you rolling your eyes just reading that phrase? Or maybe you can’t stand it when someone sets a project deadline that seems arbitrary? Why is it so hard for some lawyers to make themselves accomplish items on their to-do lists while their office neighbors make it seem effortless? And, importantly, how do we all work together and motivate each other more effectively (and, hopefully, without quite so much frustration)?


The “Four Tendencies” is a framework developed by five-time New York Times bestselling authorpodcaster, and  speaker Gretchen Rubin that explains the different ways people respond to expectations. As attorneys, we are often thrust into working with colleagues and clients who have different working styles, including how they respond to expectations such as deadlines and obligations. The Four Tendencies Workshop teaches participants to understand the differences among the four types—Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels— in their responses to expectations, as well as to engage in scenarios and discussions to practice applying that knowledge. The Four Tendencies can be used improve participants’ relationships with clients, coworkers, and stakeholders to work toward a smooth and harmonious working relationship to achieve common goals.


By the end of this workshop, participants will be better able to:

• Identify the Four Tendencies and their patterns, strengths, and weaknesses;

• Identify the Tendency of someone she has frequent contact with (i.e., colleague, client, or mentee);

• Predict potential for conflict among the Tendencies and take steps to avoid it;

• Persuade or encourage someone effectively according to his or her Tendency; and

• Recognize that people have different perspectives, and that different methods work for different people.

         Ellen M. Ahrens, Partner, MADEL PA
       Jennifer ("Jenny") M. Robbins, Managing Partner, MADEL PA
12:00 p.m. MWL's 48th Annual Meeting and 2020 Annual Awards Presentation

1:15 p.m. Networking & Dessert Reception


Making an Impact from the Top
(1.0 Standard CLE credit will be applied for. CLE event code #297166 .)
Leading by example, Minnesota is home to many women attorneys who are in positions at the highest levels of their corporations.  During this engaging and insightful conversation, MWL is honored to welcome corporate leaders who will highlight the path to their current positions and what lessons they learned along the way.  Panelists will describe what experiences provided the greatest challenges and greatest opportunities (and how sometimes, those experiences were one in the same.)  By bringing their own unique voice and perspective to their leadership positions, we'll also learn how these attorneys not only impacted their own career path, but also influenced corporate culture to more broadly advance an inclusive environment.  Finally, our panelists will identify skills that are particularly valuable in a corporate setting and offer their best ideas and strategies for gaining leadership experience.
         Neera Chatterjee, Senior Vice President and Senior Managing Counsel, Wells Fargo
         Yen Florczak, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel, 3M
         Malini Moorthy, Vice President and Chief Deputy General Counsel, Medtronic
Advancing Pay Equity for Women Attorneys: Navigating the Caregiver Penalty 
( 1.0 Elimination of Bias CLE credit will be applied for. CLE event code #297166 .)

Over many decades, women have made great strides towards equal pay in the workplace; yet the gender pay gap still exists to a striking degree. Of particular note, recent research addresses the impact that employees experience when taking time off to have and care for children, or to care for sick or elderly relatives.This is known as the Caregiver Penalty. Compounding over time, the Caregiver Penalty can add up to a 20% pay gap, with an overwhelming majority of women versus men experiencing this negative result.


Research also indicates that in many cases, attorneys face the Caregiver Penalty more than in other professions, given longstanding expectations regarding working and billable hours, how credit may be allocated, the way cases are assigned, the stigma attached to taking time off or needing a flexible schedule, and other related work culture issues.In this seminar, panelists will present research, best practices and success stories related to addressing and abating the Caregiver Penalty.Panelists will include representatives from law firms and corporate legal departments with innovative policies that work to directly mitigate the effect of the Caregiver Penalty.Attendees will be provided with ideas and tools for consideration at their own firm or legal department. 

NOTE: This seminar has been coordinated by the MWL Pay Equity Initiative Sub-Committee, a group focused on research, resources and best practices related to advancing pay equity for women attorneys.As MWL continues to address this critical topic, future seminars will address additional topics related to pay equity.  For more information about the Sub-Committee's work, as well as opportunities to get involved, contact Katie at

         Sarah Fisher-Otten, Attorney and Owner, Fisher Law Firm PLLC

       Deb Fitzpatrick, Co-Director of the Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Policy, University of 

       Minnesota (moderator)

         Jenny Gassman-Pines, Partner, Greene Espel
         Autumn Huiras, Senior Counsel, General Mills
         Chandra Kilgriff, Chief Talent and Diversity Officer, Robins Kaplan LLP
         Sonia Miller-Van Oort, President, Sapientia Law Group
  Influence Strategies- What Every Leader Needs to Know!
(1.0  Standard CLE credit will be applied for. CLE event code #297166 .)
  Today’s leader is often in a position of influence, rather than power, whether they realize it or not. The ability to affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking will be their most critical key to leadership success no matter what their role in the organization. Topics will include:

• Barriers that may impede the ability to influence others – including your boss!
• Dynamics of “power differentials” and how to tip them in your favor!
• How to partner with high-powered people without giving your own power away!
• Identifying your own persuasive abilities and conflict style so you can use them to your advantage!

Geared towards both experienced and emerging leaders, this seminar will allow participants to develop self-awareness and influence skills for leading, so others will follow.
        Regina Barr,CEO & Founder, Red Ladder, Inc.
3:00 p.m.
(2.0 Elimination of Bias CLE credit will be applied for. CLE event code #297166.)
  Workshop Facilitator: Ellie Krug, Human Inspiration Works, LLC
Ellie Krug is the founder and president of Human Inspiration Works LLC, where she has presented her human inclusivity training, "Gray Area Thinking©" across North America. Ellie’s training is about providing an easy-to-understand toolset on how to be more welcoming of anyone who is “other” in our society. We’ve all heard the phrase, “diversity and inclusion”, but what does it actually mean to make a workplace or organization or even our personal lives more diverse and inclusive? Even more, how can we make the legal profession more inclusive? Ellie has presented on diversity and inclusion to governmental entities, Fortune 100 companies, law firms, nonprofits, and colleges/universities on nearly 800 occasions. After transitioning from male to female in 2009, Ellie is one of the few attorneys nationally who has tried jury cases in separate genders.

5:00 p.m. Closing Remarks by MWL President Amy Taber
  Closing Reception


Minnesota Women Lawyers
600 Nicollet Mall, Suite 390B
Minneapolis, MN 55402

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