BEST & FLANAGAN - Key Persons
- Co - Chair of the Statewide Minnesota Lavender Bar Association
- Compliance Intensive for in - House Counsel
Amy S. Conners is an experienced litigator and has represented clients from global Fortune 100 corporations to individuals on a wide range of legal matters. Amy is observant, agile, and responsive, and works collaboratively with corporate counsel, business leaders and individual clients to find the most efficient way to mitigate risks and solve problems. She has experience in criminal defense, complex commercial litigation, class action defense, professional license defense, securities litigation and arbitrations, healthcare litigation, and intellectual property matters. In addition, she has advised clients regarding compliance in FCC, DOJ, SEC, and international regulatory investigations, and provided guidance on "know-your-customer" policies, FCPA compliance, anti-money laundering policies, warranties, advertising, marketing and promotional materials. A graduate of New York University School of Law, Amy began her practice in New York before returning to the Twin Cities.
Amy has served as Co-Chair of the statewide Minnesota Lavender Bar Association and has been recognized as an "Up and Coming Attorney" by Minnesota Lawyer (2011), selected to the Minnesota Rising Stars (2012-2015) and Super Lawyers (2016-present) lists, and named as a member of the "Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 - Class of 2012" by the National LGBT Bar Association (2012). She is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation (2012-present), and a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America (2021).
Amy is experienced in all phases of litigation, from pre-suit counseling to trial. Representative cases include:
Barbara Kristiansson practices primarily in the areas of estate planning and estate administration. Her practical approach to estate planning blends her clients' desires for passing on a legacy with the necessary tax planning, while helping to ensure that the estate plan lends itself to an efficient administration. Barbara strives to meet her clients' needs in all stages of their lives, including pre-marital agreements, estate planning, tax planning, and estate settlement, as well as planning for the needs of young children and grandchildren.
Barbara specializes in planning to reduce or eliminate estate and generation skipping transfer taxes. Her experience includes using all forms of irrevocable trusts, GRATs and QPRTs, gifting, and family business transition and family cabin transition planning. She also has experience with large estate administrations involving 6166 and 2032A Elections, gift and estate tax audits and estate litigation matters.
Advised owners of multi-million dollar company in transitioning majority ownership to next generation through the use of tax-efficient gifting and sales techniques.
Barbara Ross is an effective trial and appellate attorney who provides her clients with the benefit of twenty-five years of experience in the law. Barbara has won every appeal that she has handled during her career. She concentrates her practice on condemnation/eminent domain, real estate litigation, insurance coverage, and debtor/creditor litigation.
Barbara has extensive experience in successfully handling eminent domain cases for both condemning authorities and landowners, and in litigation involving collection and mortgage foreclosures, title issues, fraud and misrepresentation, boundary disputes, leasing disputes, mechanics lien actions, contract for deed cancellations, partition actions, and real estate contract disputes.
She represents insurance carriers and policyholders in insurance coverage cases, providing to clients courtroom expertise and insight from her work in the insurance industry.
In Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit and in the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Eight Circuit - obtained decisions in favor of a bankruptcy trustee client, as a statutory bone fide purchaser, avoiding a mortgage lien.
- Family Law Attorney
Cathy E. Gorlin is a member of the firm's Family Law practice area. She represents parties in a range of family law matters, including marriage dissolution cases with complex financial estates and business valuations. She has more than 43 years of experience litigating and negotiating family law disputes, including marriage dissolutions, post-decree disputes, parentage and custody disputes, prenuptial agreements, living together agreements and appeals. She is a mediator and has considerable experience representing clients in alternative dispute resolution, including Collaborative Law. Cathy is an aggressive and effective advocate for her clients.
Cathy is the Editor of the Minnesota Family Law Practice Manual and she has been the Chair of both the Hennepin County Bar and Minnesota State Bar Associations' Family Law Sections. In addition, she is a frequent lecturer and author on family law-related topics.
Most recently, Cathy was included in the 2022 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® for her family law and family law arbitration practices. She has been selected to the Minnesota Super Lawyers list (1996-present; formerly by Minnesota Law & Politics), and named a "Leading Minnesota Attorney" by Minnesota Law & Politics (1997-2010). She also continues to receive recognition from Super Lawyers as one of Minnesota's Top Women Attorneys in Mpls.St. Paul Magazine. Cathy has been honored as a "Top Lawyer" by Marquis Who's Who (2019), officially recognized as "Best for Family Law- Minnesota" by The Corporate America Legal Elite (2015), and was named a woman of outstanding leadership by the International Women's Leadership Association. She has been recognized with the highest peer rating standard, AV Preeminent® - Martindale-Hubble Peer Review Rating™, which lists her among the "Midwest's Top Rated Lawyers" in The National Law Journal. For her ongoing efforts representing the Wesleyan Lawyers Association and volunteering in the Admission Department, Cathy has also received the Wesleyan University Service Award (2020).
Cathy provides pro bono services to the Volunteer Lawyers Network and has served on the Board of Directors of the Fund for Legal Aid Society. For providing 50 hours or more of pro bono legal services in 2020, she was recognized as a North Star Lawyer by the Minnesota State Bar Association.
Charlie Berquist is a partner in the firm's Business Law practice area. His clients include individuals, for-profit businesses, and nonprofit organizations. He regularly advises clients on a wide variety of legal matters, including start-ups, transition and succession planning, debt and equity financing, mergers and acquisitions, technology agreements and executive employment and separation agreements.
Christopher D. Johnson is a member of the firm's Family Law practice area. His practice focuses on complex family law matters, including adoption, asset dissipation, asset tracing, appeals, custody, child support, grandparent's visitation, spousal maintenance, complex property valuation in closely held businesses, tax and prenuptial agreements. Chris is an effective communicator, negotiator and problem solver with proven mediation, trial and appellate experience. He takes pride in effectively assisting families and individuals in times of transition.
Chris is a past member of the Minnesota Supreme Court Advisory Committee and Task Force (visitation and child support); and past Co-Chair of the Family Law Committee of the Volunteer Lawyers' Network. He has served on the Charter Commission of the City of St. Louis Park.
- Real Estate Attorney
Craig Kepler is a real estate attorney with a great depth of experience in almost all phases of commercial real estate acquisition, development, leasing, and financing. Craig also handles land use matters, Torrens matters, property tax appeals, and condemnation matters. Craig has experience helping developers raise investment money via private placement and TIC structures. Craig is licensed in both California and Minnesota and has many years of active practice experience in both states.
Craig is also a passionate advocate for and seasoned advisor to Minnesota public charter schools. Craig draws on his broad experience to advise charters on facility matters, formation and governance, charter contract matters, and other business operations matters. Craig has been the creator of numerous innovative structures for the acquisition, financing, and operation of Minnesota public charter school facilities.
Created the first third party tax exempt charter school ownership structure for Yinghua Academy.
Represented a nonprofit borrower/developer on a $38,000,000 bond-financed affordable housing acquisition and development project in Minnesota.
- Associate in Best & Flanagan 's Business & Corporate Law Practice Group
Derek is an Associate in Best & Flanagan's Business & Corporate Law practice group. Using his background in economics, Derek assists business clients in various entity governance, transactional, and compliance matters.
Duane L. Paulson is a member of the firm's Real Estate Law and Commercial Real Estate Lending practice areas. His practice focuses on real estate law, including finance, development, sale and acquisition; security instrument sales, purchases and servicing; financial institution and mortgage lending investment regulations; remedies and restructuring. He represents financial institutions in the development, financing, purchase and sales of commercial real estate, sales and purchases of portfolios of both commercial and residential loans, including participation arrangements, and in the exercise of remedies and restructuring.
Duane has represented several major national financial institutions in the financing of a broad range of property types including retail, industrial, office, hotel, hospital, multi-family and multi-use projects, involving multi-state transactions, complex ownership, including syndicated tenants in common arrangements, and structures, including leasehold, condominium, cooperative and time-share interests. He represented a major national financial institution in land acquisition, tax increment and both construction and permanent loan financing, construction and leasing of a 22-story 500,000 square foot office building in a major metropolitan area. He has advised clients in working with distressed real estate on a national basis and acted in their behalf in restructuring loans and in exercising remedies and in operating and disposing of real estate acquired as a result. He participated in an industry task force resulting in a major revision of the statutes governing the investments of life and casualty insurance companies.
A former member of City of Brooklyn Park Charter Commission, Duane has also served on the Board of a non-profit organization, Family Networks. He offers pro bono services to Rebuild Resources, Inc. Duane is a Captain in the United States Naval Reserves, Retired.
E. Joseph LaFave is a partner in the firm's Private Wealth Planning Section. He provides personalized service to individuals, families and family businesses in managing the wealth transfer process. Joe handles traditional estate planning, business transaction planning, estate and trust administration and fiduciary disputes. He works regularly with family entities, including operating companies. Joe works on fiduciary investment issues and has extensive experience with family investments and business entities, often multi-generational. He recognizes the importance of family culture and is attentive to the needs of each family member and generational group.
Elaine is an associate in the Business & Corporate Law, Private Wealth Planning and Real Estate practice groups. She focuses on the intersections of these areas and their deeply intertwined issues.
Elizabeth R. Cox is an Associate at Best & Flanagan and member of the firm's Litigation practice group. Elizabeth focuses her practice on construction and business litigation, as well as representing clients in contract disputes.
- Senior Paralegal in the Litigation and Real
Emily Egan is a senior paralegal in the Litigation and Real Estate practice groups, where she uses her strong research and analytical skills to assist in a wide range of matters.
Helen Sullivan-Looney is a partner in the firm's Litigation practice group. Her practice focuses on construction and eminent domain litigation.
Helen's experience in construction litigation includes contract drafting and negotiation, litigating and arbitrating contract disputes, construction defect cases, and mechanic's lien actions, and representing clients in personal injury and employment disputes. Helen also assists clients facing OSHA investigations. Her clients include contractors, subcontractors, owners and other professionals involved in commercial projects.
In her eminent domain work, Helen represents multiple perspectives from local and regional government entities, as well as corporate and individual landowners, in all manner of matters involving condemnation, property acquisition, and boundary disputes. She consistently works with a variety of experts, including appraisers, land use planners, and engineers.
As a former criminal defense attorney who has represented clients facing serious criminal charges in the U.S. and abroad, Helen is adept at handling all stages of a case, from pre-trial negotiations and litigation through post-verdict appeals. Helen takes a practical approach to litigation and enjoys putting her passion for advocacy to good use in helping clients resolve disputes inside and outside of the courtroom.
Jennessa Carlson has spent the last decade in the legal profession as a family, juvenile, and adoption law paralegal. She is currently continuing her legal career with Best & Flanagan. Jennessa is a huge asset to the family law team in many ways including her exceptional ability to review and analyze financial statements and prepare a detailed balance sheet.
In addition to Jennessa's financial skills, she also offers amazing research skills when the need arises. Jennessa is involved in all aspects of a case from beginning to end. Her approach to cases is calm and practical and she is a reliable source of information and comfort for clients going through the family court system.
- Adjunct Law Professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law
Jennifer is a partner in the Private Wealth Planning practice group.
Jennifer assists her clients with drafting wills and trusts, wealth transfer techniques, estate and gift tax issues, charitable planning, probate, trusts administration, disability planning, guardianships and conservatorships, and elder law matters including medical assistance.
Jennifer has comprehensive experience working with families on business succession goals for closely held businesses including S corporations, family partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs) and recapitalization techniques for certain types of closely held stock. In litigation, Jennifer leads clients through complex and, at times, emotional estate and family disputes.
Jennifer is an adjunct law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. She serves as an officer on the Section Council for the Probate and Trust Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association and is an active member of the Probate and Trust Law Section legislative committee. Jennifer has drafted numerous bills and has testified before various Minnesota House and Senate committees in support of various Probate and Trust Law Section bills.
Jennifer has lectured and written extensively in the field of estate planning and elder law, not only geared to the general public, but also for the benefit of attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, financial planners and trust organizations.
Joel Schroeder is a partner at Best & Flanagan, and focuses his practice on labor and employment law, and non-compete, trade-secret and other commercial litigation. Since 2019, he has been named as a Minnesota "Labor & Employment Star" by Benchmark Litigation. In 2018, he was selected to the list of the Top 100 Minnesota Super Lawyers. In addition to his employment law compliance and litigation practice, Joel is retained by companies to conduct internal employment investigations when a neutral third party is needed. He has represented Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses, executives and a foreign government.
Courtroom Work and Trials
Joel's litigation practice is extensive. Though many lawsuits can and should settle, Joel is eager to take a case to trial when the opposing party is unwilling to resolve the case on terms favorable to his client. Joel has won multiple dispositive motions and has tried cases to judge and jury. His trial experience has included:
A race-discrimination contested hearing before the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights;
A promissory-estoppel jury trial in Minnesota state court;
A fraudulent misrepresentation and Equal Pay Act trial in Minnesota federal court; and
A trade-secret, tortious interference, and computer fraud trial in the Delaware Court of Chancery.
Joel has litigated a wide variety of commercial disputes, including shareholder disputes and cases involving allegations of violations of the False Claims Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, fraud, and other federal statutes. Joel has extensive experience prosecuting and defending non-compete and trade-secret cases across the country, both securing and defeating motions for TROs and preliminary injunctions.
John A. Burton is a member of the firm's Private Wealth Planning practice area. He serves individuals with personal estate planning needs, individuals acting as trustees or personal representatives, and corporate trustees. He works extensively with families to develop multi-generational wealth transfer plans.
John has been named a Fellow by the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and has consistently been named among the Best Lawyers in America and selected to the Minnesota Super Lawyers list. He was a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1970-1978 in the Transportation Corps and the Judge Advocate General Corps.
Active in a range of community activities, John has served on the Church Council and Planned Giving Board of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church and is a member of the Minnesota Valley Country Club.
John Sullivan is a member of the firm's Business Litigation practice group. John represents individuals, closely-held businesses and corporations across various industries.
With an entrepreneurial mentality and driven personality, John is passionate about representing his clients. John has extensive experience in matters involving a diverse array of legal issues, including shareholder disputes, breach of fiduciary duty, securities fraud, complex employment matters and contract disputes. He understands the complex issues that can confront these clients and is able to craft persuasive and creative arguments to get a practical and pragmatic solution. In all of his matters, John brings his trial mindset to bear in developing the factual record in a clear, understandable, and persuasive manner.
During his time at the University of Minnesota Law School, John served on the Constitutional Commentary Law Journal and served as a Judicial Extern for the Honorable Patrick J. Schiltz, United States District Court. Prior to getting his law degree, John worked for the Minnesota Twins and Washington Nationals.
Kim Ruckdaschel-Haley is an experienced litigator who regularly represents institutions and individuals in complex commercial litigation and arbitration matters, including trust and probate, securities, contract, fiduciary duty, corporate governance, and other disputes. She also provides advice in an effort to find efficient solutions short of the courtroom where doing so meets clients' goals.
Kim has extensive experience litigating in both federal and state courts, as well as in resolving matters through arbitration, including AAA, FINRA (formerly NASD), and other arbitration forums. Active in pro bono work, Kim serves as a conciliation court referee for the First Judicial District Court, and has received awards for her work in representing indigent clients in immigration and expungement matters.
Obtained early dismissal of loan originator in ResCap Liquidating Trust Litigation (Minnesota Federal District Court -- consolidated action of over 60 cases involving mortgage-backed securities).
In Minnesota State Court, represented trust company in litigation involving claims of first impression under the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 -- obtained requested Court ruling on declaratory relief sought.
Kristin Mickelson has over two decades of transaction experience in Mergers & Acquisitions and Real Estate. In addition, she spent a number of years working with estate planning clients and has worked in commercial title insurance. Kristin knows the ins and outs of transactions from both sides, and whether you're selling or buying she is ready to help you manage what can be an overwhelming amount of documents and details. Her goal is to organize and streamline your information and keep you on track to closing. She enjoys helping clients sell their "babies" or buy their dreams.
Kristin Trapp is a member of the firm's Business Litigation practice group, where she represents individuals, corporations, and nonprofit corporations across a range of industries. Her practice focuses on labor and employment disputes, including non-compete litigation, contract disputes, and employment law compliance. In addition, Kristin is retained by companies to conduct internal employment investigations when a neutral third party is needed. Kristin also provides pro bono legal services with the Advocates for Human Rights, representing clients in immigration and asylum matters.
Prior to joining Best & Flanagan, Kristin received her Master's degree from the London School of Economics, worked for the Minnesota Senate, and held a number of Human Rights roles at the University of Minnesota Law School. Kristin received the Mansfield-Meron Fellowship for Social Activism and the University of Minnesota Human Rights Award. She served as a Student Director for the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic, where she litigated four asylum cases.
Successfully represented a family seeking asylum from Mexico in immigration court.
Kyle Hardwick is a construction and energy law attorney. He drafts and negotiates construction, design, supply chain and procurement contracts for owners, developers, general contractors and subcontractors. Kyle regularly drafts and negotiates construction and procurement contracts for nuclear power plants. Kyle also has extensive experience advising clients on public procurement and public bidding issues. Kyle also litigates construction, real estate, and commercial cases in state and federal courts. Kyle has summary judgment, jury trial, and appellate experience, and has successfully handled numerous arbitrations and mediations.
Madelyn is a paralegal and legal assistant with the firm's Family Law practice. While assisting our attorneys in all phases of family law litigation, Madelyn is a well-organized team member and strives to bring clear communication to each of our clients.
Additionally, Martha has served as general counsel for a global medical device company with extensive experience with employment issues, data privacy, contract review, M&A, and other corporate activities. She can provide external outside general counsel advice.
Megan Kunze represents employers in a broad range of litigated disputes and advising matters. Megan's practice is focused on her client's needs as a whole including finding a solution that fits their business needs. Megan represents clients in all stages of litigation in state and federal court. She has significant experience representing employers against competitors in disputes involving non-competition and non-solicitation, trade secrets theft and unfair competition.
Megan also advises and counsels clients in relation to their employment needs. She provides counseling to clients on workplace issues including hiring, termination, protecting confidential information and compliance with state and federal wage and hour laws. Megan also assists clients with drafting internal policies and employment agreements, including non-compete, and confidentiality agreements.
Prior to joining Best & Flanagan, Megan worked at a boutique firm focusing in the areas of business and commercial litigation and employment law.
- Elected Managing Partner
- Member of the Advisory Board