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Influential in Michael Reif’s decision to go to law school was his year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps on an Indian reservation in Montana. (File photo: Bill Klotz)

Breaking the Ice: Varied practice yields an exciting caseload

 Name: Michael Reif

Title: Principal, Robins Kaplan

Education: B.A., history, Boston College; J.D., University of Minnesota Law School

Michael Reif, principal at Robins Kaplan, loves digging into varied practice areas.

That explains why his caseload includes financial fraud, privacy and cybersecurity and American Indian law and policy.

It’s something Minneapolis-based Robins Kaplan, which as a national presence, encourages, Reif said.

“It’s been a series of steep learning curves, but it’s something that my firm has done a fair amount of in our history,” Reif said. “It’s been pretty organic but it’s part of what’s made every day so interesting.”

Influential in Reif’s decision to go to law school was his year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps on an Indian reservation in Montana.

“While boots-on-the-ground service work is essential there are bigger systemic issues that you can hopefully start tackling through the law, through government,” Reif said.

Reif, named a 2013 Attorney of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer for his work with Robins Kaplan team that obtained a $2.7 billion arbitration award for Kraft Foods Group, also was an Up & Coming Attorney in 2015.

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

A. I’ve got young kids, so people talking about their kids is always good. I love food and hearing about what people are cooking, new recipes they’ve found and new restaurants they’re enjoying.

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

A. In high school I had some great U.S. history teachers. I was always interested in politics and government. That’s probably what first piqued my interest in the law. Then that was borne out through my service experiences where I saw the great value in people doing day-to-day service work but also was thinking what can I do on a more systemic level.

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

A. I’m in the middle of “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi and just finished “Twisted Prey” by John Sandford.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. A lack of awareness of other people.

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

A. Working with talented, experienced lawyers, learning new things from them and being faced with new and novel issues in the law and different kinds of cases and working with people at my firm and with clients to come up with new and interesting ways to solve problems for them.

Q. Least favorite?

A. Obstruction for obstruction’s sake, especially during discovery.

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

A. It starts with family time. I love reading with my kids, I love hanging out with them. If I can carve an hour or two out, I enjoy playing hockey in the winter and softball with my law school buddies in the summer.

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

A. I’m a St. Paul guy born and raised and I love showing it off. I usually take people down Summit Avenue, show them the houses and universities and the Cathedral. Grab a burger at the Nook and then do drinks or late dinner at the Lexington.

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

A. I was lucky enough to clerk for U.S. District Judge David Doty in Minneapolis. I find myself continually coming back to what I learned from him in the way that he carries himself, just a class act, the way that he treats other lawyers.

Q. What if any is your favorite depiction of the law, the legal professional in popular culture (books, films, TV)?

A. I think of Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison in “JFK,” who plays the D.A. I love history, the Kennedy assassination, the Cold War, all the intrigue there. The idea of the D.A. who has this feeling that something’s not right and is going against the government, there’s some conspiracies floating around and he’s trying to find out what really happened is a great depiction of what a lot of us want to do in the law.

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