Q&A: Arielle S. Wagner ’16, President of MAIBA

Arielle S. Wagner ’16 was recently elected president of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association (MAIBA), a non-profit organization of American Indian attorneys, law students, and officers of tribal courts. An associate at Lockridge Grindal Nauen in Minneapolis, Wagner concentrates her practice in the firm’s antitrust, data breach, and tribal government representation groups. She is an enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in Northern Minnesota.

Congratulations on being elected president of MAIBA! What are your plans for your term in office?
There is a focus on social justice right now in our legal community, in Minnesota, and in the country, and I want to keep those conversations going! MAIBA has lined up interesting programming touching on this issue and other important issues for the Indigenous community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way virtually everyone lives and works. How has it impacted you in law, life, and how you might approach your term as MAIBA president?
My hours are more flexible and I love being able to work next to my husband every day. On the other hand, it is harder to “turn off” work at the end of the day, and it can be difficult to stay in contact with colleagues and attend events without suffering from Zoom fatigue! I am trying to find my own balance in all of these areas.

Why do you think it’s important that there be diverse perspectives in law firm and bar leadership?
I hope this has become apparent to everyone today. I go could on and on about the benefits of having diverse perspectives in leadership roles: more inclusion and engagement, fresher ideas, more creativity, proven economic benefits. Things are changing in the practice of law, but in terms of diversity, we are still lagging far behind.

Your practice areas at Lockridge Grindal Nauen are fairly diverse. Can you describe some of the types of matters you might work on in a “typical” day?
I primarily practice in plaintiff-side class action litigation—in several different practice areas. In complex litigation, there is always something new to learn every day! Antitrust litigation can be especially interesting because I take a deep dive into whatever particular industry is involved and become an “expert” in that thing. (During my very first project as a summer associate, I learned more about cardboard than I ever thought possible!).

At Minnesota Law, you were a certified student attorney in the Indian Child Welfare Act Clinic and served as a managing editor of the ABA Journal of Labor and Employment Law. Could you describe those experiences and how they may have played a role in what you do today?
Though I do not practice in those areas, I learned so much during my time on the ABA Journal and in the ICWA Clinic—such as how to give feedback, talk with clients, and work with other attorneys. These experiences taught me skills that are essential to my work today.

In reflecting on your career path, what advice would you offer to a law student today?
Show up! Go to bar organization meetings, networking events, community events. Ask attorneys/classmates/acquaintances for coffee or virtual hangouts. I am an introvert, so it can be exhausting. But I have encountered so many different wonderful and interesting opportunities by just showing up and saying “yes.”

Minnesota Law seeks to cultivate lawyer-leaders. Can you describe what being a lawyer-leader means to you? What skills are most necessary?
I am quiet and introverted, so I never felt like a “leader.” But as I take on more decision-making roles, I find that the most important leadership skills are being true to yourself, and listening to others—giving them the space they need to be themselves.

How do you like to spend your free time?
I am a big reader. I love running and yoga. I also like to wind down and work on Anishinaabe beadwork or sewing projects while listening to podcasts or binge-watching Netflix. In the “before times,” my husband and I spent our weekends hanging out with friends and family—but this year it’s been more camping, long walks, and Zoom hangouts.

In these stressful times, what do you do to promote wellness?
It’s hard. Especially now. Indigenous wellness movements have taught me the importance of physical, mental, and spiritual health. I neglected fitness when I was in school, but now that I am practicing, I have made exercise, sleep, and eating well a top priority. It honestly helps me manage the stress and turn off work.

What are a few interesting items one might see on your desk or hanging on your office wall?
Tons of books and art!