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At Dorsey & Whitney, Jocelyn Knoll chairs the construction and design practice and is co-chair of the firm’s development and infrastructure industry group. (Submitted photo)
At Dorsey & Whitney, Jocelyn Knoll chairs the construction and design practice and is co-chair of the firm’s development and infrastructure industry group. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Competitive streak drives construction litigation

Name: Jocelyn Knoll

Title: Partner, Dorsey & Whitney

Education: B.S., University of New Hampshire; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Dorsey & Whitney partner Jocelyn Knoll says clients in many cases aren’t comfortable with the high stakes involved in complex construction litigation, where claims and counterclaims can top $100 million.

For Knoll, that’s part of the appeal.

Knoll, for example, represents the Denver Regional Transportation District in a $100 million-plus matter involving the country’s largest public-private partnership rail project, a $2 billion-plus venture.

Knoll brings to her work an “incredibly competitive” streak honed as a Division 1 cross-country ski racer at the University of New Hampshire after making All-State in the sport at Blaine Senior High School.

At Dorsey, Knoll chairs the construction and design practice and is co-chair of the firm’s development and infrastructure industry group.

She often gets calls from clients seeking advice particularly on projects.

“I find that part rewarding,” Knoll said. “I’m a frustrated glorified project manager in some cases.”

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

A: Ask an open question. Listen to the answer—with your eyes and ears. Keep it positive.

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

A: I like to get paid to learn something new every day. The legal profession fulfills that requirement. I am first lawyer in my family. My younger sister is also a lawyer but graduated after I did. So far my sons haven’t indicated any interest in going into the law. I wanted to go to law school or med school. I started out more geared toward the medical field but realized I don’t really like blood, so that would be a problem.

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

A: “The Presidents,” a new book from C-Span, “Leadership: In Turbulent Times” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and “The Restless Wave” by John McCain.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: People who believe everything they read/hear; people who do not believe anything they read/hear.

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

A: Winning. It goes back to my life as a competitive athlete. When you win the endorphins are good. It’s always nice to call the client if they’re not there with you when you get the result and let them know what the result is.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Losing.

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

A: I like to spend time at my cabin in northern Minnesota, where I bike, hike, swim, kayak, ski and spend time with my family.

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

A: I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I would take my guest to the Manitoba Museum or the Manitoba Historical Society. Then I would take them to the small plaque that briefly describes how my father’s family, specifically, Monsignor Joseph-Noel Ritchot, helped to settle Manitoba. Monsignor Ritchot is commemorated by Rue Ritchot in Winnipeg, by a commemorative plaque on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building and by the rural municipality of Ritchot. After we finished our historical tour, we would stop by the best brewery in Winnipeg, the Barn Hammer Brewing Company, to sample some homemade Canadian brew.

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

A: [Retired Hennepin County] Judge Rick Solum. Rick is smart, pragmatic and kind. I was fortunate as a baby lawyer to appear in front of Rick when he was on the bench; many years later, I had the privilege to call Rick my partner at Dorsey & Whitney. If we had to build a model for a lawyer and a judge that we should all emulate for me that would be Rick Solum.

Q: What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A: Winning a case is mostly about legal technicalities. It’s not. Most of the time winning a case is about achieving justice.

Q: What is your favorite depiction of the legal professional in popular culture?

A: Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” of course.

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