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Arielle Wagner
Arielle Wagner

Breaking the Ice: Balancing class-action practice, affinity bar leadership

Name: Arielle Wagner

Title: Associate, Lockridge Grindal Nauen

Education: B.A. English and sociology, University of Minnesota; J.D., University of Minnesota Law School


Airelle Wagner balances her work as an associate at Lockridge Grindal Nauen with her service this year as president of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association (MAIBA).

In both roles, Wagner’s focus is on helping people.

Wagner’s legal practice primarily involves class-action litigation for plaintiffs in antitrust, data breach and tribal government issues. The consumers, small businesses and tribes she often represents wouldn’t be able to take action individually to seek to recover damages.

“It’s a small way to make a difference,” Wagner said.

Her class-action work now involves a number of cases related to steep generic drug price increases.

With MAIBA, one priority is raising the visibility of “the native law experience,” said Wagner, an enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in northern Minnesota. A recent survey of diversity in the profession, Wagner said, did not include American Indians.

“There aren’t many of us, so we often get overlooked,” Wagner said. “We’re just trying to get our experiences out there.”

Wagner, previously MAIBA’s vice president, joined soon after graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School. The nonprofit organization includes American Indian attorneys, law students and tribal court officers. Membership also includes attorneys and law students who aren’t enrolled in tribal nations but are interested in Indian law, Wagner said.

Another area of emphasis for MAIBA is social justice after the killing of George Floyd, Wagner said. MAIBA joined with other affinity bar organizations in the Twin Cities in issuing a joint declaration against “criminalization of Black and Brown victims.” That was a response to defense motions citing Floyd’s past crimes in seeking to have charges dismissed against four former Minneapolis police officers facing trial in Floyd’s death.


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

A: Come up and say hello.

Q: Why did you study law and pursue it as a career?

A: I grew up on a reservation (Bois Forte in Tower). I didn’t have much as a kid. I’m a first-generation college student. As an undergrad I took a couple of law-related classes and realized if I went to law school I could make a difference.

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

A: I read a lot — fantasy, classic novels, history, graphic novels. I’m working on “Circe” by Madeline Miller and a couple of native-related books. One is “Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive.”

Q: What’s a pet peeve of yours?

A: When people spell my name wrong when replying to my e-mail. It’s right there in the signature block.

Q: What do you like best about your work?

A: Every day is different in complex litigation. There’s always something new to learn or become an expert in.

Q: What do you least like about it?

A: The amount of time I spend on conference calls and Zoom calls even before the pandemic.

Q: What do you like doing away from work?

A: I’m a big reader. I love running and yoga and I like working on traditional beadwork or sewing projects.

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

A: I grew up in Tower, which is five blocks long so I guess I’d show them the whole town.

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

A: I’ve had so many great mentors at my firm and through MAIBA who have helped me, definitely too many to name.

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

A: One misconception is that you have to be loud and domineering to be a good litigator. I’ve found you can be a good advocate when you’re softer and have a quieter style.

Q: What’s your favorite depiction of the law or the legal profession in popular culture?

A: We recently re-watched “Legally Blonde” and that really holds up. Elle Woods is a good feminist role model.

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