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Sarah Duniway worked for a couple of years between college and law school as a grass-roots political organizer. While she enjoyed that work, she concluded she was better suited to being the attorney for nonprofit organizations rather than on the front line. (File photo: Bill Klotz)
Sarah Duniway worked for a couple of years between college and law school as a grass-roots political organizer. While she enjoyed that work, she concluded she was better suited to being the attorney for nonprofit organizations rather than on the front line. (File photo: Bill Klotz)

Breaking the Ice: Attorney focuses on firm’s management, nonprofits

Name: Sarah Duniway

Title: Principal, co-managing partner at Gray Plant Mooty

Education: B.A., mathematics, Carleton College; J.D., University of Minnesota Law School

 

Attorney Sarah Duniway is marking three years as co-managing partner at Gray Plant Mooty in Minneapolis, splitting time between firm management and her practice with nonprofit clients.

The firm’s other co-managing partner is principal Charlie Maier, who also serves as business and general litigation co-chair.

“We are as a firm a very collaborative place,” Duniway said. “It’s a natural model for us to use. I do predict it will become a more common model as more Gen Xers move into that leadership role.”

Duniway, whose entire legal career has been at Gray Plant Mooty, worked for a couple of years between college and law school as a grass-roots political organizer.

While she enjoyed that work, she concluded she was better suited to being the attorney for nonprofit organizations rather than on the front line.

“Nonprofit law at its core is tax law,” Duniway said. “I love the combination of being that super-wonky technical expert and then applying that knowledge to organizations that are doing really good and interesting things in the community.”

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. I really enjoy getting to know people. I often try to place them geographically: What neighborhood do they live in? That tells me a lot about a person. I love it when people ask where I live. I live in the Kingfield neighborhood in Minneapolis. I love it. A good topic to ask me about is my kids. I have young adult children: one in college, one who is a senior at Washburn High School.

Q. What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally?

A. It was on my map from a very young age because my beloved grandad was a lawyer then and a judge. To grow up around someone who so clearly loved what he did is inspirational.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. I’m a big reader. It’s one thing I do to not think about work. I am reading “Americanah” by a Nigerian-American author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’m also reading a whole bunch of books about Croatia and Slovenia because we’re planning a trip there this fall.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. I hate to drive and hate being stuck in traffic so I have constructed my life to avoid that. We’ve chosen to live in a neighborhood that’s close to downtown. It’s very transit-friendly so in the winter I take the bus and in the summer and the spring, and normally by now, I bike to work.

Q. What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A. I can’t believe I get paid to do this. I get to be intellectually stimulated and work on interesting, challenging technical questions and then I get to work with smart, interesting people who are doing good things in the world.

Q. Least favorite?

A. It is a big job. There’s a lot of great opportunity and a lot of great work. We work hard, and it’s hard to say no to things, which also means you end up working pretty long hours.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. I’m a big biker and runner. A big fan of food, so eating out, cooking, shopping at the farmers market. Spending time with family. I very much enjoy traveling, and I am a knitter.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. My hometown is Davis, California. One of the best things to do there is hop on a bike and explore all the great bike trails and beautiful countryside.

Q. Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most?

A. My granddad. Then I had the privilege of clerking with [the late Justice] Sandy Gardebring at the Minnesota Supreme Court. She was a terrific judge to work for. Her career is inspiring because she combined the love of the law and being a lawyer and being a very good technical lawyer with a public service and a public policy focus.

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