Karin Ciano

Acting Executive Director

Karin is a lawyer, writer, teacher, and connector who believes that small law firms have the power to close the justice gap.  Since starting her own firm in 2011, Karin has informally mentored a number of new lawyers eager to hang their shingle.  In late 2016, after CCLI’s incubator launched and interim Executive Director, Virginia (“Ginny”) Bell, was ready to transition its operations, Karin was happy to start serving as CCLI’s acting Executive Director.

A New Jersey native, Karin attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and obtained her law degree from New York University School of Law in 1995.  After several years’ experience as a commercial litigator in the New York office of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Karin returned to NYU Law to teach in its innovative and respected Lawyering Program.  In 2003 Karin moved to Minnesota to clerk for Judge James Rosenbaum of Minnesota’s federal district court.  After Judge Rosenbaum’s retirement Karin clerked for Minnesota federal district court Judge Ann Montgomery and federal magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan.  After leaving the court Karin opened her own shop.  She now practices as Karin Ciano Law PLLC and is also of counsel to the probate-litigation boutique Mason & Helmers in Saint Paul.

Besides practicing law, Karin also writes and teaches. She writes the monthly “Legal Writing Notebook” column for Minnesota Lawyer’s discerning readers. She teaches the Sole Practice Residency seminar at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, which prepares third-year students to start their own firms.  Karin previously taught in the WRAP program at William Mitchell College of Law and taught contract drafting and Practice & Professionalism at the University of Minnesota Law School.  Karin regularly presents lawyer-education classes on sole practice, freelance practice, federal practice, and legal writing.

Karin is the Chair-elect of the MSBA Solo & Small Firm Section, and serves on the Federal Practice Committee tasked with reviewing the local rules of Minnesota’s federal district court.  She volunteers with the Children’s Law Center, the Conflict Resolution Center, and the Federal Bar Association Pro Se Project.

Karin welcomes your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about CCLI.  Please email her at, or find her on LinkedIn.

 Dakota Erickson

Dakota (Cody) Erickson has just completed his first year at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. He grew up in North Oaks, Minnesota and attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, where he double-majored in Sociology/Anthropology and Asian Studies with a minor in Chinese Studies.  While at St. Olaf Cody served as the president of the Korean Culture Association, participated in the Jiu-Jitsu Club, played violin in the Philharmonic Orchestra, and helped the swim team visit a crushing defeat upon Carleton.

Cody also worked as a paralegal at the Donnelly Law Office, an immigration law firm in Austin, Minnesota. The experience inspired him to go to law school and consider starting his own law firm and serving the community he grew up in (some say as reparation for all the trouble he caused while growing up).  Cody’s friend Josephine Nguyen introduced him to CCLI, and Cody has joined CCLI as a law clerk, assisting CCLI advocate Inti Martinez-Aleman with his cases. Through this experience, Cody has developed a passion for family and immigration law, seeing the insurmountable need for these services.

In his free time, Cody plays tennis, raps, dances, and (in the opinion of our intern Albert Lee) does everything that a good Korean-American should.


Albert Lee

Albert Lee is from Honolulu, Hawai’i and he has just completed his first year at Macalester College in Saint Paul.  Through Macalester’s MacNest summer internship program, which pairs students with Twin Cities startups in the nonprofit and for-profit world, Albert learned about CCLI.  In May Albert joined the CCLI team as an Operations Intern. Through his experience at CCLI, Albert aims to help small-firm and solo lawyers create affordable pricing structures so that low and middle-income clients can more readily afford legal services.

Last summer, Albert volunteered at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i, educating visitors about Japanese culture, creating exhibits including an exhibit on the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, and helping to organize cultural festivals.  Albert also designs and creates costumes and props for Macalester’s school-sponsored productions and concerts.  He speaks several languages, bakes desserts of all kinds, and is studying the experience of Asian immigrants in Minnesota.