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Connie Lahn
Connie Lahn

Breaking the Ice: Leading to improve profession for others

Name: Connie Lahn

Title: Managing partner, Barnes & Thornburg, Minneapolis office

Education: B.A., English, St. Cloud State University; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Connie Lahn, recently elected to her fourth two-year term as managing partner of Barnes & Thornburg’s Minneapolis office, pursues leadership roles because she didn’t see many women leaders earlier in her career.

Lahn also is secretary of Barnes & Thornburg’s management committee, which consists of managing partners of the firm’s 13 offices around the country. She is the firm’s only woman managing partner.

Leading the Minneapolis office, which has 33 attorneys, is an opportunity to say, “How can I make this profession better for the women that are coming up behind me, for the men, for everybody,” Lahn said.

Lahn also is president of the Barnes & Thornburg Racial and Social Justice Foundation, which launched in December. The foundation donated $50,000 to All Square, a Minneapolis nonprofit creating a program to enable incarcerated Minnesotans to earn paralegal and law degrees.

Lahn’s bankruptcy practice stems from her two-year clerkship with former Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Minnesota Dennis O’Brien.

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

A: Just smile and say hi. One way not to start a conversation with me is, “Do you have a minute?” Because “Do you have a minute?” always means bad stuff.

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

A: I always wanted to, since I can remember. That has been my ideal career because I always saw the law as the mechanism to make the world a better place.

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

A: “Solitary” by Albert Woodfox, given to me by [All Square CEO] Emily Hunt Turner. It’s about a gentleman who was in solitary confinement for four decades for a crime he did not commit, what kept him strong, his belief system and what’s wrong with the crime and punishment system in the United States.

Q: What’s a pet peeve of yours?

A: Dishonesty. We can get so much more done when people are open about what they want to do.

Q: What do you like best about your work?

A: Helping people solve particularly difficult problems. I like being in there with my clients saying there’s a lot of different options, let’s talk about how each of these impacts you and what the future looks like.

Q: What do you least like about it?

A: It’s a demanding profession that’s hard to get away from. I haven’t had a real chunk of time off since I had my son, and he’s 11. Even on vacation you’re not on vacation from it.

Q: What do you like to do away from work?

A: Going to the cabin with family. I love water sports, winter sports, and I’m a hockey mom.

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

A: I grew up in St. Cloud and would take them to Riverview Hall at St. Cloud State. It’s like an old English building and was built in the early 1900s. I spent a lot of time there with my English courses and great professors.

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

A: Dennis O’Brien. Working for him it was about what really is fair, what really is reasonable and what really is just and that there’s not always a right answer.

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

A: People think you must be a jerk if you’re an attorney. I hope I show people that you don’t have to be a jerk, that you can be a normal, ordinary, nice, kind person and still be an attorney.

Q: What’s a favorite book, movie or TV show about lawyers or the legal profession?

A: “The Trial” by Kafka. I hate watching TV shows about lawyers and movies about them. I find them very stressful.

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