Phone: (507) 663-1211

Maren L. Swanson

My story:

In October 2011, I celebrated 30 years as a lawyer. I did not grow up among lawyers nor did I have a lifelong dream of being a lawyer. I grew up in Northfield, Minnesota, graduated from St. Olaf College with a major in English, got a master’s degree at the University of St. Thomas intending to teach high school English, then, just for “fun,” took a night class on sex-based discrimination in law and ended up applying to law school.

When I entered the University of Minnesota Law School, my grand ambition was to use the law to overcome social injustice. It has turned out that my work as a lawyer has been on a much smaller scale, helping one client at a time accomplish something essential to his or her life, but this work has come to feel as important, and sometimes as monumental, as overcoming social injustice!

When I began practicing law in 1981 in Owatonna, I was a “GP” – a general practitioner. I handled everything from divorce to real estate, probate, criminal defense, litigation, and more. After moving to Northfield in 1986, I was assistant city attorney for 2 years and then city attorney for Northfield for over 20 years. I remained in private practice during that time and continued to handle family law cases and other matters as well. While I remain something of a “GP,” since 2010 my practice has focused primarily on family law, and also on government law from the perspective of the private citizen – helping people deal with how government impacts them.

Family law:

My long and varied experience in family law, spanning the years since 1981, is invaluable to my family law clients. I have a broad and deep familiarity with the laws, rules and court decisions that impact divorce and other legal matters. I know the court system, and the “players,” and how to achieve optimal results in the most efficient manner. In addition, my broad general legal background means I understand other areas of the law (such as real estate and contract law) as they impact family law, better than many attorneys whose experience is limited to family law.

I have been divorced and I have been a single parent. I understand the stress and fear my clients experience and I do my best to explain things and reassure them as we move through the process together.

I represent both men and women. I have no trouble seeing each case from my client’s perspective.

I have litigated difficult cases involving allegations of physical, verbal and sexual abuse, custody fights, and disputes over property and financial support. I am a strong advocate for my clients. At the same time, I believe that the best resolution of family law issues is a resolution arrived at by the parties themselves rather than one imposed on them by the court.

I believe there is such a thing as a healthy divorce. I often say that there are divorce attorneys out there who make things worse; we at Lampe Law Group try to make things better.

Government law:

My background as a city attorney makes me uniquely qualified to represent private parties in their dealings with government bodies and government regulations. As Northfield city attorney for over 20 years, I was proud of helping dozens of mayors, city council members and city employees as they navigated their way through difficult legal and political issues. I believe my longevity as city attorney speaks to my ability to give sound legal advice and to communicate and get along with all kinds of people – traits that promote success in any lawyer. I now use my familiarity with laws affecting local governments, gained on the government side, to help citizens resolve issues with their city and county governments. I work on zoning, building, and other land use issues, liquor license issues, sign ordinance issues, and much more.

My philosophy:

No matter what I do as a lawyer, my goal is to obtain a good resolution of my clients’ issues with as little anxiety and expense to them as possible. The judicial system does not always facilitate this goal, so I encourage early settlement discussions, informal exchange of information, and other means of resolving disputes without litigation.

Legal disputes are fraught with emotion. It is easy to lose sight of what’s important and to simply get caught up in the battle. I do my best to encourage respectful communication between parties and attorneys and to promote reasonable settlement of disputes. After all, most cases settle before trial, so it makes much more sense to settle earlier in the process rather than later, after animosity and alienation have increased and after more of your precious resources have been spent.

There are clients out there who simply want to fight. They’d rather pay their attorney to fight than give anything to the other party. There are attorneys out there who are happy to take their clients’ money to fight this kind of fight. These clients and these attorneys seem to find each other. If this is who you are, I am not the attorney for you. But if you want an attorney to advise you of your rights, give sound counsel as to options and likely outcomes, advocate for you as needed, and help you reach your goals without unnecessary conflict and expense, I would love to meet with you to discuss your case.

Mediation and Collaborative law:

In addition to practicing law, I am a Mediator (Qualified Neutral under Rule 114 of the General Rules of Practice for the District Courts) and a trained and  experienced Collaborative attorney.

    • A mediator is a neutral, not an advocate, who helps parties come to agreement on any or all of their issues. Usually an attorney or attorneys are also needed to prepare documents for court after agreement is reached through mediation.
    • Collaborative attorneys work with other Collaborative attorneys and their clients, commonly in 4-way conferences, and in a cooperative and respectful manner, to gather information, discuss settlement options, and resolve issues based on a mutual commitment not to go to court.

I strongly encourage people to consider these options.

Free half-hour initial consultation:

Except for mediation, where my hourly rates are relatively low and are shared by the parties, I offer a free half-hour consultation to new clients. This consultation will not answer all of your legal questions, but it will give you an opportunity to discuss process and options and to see whether there is a good fit between your needs and my skills. Please give me a call or e-mail me at marenswanson@lampelaw.com.

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AREAS OF PRACTICE

  • Family Law
  • Municipal Law
  • Real Estate
  • Simple Wills, Powers of Attorney and Health Care Powers of Attorney

BAR ADMISSIONS

U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, 2005

Minnesota, 1981

EDUCATION

University of Minnesota Law School, Minneapolis, MN:  Juris Doctor, with honors, 1981

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN:  Master of Arts in Teaching, 1974

St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN: Bachelor of Arts, with honors, 1970

PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS AND MEMBERSHIPS

Minnesota State Bar Association

Rice County Bar Association

International Collaborative Law Institute

Minnesota Collaborative Law Institute

League of Minnesota Cities—City Attorneys Association

PRO BONO AND VOLUNTEER ACTIVITIES

 

Pro bono legal services

War Kids Relief

Past member of Rotary Club

St. Thomas Academy Swimming & Diving – Captain’s parent

OTHER INTERESTS

  • Reading, cooking and entertaining, walking the dog
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