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Dawn Van Alstine
Dawn Van Alstine

2021 Unsung Legal Heroes: Dawn Van Alstine

In her 33 years working as a legal administrative assistant at two different Twin Cities law firms, Dawn Van Alstine said she has felt like a hero at times, but never an unsung one. Van Alstine said she has been fortunate to work with attorneys who have been comfortable giving her important responsibilities that challenge her professionally, and then making sure she realizes what an important part of the team she is.

Van Alstine, 53, has spent most of her career assisting business litigation attorneys, starting in 1988 at Winthrop & Weinstein P.A., and moving to her current position at Robins Kaplan LLP in 2000.

After growing up in Cottage Grove, Van Alstine started training to become a paralegal, but couldn’t complete those studies due to financial reasons. “I had enough schooling to become a legal secretary. Now, I don’t think I’d want to be a paralegal,” she said. “I have more direct contact with my attorneys, and I work for attorneys who still let me do some paralegal work.”

One of those lawyers is Anne Lockner, a business litigation attorney at Robins Kaplan who said she would struggle to get through her days without Van Alstine’s assistance. The two have worked together for 21 years. Lockner said Van Alstine’s attention to detail is unparalleled. Documents don’t go out until Dawn has had a chance to review them.

“I’ll probably have to retire when Dawn does because she makes everything so much easier and makes me look better than I deserve,” Lockner said. “Beyond her attention to detail and the fact that she lets nothing fall through the cracks, it’s the caring she shows for our clients that is truly remarkable. She does not treat her job as just a job, but as a career of ensuring that I and the other attorneys she supports can serve our clients to the best extent possible.”

True to Lockner’s prediction, Van Alstine plays down her contributions. She is grateful for the confidence her colleagues have in her, but she said she can sometimes feel overwhelmed by their gratitude. It’s just part of her job, she surmised, adding, “I’d rather be a rainbow in the dark.”

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