Karin Ciano

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.  CCLI made it official in summer 2017.

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 supervises student externships at solo and small firms and teaches the Solo Practice Residency seminar at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, which prepares third-year students to start their own firms in CCLI’s incubator.  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 Secretary 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, the Federal Bar Association Pro Se Project, and Volunteer Lawyers Network. In her spare time, she bikes and gardens.

Karin was named as one of Minnesota Lawyer’s 2017 Attorneys of the Year for her work with CCLI.  She welcomes your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about CCLI.  Please email her at, or find her on LinkedIn.