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Karen D. Olson

Of Counsel

Spencer Fane attorney Karen Olson

T 612.268.7020
F 612.268.7001

Karen D. Olson is an experienced regulatory, compliance, and litigation attorney that uses her significant government and private practice experience to represent her clients. Most recently, Karen served as Deputy Attorney General for the State of Minnesota for more than a decade. As Deputy Attorney General, Karen represented the Attorney General, Governor, Legislature, and state agencies and boards on complex and high profile legal matters.

Karen has led hundreds of government investigations and enforcement actions for the Attorney General, Minnesota health licensing boards and other government entities. She uses her investigation and enforcement background to assist clients on pending government investigations and enforcement matters to advise them on how to proceed and on how to take proactive steps to potentially avoid or minimize regulatory concerns. Karen understands the unique challenges in dealing with the government and regulator and will help clients effectively deal with inquiries and lawsuits.

While at the Attorney General’s Office, Karen led the teams of attorneys representing the Minnesota health licensing boards, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Revenue, Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, and Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. In her role, she served as lead counsel on many high profile matters. Karen also previously oversaw the Consumer and Antitrust division at the Attorney General’s Office and handled many landmark cases that gained national attention and resulted in significant settlements or judgments as well as industry changes. She regularly interacted with other state and federal entities on joint prosecutions and enforcement actions. While in private practice, Karen handled complex litigation matters for clients operating in a variety of industries. She defended national companies in multidistrict litigation and class actions across the country. In her practice she also regularly defended companies against product liability claims and represented litigants in real estate and trust/estate matters. Karen has also litigated many contract, financial, and insurance matters that benefitted from her strong business background.

Karen has significant first chair trial experience and has tried cases in State, Federal and administrative courts.

Specific experience includes:

  • Serving as General Counsel to the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice and overseeing the attorneys and investigators conducting investigations and enforcement actions for 17 health related licensing boards, including Medical Practice, Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Nursing.
  • Overseeing the Office’s environmental, natural resources and agricultural work representing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.
  • General Counsel to the prior Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board.
  • Leading the Residential Utility Division’s participation in public utility matters before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on behalf of residential and small business utility consumers pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 8.33.
  • Overseeing the division representing the Minnesota Department of Revenue at the Minnesota Tax Court and Minnesota Supreme Court.
  • Managing the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division and leading hundreds of high profile investigations and enforcement actions for violations of consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, false advertising, and antitrust laws.
  • Leading the Education Division and serving as lead counsel on a class action case brought against the Department of Education, Commissioner of Education, Governor, and Legislature.
  • Handling high profile litigation in state and federal district and appellate courts and administrative proceedings.
  • Prior to becoming a lawyer, Karen used her business degree to work as a financial analyst for a national bank and as an insurance underwriter for fidelity bonds and directors’ and officers’ liability coverage at a national insurance company. Karen brings both her business and law background to handle every client issue and really works with her clients to understand the needs of the business.


  • Groundwater/Surface Water Interface – Emerging Regulatory Challenges and New Solutions for the Mining Industry, Geosyntec and Spencer Fane Webinar, September 2020
  • Bridging the Gap Between Experts & Lawyers: Evaluating, Preparing & Presenting Expert Testimony, Moderator, Science, Technology and the Law, Minnesota Attorney General CLE, June 2017
  • Privacy Issues – Today and Tomorrow, Minnesota Attorney General CLE, November 2013
  • Document Preservation Requirements and “Litigation Holds”, Evidence in the Courtroom, Minnesota State Bar Association CLE, April 2007
  • Practical Tips in Negotiation, Minnesota Attorney General CLE, April, 2004
  • Preparing for the Deposition, Strategic Litigation for Public Lawyers, Minnesota Attorney General CLE, June 2002
  • State Antitrust Enforcement and State-Federal Enforcement Collaboration, MILE Antitrust CLE, April 2000


  • Adjunct Professor/Coach, Negotiation Seminar, Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Contact Karen Olson at 612.268.7020 or kolson@spencerfane.com.