• BLI Advisory Board

    Mike Carlson JD ’91

    EVP/Associate General Counsel, BBVA Compass

    Carlson currently serves as executive vice president and associate general counsel at BBVA Compass, which is among the 20 largest banks in the U.S.  Previously, he was a partner in the finance and restructuring group at Faegre Baker Daniels, focusing his practice on financial services. Prior to Faegre, he served as vice president and general counsel of the Minnesota Bankers Association. He was also an adjunct professor at Hamline Law, teaching classes on negotiable instruments, payment systems, and regulation of financial institutions. He received his bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and his J.D. from Hamline Law.

    Karen Grandstrand

    Shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron

    A shareholder in Fredrikson & Byron’s Minneapolis office and chair of the firm’s Bank & Finance Group, Grandstrand is a nationally recognized financial services regulatory attorney, financial industry advisor, and dealmaker. Prior to joining Fredrikson, she had a 14-year career with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, where she was the senior vice president of the Banking Supervision and Risk Management Departments. In this position, she was the senior officer in charge of safety and soundness, consumer, CRA, trust, and IT examinations, as well as applications involving banks and holding companies located in the Ninth Federal Reserve District. She received her J.D. at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

    James E. Hanson JD ’12

    SVP, Wells Fargo & Company

    Hanson is senior vice president of Wells Fargo & Company, responsible for the company’s external financial reporting activities, including SEC reporting, and corporate regulatory reporting. His teams also support the company’s mergers and acquisitions process, including due diligence, structuring and transition of acquired companies. Hanson holds various roles with the company’s subsidiaries and serves as director on several subsidiary boards. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Hanson was a senior manager with the international public accounting firm, KPMG LLP.  Hanson holds a BBA in accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a J.D. from Hamline Law. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Hamline Law.  In addition to admission to the Minnesota Bar, Hanson is also licensed as a Certified Public Accountant in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    Micah Mitchell Hines

    Former General Counsel to Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Prettner Solon

    Mitchell Hines joined the Dayton administration in February 2011 as the governor’s assistant chief of staff. In August 2011, the governor appointed her general counsel, a position in which she provides legal advice to the governor, lieutenant governor, and office staff regarding legislative issues, executive orders, and other legal matters. She also serves as the governor’s designee on the Minnesota State Board of Investment, which is the state agency responsible for investing over $60 billion in state retirement funds and other assets. She also continues the community outreach efforts she undertook as assistant chief of staff.

    Before joining the governor’s office, Mitchell Hines practiced law at Blackwell Burke, P.A., Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, and as in house litigation counsel at State Farm Insurance Companies. She is an experienced trial attorney, having tried over 100 cases in court. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science and African American studies from Duke University, and her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, where she was a Dean’s Scholar.

    In her free time, Mitchell Hines enjoys mentoring and being an active member of her community. In addition to the Business Law Institute Advisory Board, she currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys, and the YWCA of Minneapolis.


    Charles Johnson JD ’75

    Attorney at Law

    Johnson practices exclusively in the areas of mass tort, commercial and consumer class actions, antitrust, product liability, and commercial litigation. He has been in private practice since 1975 and has extensive practice experience in federal multi-district litigation. Johnson's firm was one of the first to discover and seek redress for the serious health problems caused to thousands of woman who used the Dalkon Shield contraceptive device. He has successfully represented thousands of individual clients and has received continuous recognition for his work.

    Johnson earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and his J.D. from Hamline Law. He was not only a member of the law school’s first graduating class, he was also part of the group that formed the law school. He has continued his connection and support of Hamline through service as a trustee, financial support for scholarships and the Business Law and Dispute Resolution Institutes, and as an employer of Hamline alumni; he estimates he has hired more than 50 Hamline law students over the years.

    Matt Johnson JD ‘07

    Entrepreneur/Attorney at Law

    Johnson practiced law in the law firms of Galena Law Firm, P.A. and Lockridge Grindal Nauen, P.L.L.P. before founding Contour Innovations, LLC, a cloud-based mapping software, as a tech entrepreneur. As CEO, he built Contour Innovations with his business partner and successful angel financing rounds. Contour Innovations was sold in 2014 to the global marine electronics leader Navico, Inc., makers of Lowrance chart plotters. Johnson received his undergraduate degrees in finance and economics from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and his J.D. from Hamline Law. He lives with his wife and daughter in Roseville. 

    Michael S. LaFontaine JD ’03 

    Partner and Financial Services Practice Group Leader at Halleland Habicht, Hamline University Trustee

    Mike's practice at Halleland Habicht specializes in business law and consulting.  Formerly Mike was executive vice president and chief operational risk officer of US Bancorp having served previously served as their chief compliance officer and corporate legal counsel. In 2014, he received the prestigious "40 Under 40" award from Minneapolis St Paul Business Journal. Before joining U.S. Bancorp, LaFontaine was an attorney with Halleland, Lewis, Nilan, Sipkins & Johnson, PA, in Minneapolis, where he practiced banking and corporate law. He received his J.D. from Hamline Law and his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota.  LaFontaine currently serves on the Hamline University Board of Trustees. 

    Gwen Lerner JD ’78

    Retired Corporate Attorney, Hamline University Trustee

    Lerner, a retired corporate employment law attorney, was an early graduate of Hamline Law, where she served as editor of the first issue of the Hamline Law Review. Prior to law school, she attended Smith College, and received a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College of Columbia University and a master’s degree in art history and museology from the University of Minnesota. She then engaged in a career as registrar of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.  She clerked for the late Minnesota Supreme Court Justice (Hamline emeritus trustee) James C. Otis, Jr., and was in-house counsel with Land O’Lakes and Control Data Corporation before joining The General Counsel, Ltd., and representing ADC Telecommunications.  She received the 1994 Minnesota State Bar Association President's Award with co-founders of the Children's Law Center of Minnesota, served as president (1995-97), and represented foster children for many years. Named a law school Distinguished Alumna in 2000 and included in Hamline’s "150 Lives That Make a Difference" in 2005, she has held board positions with Family & Children's Service (now The Family Partnership) in Minneapolis and The Friends of The St. Paul Public Library.  Since 2004, she has served on the Minnesota Department of Corrections Advisory Task Force on Female Offenders. Elected a Hamline trustee in 1995, she was re-elected in 1999, 2004, 2008, and 2013, and has chaired several committees and served as secretary of the board.

    Chris Madel

    Partner, Robins, Kaplan, MIller & Ciresi L.L.P.

    Madel is a partner and member of the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. executive board. His areas of practice include antitrust and trade regulation, business litigation, corporate governance and special situations and government and internal investing. Prior to RKMC, Madel was a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division in Washington, D.C. He earned his J.D. at the University of Michigan Law School. 

    Natasha Martin JD ’07

    Corporate Attorney, Infor

    Martin currently works as an in-house attorney for Infor (previously Lawson), which provides enterprise software and service solutions in the manufacturing, distribution, maintenance, healthcare, and rental management industries to over 4,500 customers throughout the world. Her expertise includes drafting and negotiating complex agreements, international business transactions, mergers and acquisitions, data privacy, and employment law-related matters. She received her J.D. from Hamline Law in 2007. While at Hamline, she worked as a research assistant and law clerk, and participated in the trial practice and the employment discrimination mediation representation clinics.

    John McDonald JD ’85

    Shareholder, Briggs and Morgan, Professional Association

    McDonald is a shareholder with Briggs and Morgan, Professional Association, and a member of the firm’s Financial Institutions and Real Estate Section, and chairs its Bankruptcy and Financial Restructuring Practice Group. He practices principally in the areas of bankruptcy, workout and creditors’ rights; distressed transactions and financial litigation. He received a J.D. with honors from Hamline Law in 1985. He is published in various publications, including the Hamline Law Review and the National Law Journal; is a frequent lecturer on bankruptcy, creditors’ rights and commercial topics; and is often quoted locally on bankruptcy and turnaround topics.

    Lynn Swon


    Swon comes to the board with a history of service to Hamline University and many other nonprofit organizations. Swon has significant experience in starting up and running small businesses.

    Bill Thornton JD ’78

    Chair, Larkin Hoffman Corporate Law Department

    Chair of Larkin Hoffman’s Corporate Law Department, Thornton’s practice focuses on domestic and international business transactions, with an emphasis on: international licensing, distribution, franchising, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and general commercial matters. He works with clients regarding the business aspects, as well as the legal aspects, of various business transactions. He is a graduate of Hamline Law and Northeastern University in Boston.

    Dan Tyson

    Shareholder, Nilsson Brandt P.A.

    Tyson is a shareholder with Nilsson Brandt P.A. and practices in the areas of real estate, land use and condemnation law, secured lending, commercial law, and business entity law. He holds the real property specialist certification from the Real Property Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association. Since 1996, Law & Politics has frequently listed him as a “Minnesota Super Lawyer.

    Tyson represents both for-profit and non-profit developers in acquisition, financing, sale, development, and leasing matters. He also represents lenders and servicers in areas of real estate mortgage financing, regulatory compliance, workout, loan modifications, and foreclosure actions, and has developed and assisted in preparing “standard loan documents” for several of his bank clients. He represents clients, both commercial and residential, needing representation with the purchase, sale, leasing and financing of all segments of the real estate marketplace.

    Recently, Tyson helped organize a national coalition of non-profit real estate developers and municipal redevelopment agencies to develop an infrastructure to acquire, rehabilitate, and re-sell foreclosed and abandoned properties from banks and servicers with the goal of stabilizing urban cities ravaged by the foreclosure crisis.

    Niel Willardson

    SVP/General Counsel, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

    Willardson, senior vice president and general counsel, oversees the Enterprise Risk Group, Financial Management Group, and the Law Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. He also serves as corporate secretary to the Minneapolis Board of Directors. Since joining the Federal Reserve Bank in 1990, he has held several leadership positions including manager in the Banking Supervision Department, department officer in Human Resources, and managing officer in the Banking Supervision Department. In 2000, he joined the bank's senior management team and served as senior vice president over Supervision, Regulation and Credit for eight years. Willardson was named general counsel in 2005 and corporate secretary in 2009. In addition to his Reserve Bank responsibilities, Willardson serves as an adjunct law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, where in 2010, he was the inaugural recipient of the Stanley V. Kinyon Adjunct Teacher of the Year award. Willardson received his J.D. from the University of Minnesota.