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Justin Markell
Justin Markell worked in renewable energy development for 10 years before moving to Winthrop & Weinstine. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Development experience informs ‘green team’

Name: Justin Markell

Title: Shareholder, Winthrop & Weinstine

Education: B.A., history, James Madison University; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Winthrop & Weinstine shareholder Justin Markell combines his development experience and legal expertise in helping to lead the firm’s growing renewable energy practice, which he helped launch four years ago.

The firm’s “green team” of six practitioners has accounted for 12% of tax-credit financing of commercial and industrial renewable energy projects nationally this year, Markell said.

“We still find it really rewarding and a testimony to how much our group has grown and how we can do a lot of great work from coast to coast,” Markell said.

Markell worked in renewable energy development for 10 years before moving to Winthrop & Weinstine. He previously worked in residential development in the northwest metro.

“I like to say my work in renewable energy is my penance for contributing to urban sprawl,” Markell said.

In addition to representing parties in project development, financing, construction and operation, Markell guides clients in work related to storing electricity in utility-scale batters installed near solar and wind projects to send to the grid as needed.

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: The best way might be to ask me how many kids I have today. My wife and I are licensed foster parents who currently have four children. Our biological daughter, Audrey, is 11. We adopted Clarence a year ago last week, after fostering him for two years. And since May, we have had in our house, two infant foster children. It’s been something that has been important to us. My wife really struck the passion for me in this space.

Q: Why did you go to law school?

A: I was working as a developer in renewable energy for 10 years before I came over here. That really reignited my passion for the legal side of renewable energy. I got my degree in the part-time program at William Mitchell, while working full time. The time was right, with the support of my wife, to be able to make it happen.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: Ultimately, what I like most is, that getting to yes. Helping people get deals done. It’s a lot of fun over the course of a deal to see that matchmaking work, to see the parties get over obstacles, and to be the one that’s kind of shepherding that.

Q: Least favorite?

A: As someone who came into private practice after starting a family, after coming from an existing career, the demands are sometimes tough to balance. I’m at a firm that does a great job in helping its attorneys and staff balance and find a fully integrated and fully balanced life. But private practice is challenging.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: I like to golf when I can. I enjoy our family here with now two more kids than we had a year ago. We recently purchased what my wife calls an urban oasis, a loft in the North Loop. My wife and I just like to decompress with some TV shows or movies or Netflix when we get the chance.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: I grew up in Minnetonka, so Lake Minnetonka probably is the main attraction when we have out-of-town guests or friends.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: As a student of history, I certainly have an appreciation for the legal foundation on which our country was created. James Madison, the namesake for my undergraduate school, first and foremost. Putting things in a bit less philosophical level, I give a lot of credit to Norm Jones, my colleague, my partner, whom I’ve been working intimately with growing this renewable practice. You probably need not much more than 30 minutes with me to get to see how hard driving, stubborn and oftentimes overly assertive I can be. It’s been really rewarding to see Norm be as successful as he is, with a diametrically opposed approach.


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