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2020 Attorneys of the Year

Minnesota Lawyer//February 18, 2021

2020 Attorneys of the Year

Minnesota Lawyer//February 18, 2021

Click on the image above to see the full magazine.
Click on the image above to see the full magazine.
The year that was, 2020. From a global pandemic’s death and fear to severe economic recession; the death of George Floyd in police custody, civic unrest and public outcries for racial justice; a polarized electorate, and a challenged electoral system.

In the midst of the tumultuous year, Minnesota Lawyer’s class of Attorneys of the Year for 2020 addressed these and other important issues. This year’s awards highlight work protecting Minnesotans during the pandemic, establishing precedent for peacetime emergency, maintaining the integrity of Minnesota elections, protecting vulnerable prison populations during a deadly pandemic, restoring a lake’s name to Bde Maka Ska, and much more.

Cases involving the legal implications surrounding patent infringement, complex estate plans, and even those of materials that travel through substrates in a case of a community’s polluted soil and groundwater were just some of the issues addressed by this year’s group of honorees.

One notable case among those being recognized addresses a shameful event in Minnesota history. In 1920, a Black man named Max Mason was wrongly convicted of raping a white woman. Despite a lack of evidence, other Black men were also accused, three of whom were subsequently lynched. Jerry Blackwell and Corey Gordon (both Circle of Excellence honorees featured on the cover) were among the leaders of a team who worked pro bono to find a way to clear Mason’s name. Their work resulted in the first posthumous pardon in the state’s history.

For Outstanding Service to the Profession in 2020, Minnesota Lawyer recognizes the work from one group — an elite team of court staff who made sure that Minnesota’s legal system would operate remotely. Also honored were Cindy K. Telstad, Streater & Murphy; Former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, Thomson Reuters; and Tom Nelson, former Minnesota State Bar Association president, Stinson. We also honor the work of two judges: Chief Judge Edward J. Cleary, Minnesota Court of Appeals, retired; and Justice David Lillehaug, Minnesota Supreme Court, retired, now at Fredrikson & Byron.

Congratulations to all of the 2020 Attorneys of the Year honorees.

 Joel Schettler, editor


In re: 20 Day Revocable Trust Trial circle-excellence

District of Minnesota Compassionate Release circle-excellence

Mayo Clinic and Fish & Richardson

Protecting Minnesotans in a Pandemic

Bde Maka Ska Name Restoration circle-excellence

Creating Peacetime Emergency Precedent circle-excellence

State COVID Legal Team, Executive Order Drafting Team

2020 Election circle-excellence

Two partners

Thomas Hagen and Steven Groschen

Andrew Irlbeck and Paul Applebaum

Jan Conlin and Mathew Korte circle-excellence

Jerry W. Blackwell and Corey L. Gordon circle-excellence

Thomas Boyd and Michael Rosow circle-excellence

Imran Ali and Karen Kugler circle-excellence

Kevin Sieben and Samuel Edmunds circle-excellence

Peter Gorman and Mary Rice

Paul Dworak and Jeff Storms circle-excellence

Gerald Laurie and Kelly Jeanetta

Larry J. Chiat and Alan S. Milavetz circle-excellence


Andrew Carlson, Taft

David Davenport, BC Davenport circle-excellence

Greg Merz, Lathrop GPM

Irene Kao, League of Minnesota Cities/The Infinity Project

Jill Brisbois, Brisbois Defense PLLC

Leita Walker, Ballard Spahr

Masha M. Yevzelman, Fredrikson & Byron

Michael Sacchet, Ciresi Conlin

Sybil Dunlop, Greene Espel

Outstanding Service to the Profession, group

Jeff Shorba, Dawn Torgerson, AnneMarie O’Neill and Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea

Outstanding Service to the Profession, individuals

Cindy Telstad, Streater & Murphy

Edward J. Cleary, Chief Judge, Minnesota Court of Appeals, retired

David Lillehaug, Fredrikson & Byron circle-excellence

Sharon Sayles Belton, Thomson Reuters

Tom Nelson, Minnesota State Bar Association circle-excellence

circle-excellence = Circle of Excellence Attorney of the Year

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