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Joseph Bagnoli joined Winthrop & Weinstine in January. (Submitted photo)
Joseph Bagnoli joined Winthrop & Weinstine in January. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Lobbyist helps shape policy including school start

Name: Joseph Bagnoli

Title: Shareholder, Winthrop & Weinstine

Education: B.A., history, Bowdoin College; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Students and others who appreciate the school year beginning after the Minnesota State Fair ends may wish to thank Joseph Bagnoli, a shareholder and recent addition to Winthrop & Weinstine.

The veteran lobbyist persuaded lawmakers to start classes on the day after Labor Day — the day after the fair concludes its run.

“For a long time school was allowed to start Sept. 1,” Bagnoli said. “The State Fair didn’t like that and we changed that. For my client that was a big thing, but it also impacts all of Minnesota.”

The post-Labor Day school start came 17 years ago, Bagnoli said.

“What is interesting is the ability, acting on behalf of my clients, to impact public policy and in some small way help shape the policy of the state of Minnesota,” Bagnoli said. “It’s the closest thing to elected office without having to do campaigning, running for office.”

Bagnoli and government relations manager Andrea Rau, both with two decades of lobbying experience, joined Winthrop & Weinstine in January.

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

A: Ask me about my family. Ask me about the Minnesota Wild.

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

A: The law is the way that we organize society, and in as much as I am generally interested in that very broad topic, I was specifically interested in going to law school to understand how the laws interact in governing. I was more specifically interested in how I could potentially have a career that was around government and thought that going to law school would be helpful in that endeavor.

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

A: “Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World.” It’s about how because cod was the first food that was salted, stored, frozen, it allowed for medieval and beyond societies to travel the oceans, the Vikings, the Spanish Armada.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: Keeping my driveway clean of snow.

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

A: I like to help clients win at the Capitol. It generally feels good, because they have needed a change in law, they have needed to defeat something that that would hurt their business or their trade association, and it helps them be more successful.

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

A: Attending my kids’ sporting events.

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

A: I would take them for a walk along the Mississippi River because it defines the Twin Cities. I would likely take them to the state Capitol because after the St. Paul Cathedral it is the most magnificent building in the state.

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

A: [Former] Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Esther Tomljanovich. I clerked for her. She was one of the first female attorneys and then judges in the state. She never forgot where she was from and what she needed to do to get to where she was. And she has a great sense of humor.

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

A: The misconception, to the degree that it exists, is that there is a degree of illicitness or shadiness around what we do that involves payoffs and graft when what we primarily are is educators and advocates for the position of our clients. Minnesota is a very clean state and does not allow for any underhandedness.

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

A: “Gideon’s Trumpet,” about the right to a public defense, that everyone has a right to a lawyer. Then-Attorney General Walter Mondale played a significant part in successfully advocating for that.

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