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Sarah Dannecker
Sarah Dannecker is one of four Ballard Spahr attorneys the firm this month named co-leaders of Ballard Women. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Attorney leads national firm’s women’s group

Sarah Dannecker, an associate in Ballard Spahr’s Minneapolis office, brings her perspective as a female attorney of color to leadership of Ballard Women, the national firm’s business resource group for women attorneys.

Dannecker is one of four Ballard Spahr attorneys the firm this month named co-leaders of Ballard Women. The firm has 600-plus lawyers working in 15 offices.

Continuing a Ballard Women initiative that regularly connects female attorneys across the firm is among her priorities with the group, said Dannecker, a group member since she joined the firm. Offering relevant programs, like a recent one on why women stay and thrive in big law, is another.

“I can speak to my experiences being not only a female attorney but a female attorney of color, pass along those experiences and provide advice and mentorship to other female attorneys of color,” Dannecker said.

Dannecker focuses on corporate transactional matters, including banking mergers and acquisitions. She has helped pro bono clients renew Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals applications and recently is working with nonprofit organizations applying for 501(c)(3) status.

Name: Sarah Dannecker

Title: Associate, Ballard Spahr, Minneapolis office

Education: B.A., psychology, Hamline University; J.D., Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: Ask me anything about law school. I was one of those nerds that loved school, but I loved law school in particular. Secondly, anything Harry Potter-related.

Q: Why law school?

A: I saw that the law could help make significant changes in the world and in people’s lives, and I knew I wanted to be part of that.

Q: What are you reading?

A: “Empire of the Summer Moon,” about the rise and fall of the Comanche Indian tribe. “I Lost Summer Somewhere,” a collection of poems by Sarah Russell.

Q: Pet peeve?

A: Picky eaters. I have two 18-month-old sons who are becoming picky eaters. It’s frustrating at times to deal with the dietary restrictions.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: Working with incredibly intelligent people, doing sophisticated, interesting work that challenges me to think critically to come up with solutions to problems, to do the best work that I can and get better every day.

Q: Most challenging?

A: Always confronting some new issue or an area of law that I’m not quite as familiar with, that I need to stop, think about, research, become the expert in. It’s always pushing me to do better and to be better, but it can get a little intimidating and uncomfortable.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: Paddleboarding is something that I discovered a number a number of years ago. I try to do it as much as possible because our summers are so short. It’s great excuse to get outside and get on the water.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: Lebanon Hills. It’s a regional park that’s close to my house. It’s got excellent hiking trails, great outdoor activities. Kayaking. Beaches. It’s smack in the middle of the surrounding cities of Eagan and Apple Valley, so it’s really convenient to get to. Once you enter the park, you feel like you’re 5½ hours outside of the city.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: Michelle Obama. She’s best known for being the wife of the president, but she’s also an attorney. She’s got class, integrity, intelligence. She’s honest. She’s so relatable. She’s faced obstacles that would deter a lot of people. She’s honest about her failures and humble about her accomplishments. She’s someone I would hope to model my career and characteristics after.

Q: Favorite book, movie or TV show about lawyers?

A: One is “Denial,” based on a true story about Deborah Lipstadt, who was sued by a man named David Irving in England for libel when she called him a Holocaust denier. It’s a fascinating look into libel cases in the English legal system. The burden of proof is on the defendant. The second is “My Cousin Vinny.” It’s a really hilarious take on the courts, the legal system and trials.

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