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Karen D. Olson


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.

During her tenure at the Attorney General’s Office, Karen led the teams of attorneys representing the various environmental agencies, including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, and Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.  Karen also had responsibility for the legal work for other state agencies and boards, including the Minnesota Department of Revenue and the Minnesota health licensing boards.  Karen previously led the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division at the Attorney General’s Office and prosecuted numerous landmark cases that gained national attention and resulted in significant monetary recoveries and industry changes. In her government role, she regularly interacted with other state and federal entities on joint enforcement actions, investigations, and regulatory matters.  Karen also worked on legislative matters and testified before the Legislature.

While in private practice, Karen handled complex litigation matters for clients operating in a variety of industries. She defended national manufacturing companies in multidistrict litigation and class actions involving hundreds of cases across the country. Karen has also litigated many business disputes that benefitted from her business background gained by working in private industry prior to becoming a lawyer.

Karen has led hundreds of enforcement actions and government investigations for the Attorney General, environmental state agencies, the Minnesota health licensing boards, and other state agencies and boards. She uses her investigation and enforcement background to assist clients on regulatory matters, 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 represents clients in all stages of interaction with the government and regulator and understands the unique challenges in dealing with these entities.  She helps clients understand and effectively deal with government rules and regulations, government inquiries, and lawsuits.

Karen has significant first-chair trial experience and has tried numerous cases in state and federal district and administrative courts.  She has also represented clients and argued matters before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Minnesota Supreme Court, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Specific experience includes:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Representing companies in a wide variety of litigation matters, including class actions and MDL’s.
  • Recently tried a complex white-collar case involving allegations of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback and money laundering statutes in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas.
  • 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.

Presentations and Publications


  • American Bar Association
  • Minnesota State Bar Association
  • Wisconsin State Bar Association
  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation
  • National Mining Association, Lands Committee
  • Minnesota Women Lawyers
  • National Association of Women Business Owners
  • Association for Corporate Growth, Minnesota Chapter


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

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