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No place for business casual in Kristin Rowell’s wardrobe

(Submitted image)

(Submitted image)

Kristin Rowell takes pride in presenting herself in a professional manner at work. “I take my appearance seriously,” she says.

Business casual? She never got the memo. “Lawyers who do what I do have never gone business casual,” she asserts. That’s certainly true at Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie, the Minneapolis-based litigation boutique law firm that she’s worked at for most of her 14-year law career.

Rowell takes her job seriously – more so than she does herself. She laughs easily, and makes a first-time visitor to her 36th floor office at Wells Fargo Place in downtown Minneapolis feel readily at home. She even complains, jokingly of course, about the fact that the neighboring 56-story City Center (also known as 33 South Sixth Street) skyscraper obscures her view of Target Field. Were it not for the skulking City Center tower, she would have an unobstructed view of the baseball field.

She approaches the challenge of maintaining a professional appearance holistically, combining a keen fashion sense with a rigorous physical fitness regimen.

“I’m up and exercising at 5:30 a.m., either running around the lakes or at one of my gyms working out,” she says.  She’ll also squeeze in mid-day or p.m. workouts when she can find the time.

“Litigation is all we do as a firm,” she explains. “The kind of endurance required for the level of work we perform is special. I think you need to be physically and mentally fit to do this kind of work.”

The lakes come in twos for most of her runs, Harriet and Calhoun, both near her home in southwest Minneapolis. “It’s a nice, seven mile run from my house around those two lakes,” she says.

She looks forward to running in her 21st marathon this year. Her marathon career almost ended a few years back, after she slipped on an icy patch of pavement in front of the Williston (N.D.) airport and fractured her tibia and fibula in 10 places. The broken bones were surgically screwed back together – she kept the actual screws as souvenirs when they were removed from her leg a year later.  But she put herself on a hyper-fast regimen for recovery, and ran her PR in the Twin Cities Marathon only 10 months after the metal was removed from her leg.

Rowell’s experience with marathons took a dark turn when she competed in the 2013 Boston Marathon. She raced across the finish line about an hour in advance of when the brothers Tsarnaev detonated a pair of homemade bombs, killing three people and severely injuring scores of others. Rowell was talking with a group of friends at a restaurant near the finish when the bombs went off. “I was never in danger myself,” she recalls. But her parents, in town to see her run, were lodged in a hotel room overlooking the finish line, just kitty-corner from where a bomb detonated. They were in their room when the explosions took place. Police quickly herded all of the guests out of the hotel to a nearby safe zone. An hour passed before Rowell and her parents finally connected several blocks away.

“I didn’t know what had happened to them until an hour later, when they found me at the restaurant,” she says. “Thankfully, I had told them where to meet me after the race because none of us could get through to anyone on our cell phones.”

An Eastern fashion awakening

Her fashion sense emerged from her time as an undergraduate student at Boston College. A fellow student, East Coast-bred and -styled from birth, befriended her and schooled her on the rules of fashion engagement. “I still can’t believe it,” she says. Here she was, fresh from the Midwest, dressed “in like, bib overalls, practically.”

The big-city-bedazzled Minnesota girl could have taught those East Coast sophisticates a thing or two about living well in the outdoors. From an early age, Rowell learned to hunt and fish by right of her “up North” upbringing in Grand Rapids, Minn. “I am the oldest of three girls,” she explains.

Duck-hunting remains one of her passions. She goes north every fall to hunt duck near Orr, Minn., where her family owns a hunting cabin on Pelican Lake.

But if Boston opened her eyes to fashion, she honed her style back in Minnesota. She returned to the homeland to earn her law degree at the University of Minnesota. Her reasoning had less to do with voguish outfits and attitudes than solid career planning. “A mentor told me during college that it’s a good idea to go to law school in the state where you will be practicing,” she says. Developing relationships, the opportunity to learn the law from a local’s perspective – and the fact that Minnesota’s law school was ranked higher on most national scales than that of Boston College at the time – informed her graduate-level thinking.

Anthony Ostlund hired her as a law clerk in 2002 and then out of law school in 2003, where she’s worked ever since – save for a brief interlude at a different firm. She practices litigation in the areas of real estate, shareholder disputes, contract, and employment. The firm employs approximately 50 people, 22 of whom are attorneys. “One of my favorite things about my career is learning about my clients’ businesses and crafting a litigation strategy that keeps the business strategy front and center,” she says.

As to her choice of a law firm, she says, “I just love it here. Practicing law can be a lot of work. You have to like the people you work with, and I do.”

One thing she never wavered on was her decision to make law a career. “I think I realized that I wanted to be a lawyer in middle school,” she says. Debate classes cinched her choice. It might as well be said that law was always in the cards for Rowell. “My kindergarten report card said, ‘Tends to be bossy’ and my first-grade report card said, ‘Talks too much,’” she relates.  She’s worked hard to practice the art of listening and believes she’s become quite good at it.

Her dad and sister are both dentists practicing in Grand Rapids.

“Everybody thought that I would go into the family business, dentistry,” she says. “My great-grandpa was a dentist, my dad is a dentist, and my sister is a dentist.  We’ve even had a Rowell Family Scholarship at the University of Minnesota Dental School.”

It’s a good business to be in, but the thought of spending her working years staring into people’s mouths held no appeal for her. It’s probably all for the best, given her propensity for debate.

But enough about that.

What the Twin Cities needs is a good women’s suit store!

If not a lawyer, Rowell says she’d love to be a nutritionist or perhaps the founder and owner of a suit store for women – there’s a need for that kind of outlet in the Twin Cities, especially since most women’s suiting stores have vacated downtown Minneapolis. She’s thought about it. Such a shop might work in, say, the 50th and France shopping district in Edina or in the Galleria. That could happen, sometime in the future. Her fashion friends would surely support her. “There just isn’t a good store focused exclusively on women’s suits anywhere in this town right now,” she says.

Then again, there’s that law career that she happens to love.

She travels a lot, both for work and pleasure. She caught the travel bug backpacking through Europe after college. From a fashion standpoint, she likes New York and Boston, for stores such as Barneys New York and All Saints; Palm Beach for its Saks Fifth Avenue; Neiman Marcus wherever she can find one; and the Los Angeles branch of Intermix, an edgy boutique featuring a curated mix of the “most of the moment styles and must-haves of the season,” according to its website.

Rowell says she picks up fashion tips from her many friends in the industry, often over lunch or dinner at any number of Twin Cities restaurants – she’s a foodie and a “nutrition nerd” as well. “I love keeping up with the local restaurant scene,” Rowell says. Local favorites include Mill Valley Kitchen, Café Lurcat, Restaurant Alma, Spoon and Stable, Bar La Grassa and Wakame Sushi and Asian Bistro.  Her consistent number one favorite? Burch Steak & Pizza Bar.

Among her favorite places for local fashions, she favors Covered Uptown (a Minneapolis boutique), Club Monaco (at the Mall of America), Lulemon Athletica, Brooks Brothers, J. Crew and Nordstrom.

She varies her work-out routines between a handful of Minneapolis-area gyms and fitness clubs, including Lifetime Fitness, Discover Strength, Tiger Fit Studio by Tiger Athletics, and CorePower Yoga. “I have friends at each gym – and I take different classes at each gym,” she says.

A diehard Minnesota Vikings fan – “isn’t the new stadium just great?!” – Rowell can’t imagine living anywhere but Minneapolis. “To me, it is one of the most well-rounded cities,” she says. “People live healthy lives here, and they appreciate the arts, good food, sports and theater. People do complain about the weather, but it’s only a few months of the year that it’s really cold here, and then you have at least six months of heaven.”

Plus, living here in the winter gives her an excuse to travel.

About Doug Hovelson


  1. What an amazing woman!!! I would want her representation any day!

  2. An amazing, well-rounded, educated, kind, beautiful woman, whom I can call friend!
    They don’t come any better than Kristin! A real go-getter with a Philanthropic heart! Wonderful article!

  3. David Schlesinger

    I find this sentence troubling: “She approaches the challenge of maintaining a professional appearance holistically, combining a keen fashion sense with a rigorous physical fitness regimen.” The implication is that being physically fit is a requirement of maintaining a “professional appearance.” If such a standard exists, I certainly don’t think it falls equally on men and women in the practice of law. In fact, I can’t imagine that standard being applied to a male professional. This is not a criticism of Ms. Rowell. Rather, it strikes me as an unfortunate implication of that portion of the article.

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