Alexandra Olson is a partner at intellectual property firm Carlson Caspers, where genius is both celebrated and safeguarded. With an emphasis on patent and trade secret litigation and licensing across pharmaceutical, medical device and agricultural fields, she brings a fresh, authentic voice to the practice of IP law in Minnesota. Minnesota Lawyer recognized Olson as a 2018 Up & Coming Attorney and Super Lawyers has honored her as a Rising Star each year since 2015.
Olson was a scientist before she became a lawyer. An Iowa native, Olson earned her Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Iowa. After completing an engineering internship between her junior and senior years of college, she realized the life of an engineer was not quite what she had imagined. From a family of attorneys, Olson knew she could parlay her scientific talents into a compelling career in patent litigation, so she went on to complete her law degree at the University of Iowa College of Law, where she graduated with honors of highest distinction.
Olson came to Carlson Caspers as a summer associate and stayed on to become a firm associate the following year.
“When I went through the interview process, it felt like the perfect firm for me,” she recalled. “While we do high-stakes intellectual property litigation, the firm itself has an intimate, family-like environment. Our attorneys are at the top of their profession, and it has been amazing to learn from people who are such smart, capable professionals who have trusted me with meaningful opportunities early on. It helped me to develop confidence in my legal abilities. I’m so happy where I am and thankful for every day I go to work.”
In January 2018, Olson became a firm partner. As a member of the diversity committee and one of the firm’s hiring partners, Olson is passionate about her opportunity to lead and inspire others. “As a partner, I have more responsibility for being a mentor and role model for people at the firm. I am one of two women partners at the firm, and I think seriously about that. I want to be an example for other women coming up behind me and nurture them as professionals. Once they become partners, soon we’ll have a lot of role models and examples for other women to look up to as their success and clients grow. I love that as a hiring partner, I can speak positively about the firm. I like being able to say, ‘This is why you should work here,’ and mean it.”
I am one of two women partners at the firm, and I think seriously about that. I want to be an example for other women coming up behind me and nurture them as professionals.”
While Olson incorporates the firm’s diversity goals in her approach to hiring, she and the diversity committee are making other significant contributions to diversity and inclusion in the profession. “We have developed a scholarship for students entering law school from a technical background, and we support and sponsor various affinity bars, even when we don’t have attorneys from those backgrounds. We hope that through our participation in these organizations, we can grow our own diversity culture over time.”
Olson brings her natural exuberance to work each day, a quality that breaks with the age-old attorney archetype. She says that one of the things she values most about her firm is the freedom she enjoys by just being herself, since she believes her authenticity is part of what makes her an effective litigator.
“I appreciate that I’ve been taken seriously and treated with respect while being who I am. I’m more of a casual, fun person, and I like bringing that to work. I am who I am, and I’m not able to change that. I’m never going to be that bulldog type of attorney, and maybe there was a time that I thought I needed to be that way. But one thing I like about Carlson Caspers is I feel they embrace who you are. I’ve never felt pressure to be anything different than who I am, and I’m making my law career work for my clients and me. When I take a deposition, it’s not genuine for me to go in being hard-nosed and confrontational. I like for it to be a friendly, casual conversation, and I find that I can get people to open up and talk more than if I were taking the bulldog approach. I’m finding ways to make my personality work for me rather than changing to be what others expect an attorney to be.”
High-tech, high-stakes litigation can be an all-consuming passion for the professionals who champion the rights of their clients every day. Olson says the founders of Carlson Caspers operate from the belief that their attorneys are whole people who should have the space to pursue their lives and interests outside of work.
“Work can’t be everything. If you’re working all the time, you’re probably not doing your best work. There is a point of diminishing return. I feel work is just one of many parts of my life, and I’m lucky to be at a place that allows me to find that balance.”
Other priorities in Olson’s life include “the best dog and cat in the world,” Kinnick and Burrito, respectively. Sadly, Kinnick passed away suddenly during the writing of this article. She loves reading and musical theater, and she admits to seeing “Hamilton” three times, with plans to see it again. She also prioritizes time for service to worthy organizations including Volunteer Lawyers Network and the Pro Se Project. “It makes me feel good to use my special skills as a lawyer to help make life better for people by making sure they have a voice in the system.”
Olson proves that the law is becoming a place where people of diverse backgrounds and personalities can carve out a rewarding and successful career. “I’ve had a variety of champions, both women and men, who have given me opportunities to have experiences in the law and do them authentically with my unique litigating style and approach. You can be your authentic self and still be an effective advocate – maybe even more effective.”