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Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Meet Liz Kramer: ‘I really love to win’

LIZ KRAMER is a partner at Stinson Leonard Street in Minneapolis, where she primarily litigates disputes regarding construction projects and arbitration agreements. She blogs weekly about developments in arbitration law at www.arbitrationnation.com, which ABA Journal named to its “Blawg Hall of Fame” in December 2017. Liz has been recognized as Attorney of the Year, 40 Under 40, and an Up and Coming Attorney.

Why did you decide to go to law school?

Originally I dreamed of a career in politics. When I was working at a think tank in Washington, D.C. after college, one of my mentors convinced me that law school would open up lots of potential paths for me (beyond just politics). He was right. I loved my time at Yale Law School and realized quickly that I was better suited for a career in law.

What aspects of your practice do you find most meaningful?

In my billable work, I love when the strategy I devised with my client for a case is successful. I am a competitive person, and I really love to win.

However, I also get a lot of satisfaction out of pro bono work. Since 2015, for example, I have been working with Liz Reppe, the state law librarian, and my colleagues on the governing council of the MSBA’s Appellate Section to start and maintain the Self-Help Appeals Clinic. Through the clinic, appellate attorneys give advice to pro se litigants about their appeals. We have a packed house of customers each month and it is very rewarding to help reduce some of their anxiety about the appellate process. (If anyone reading this is interested in volunteering, email me!)

Your blog, Arbitration Nation, has been featured as one of the ABA Journal’s Top 100 Blogs for several years, and this year was selected to the Blawg Hall of Fame. What propelled your interest in arbitration law?

My interest in arbitration law started when I was a law clerk at the Minnesota Supreme Court. I was fortunate to clerk for the fabulous Justice Helen Meyer, and one of the opinions she wrote that year dealt with arbitration issues. In it (Onvoy v. Shal), the Court had to abrogate an earlier decision and bring Minnesota law in line with federal arbitration law. The case was a beast. I had never studied arbitration, so I spent a huge amount of time reading arbitration treatises and cases in order to assist the Court. I was surprised at how counterintuitive the federal decisions were (why would we enforce the arbitration clause in an invalid contract, for example?).

As I entered private practice and saw how prevalent arbitration agreements are in many industries, and how positive arbitration can be in resolving some disputes, I became more and more interested in that area of law. I wrote articles and gave CLEs on the topic. At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court became very active in its arbitration jurisprudence. Eventually in 2011, I started blogging about arbitration and I haven’t stopped since. I love that my blog serves many purposes: Pro se parties tell me they use it to help them understand arbitration, many litigators and arbitrators use it to stay on top of trends in arbitration law, prospective clients use it to find me and see if I am the right person to hire, and I use it as an outlet for my original love of public policy and writing.

What opportunities and resources do you find helpful as a member of the MSBA?

Where do I start?! I have been active in the appellate section since 2009. Through that section, I have met most of the appellate judges in Minnesota, which helps calm my nerves whenever I have to argue there. I have also gotten wonderful pro bono opportunities through that section, like volunteering at the Self-Help Clinic, handling appeals from the Public Defender’s Office, and giving tours of the courtroom at the renovated state Capitol (where this photo was taken). Those experiences have improved my appellate skills as well as contributing to our system of justice.

My membership in the ADR and Construction sections have also been very rewarding. I love being able to attend lunch CLEs on interesting topics, and love being asked to give CLEs on occasion as well. The MSBA is a great way to learn from the expertise of others in the bar and to socialize with those who may later be your opposing counsel or your arbitrator or mediator. 

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