It was a big year for big cases in Minnesota, and some of the attorneys behind those big cases are among those being honored by Minnesota Lawyer with its 10th annual “Attorneys of the Year” award.
The award is reserved for a select group of attorneys who distinguished themselves in 2008 with their exemplary work. The criteria for selection include leadership in the profession; involvement in major cases or other newsworthy events; excellence in corporate or transactional services; and public service.
This year’s awards are a bit unusual in that five attorneys are being honored separately for their work on the same case: The tragic railroad grade crossing case against Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Co. After a six-week trial, the jury in the case awarded $6 million each to the families of four young people killed in a collision with a train.
The attorneys being honored for their work on the case are:
Also being honored this year for their achievements are:
• Robert Bennett of Flynn Gaskins Bennett for helping obtain an $8 million settlement from the Minneapolis Golf Club following the fatal injuries suffered in the club’s pool by Abigail Taylor;
• Robert Bauer of Severson, Sheldon, Dougherty & Molenda for helping obtain a judgment of more than $22 million for 133 Minnesota victims of a real estate investment scam;
• Jan Conlin of Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi for obtaining a defense verdict in a $100 million international arbitration breach-of-trademark proceeding;
• Michael Ford of Quinliven & Hughes for his leadership of the Minnesota State Bar Association;
• Luz Maria Frias, Director of External Affairs in the St. Paul Mayor's Office, for her work on behalf of the city during the Republican National Convention and her leadership of Minnesota Women Lawyers;
• David Gross of Faegre & Benson for his work in a patent suit;
• Michelle Jester of Messerli & Kramer for closing more than $176 million in sales, acquisition and lending transactions over the past year-plus;
• Teresa Johnson of MoneyGram International for leading several complex deals, including MoneyGram’s $1.4 billion recapitalization effort last year;
• Vince Louwagie of Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie P.A. for winning a $1.6 million verdict for his client, an attorney who accused his former firm of fraudulently distributing fees deriving from a class-action settlement;
• Chris Messerly and Philip Sieff of Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi, for their role in creating a pro bono team of attorneys to represent victims of the I-35W bridge collapse;
• Kimberly Price of 3M for leading several complex commercial transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, ranging from $5 million to more than $1 billion;
• William Sieben of Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben and Justin Perl and Jonathan Parritz of Maslon, Edelman, Borman & Brand for their role in obtaining a $54 million settlement in class-action suit against Wal-Mart;
• Fred Soucie of Soucie & Bolt for receiving a number of multimillion verdicts in personal injury cases last year; and
• Brian Wenger of Briggs & Morgan for his work on behalf of corporate client PepsiAmerica, including a $750 million acquisition of a leading Ukrainian juice company.
Five honored for outstanding service
Minnesota Lawyer is also recognizing the work of four individuals and one legal group for their lengthy service to the state’s legal profession with the Outstanding Service to the Profession Award. The honorees have strengthened the state’s legal community through many years of efforts and exemplify what is best about the Minnesota legal community.
The 2008 recipients of the “Outstanding Service to the Profession” award are:
• Susan Holden of Sieben, Grose, Von Holtum & Carey for her years of work on behalf of the state bar, the courts, disaster victims, as well as her career as a litigator;
• Thomas Johnson of Gray Plant Mooty for his years of service in the public and private sector, including his nine-year leadership of the Counci
l for Crime and Justice and his involvement last year in the ongoing investigation of the I-35W bridge collapse;
• The Advocates for Human Rights (ably led by executive director Robin Phillips) for its years of programs to promote human rights and represent victims of human-rights abuses;
• Gov. Al Quie for his leadership in efforts to maintain an impartial court system in Minnesota; and
• Allen Saeks of Leonard, Street and Deinard for his longtime service to the local legal community and his years of distinguished work as a commercial litigator.
Nominations for Attorney of the Year were submitted by bar association representatives, judges, lawyers and other members of the legal community. Honorees were chosen by Minnesota Lawyer’s editorial staff.