Forsgren Fisher McCalmont DeMarea Tysver LLP

A Case for Authenticity and Team

By H.K. Wilson

The pandemic prompted millions of Americans to reconsider what mattered most to them and what role work would play in their lives. In January 2021, eight of them—the lawyers who formed the new law firm Forsgren Fisher McCalmont DeMarea Tysver LLP—decided that they loved their work, but wanted to practice together and in a different way. The excitement they felt about the simultaneous opening of offices in Minneapolis and Kansas City was due in large part to their confidence that the firm would be something novel. With strength derived from close friendships and working relationships forged over many years, Forsgren Fisher’s partners came out of the gate with tight personal bonds and a shared commitment to core values of authenticity and team.

“Our motivation was simple,” says Managing Partner Bob Gilbertson. “This was an opportunity to do the same wonderful work we’ve done for many years, and to test an idea we all believe in – that if we operate as a true team, where each member cares more about the team’s success than their own individual achievements, we’ll deliver better service and results to our clients and we’ll live happier lives.” 

Partner Ginny McCalmont, who practiced alongside Gilbertson at another firm, recalls one of her first trial experiences as a member of Gilbertson’s team. “As a junior lawyer, I saw how he empowered every member of the team and made everyone feel valued. He made it clear that giving the best service to clients includes getting input from everyone. It’s not about ego, but about delivering the best results in the most welcoming and affirming environment we can. That’s exactly what we’ve created here.”

Caitlinrose Fisher and Ginny McCalmont

“Our core principles are not quaint musings,” says partner Matt Forsgren. “They form the bedrock of how we work together on a daily basis.”

The firm gives no origination or billing-attorney credit to individual lawyers, preferring to credit the entire firm with working together to secure each opportunity. “We have literally no metric tying revenue to individual lawyers, and that’s because we know that it is our whole team—every single person who works here—who is responsible for the opportunities we get and the results we deliver,” adds Forsgren.

“Our clients never have to wonder about our internal politics or who is jostling for credit,” notes partner Caitlinrose Fisher. “Everyone is focused on the same thing—what the client needs in a given situation.”

Pairing a strong sense of team with an emphasis on authenticity was a high priority for the new firm. “We think it’s important to bring our full selves to work,” says McCalmont.

“Authenticity is freeing and inspires trust—which makes us stronger together and for our clients,” she adds.

Standing: Matt Forsgren, Ginny McCalmont and Dan Tysver. Seated: Caitlinrose Fisher and Andy DeMarea

Forsgren Fisher staff members and lawyers alike prize the firm’s emphasis on being relentlessly direct and honest with one another and with clients and tribunals. “Honesty is a gift we can give each other, and our clients appreciate that they always get direct, honest advice from us, not just what we think they want to hear,” says partner David Wallace-Jackson.

The firm’s ethos has proven effective, as the team has already attained a number of significant victories, including district court and Eighth Circuit wins upholding a client’s First Amendment rights, a Ninth Circuit reversal and remand in a civil rights case that will go to trial next year in Washington state, and a rare Minnesota Supreme Court reversal of a murder conviction in State v. Noor, argued by Fisher. The firm continues its internal-investigations work, including completing a significant investigation earlier this year, in sensitive and important matters. Further, Forsgren Fisher was named a Tier 1 metropolitan law firm by U.S. News & World Report – Best Lawyers in 2021 and again in 2022.

Along with trials and investigations, Forsgren Fisher focuses on intellectual property. Indeed, the IP focus is part of the firm’s origin story. Partner Dan Tysver, who has devoted his 30-year career to patent law, practiced with partner James Urzedowski in an IP boutique firm before co-founding Forsgren Fisher.

“Over the years, we refined a strength for developing patent strategy in addition to patent applications,” Tysver says. “We were a small group with a great practice. But we wanted to get involved with the actual patent enforcement and litigation, and our firm couldn’t do that. I ended up turning to Bob (Gilbertson) and David (Wallace-Jackson) for help. We had a great time doing it and served our clients well. I realized that our mission was enforcement along with patent guidance and prosecution, and we needed to form a new firm where we could get together and work in an environment where people really value each other. It’s been just fabulous.”

Focused primarily on the areas of computers, medical devices, manufacturing systems, mobile-device apps, consumer electronics, and data storage, Tysver and Urzedowski help clients from individual inventors to Fortune 100 companies with patent and trademark strategy, prosecution, invalidity and non-infringement opinions, and litigation.

“We exist to serve our clients with honesty and expertise,” says Urzedowski. “And it is a real treat to do that with Dan and the rest of this group.”

Getting a team-focused, multi-state law firm off the ground in the midst of a pandemic took some thoughtful engineering. It began with tapping Tysver’s tech genius to establish technology infrastructure that seamlessly integrates the two offices and accommodates secure and efficient work from any location. This created the foundation for the meaningful communication the firm is known for, both internally and with clients.

Opening two offices in two different cities, mid-pandemic, was no small task. In Minneapolis, Forsgren led the way in helping establish the firm.

“Matt Forsgren is a force of nature,” Gilbertson says. “Everyone in the business litigation, criminal law, and investigations arenas in Minnesota seems to know him. And when we opened our doors, it seemed like every one of them called him and wanted to hire us.”

Part of the reason for that, Forsgren notes, “is David Wallace-Jackson’s excellence in working with witnesses. In civil, criminal, and investigations matters, there is no one on the planet better at working with witnesses than David.”

Managing Partner Bob Gilbertson
Dn Tysver and James Urzedowski

Likewise, Forsgren observes, “Caitlinrose (Fisher) and Ginny (McCalmont) are well known in our community as absolute superstar up-and-comers who are already decisively here. Their creativity and tenacity delight clients, many of whom are turning directly to them for help.”
Like Forsgren, Kansas City partner Andy DeMarea draws a constant wave of referrals from lawyers who have seen him in action and know of his prowess in business and construction litigation as well as plaintiff ’s injury litigation.

“The thing that’s most startling to me about our new firm is how agile we are,” says DeMarea. “A brand-new client can call us on day one, and by day two, we not only have the right team assembled but are already up to speed on the details. We’re more nimble, and therefore more tactical, because of how tight-knit we are. Trust and loyalty aren’t even a question for us—they’re stitched into our founding fabric.”

DeMarea, who heads the firm’s Kansas City office, and Gilbertson, who spends part of every month in Kansas City, have been friends since high school.

David Wallace-Jackson and Matt Forsgren reading Haikus.

A top priority for the new firm has been cultivating the firm’s culture. In its first week in operation, the firm initiated “Tuesdays at 10,” a half-hour Tuesday-morning videoconference check-in that allows everyone to see one another and grow their sense of connection. This tradition endures, as does the Forsgren Fisher Haiku Contest held each May.

“Are we the only law firm with an annual haiku contest—who knows?” Fisher says. “But if not, ours is the most fun.”

The firm hosts an annual Forsgren Fisher Day in July at Urzedowski’s farm and an annual holiday dinner for all attorneys and staff members from both offices, featuring “Fishy” awards handed out by DeMarea. The firm’s most recent partners’ retreat, held in Colorado, just minutes from entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park, included family members spanning several generations of kids, spouses, and parents from ages 4 months to 84 years.

“We did some real work, thinking through our strategy and future, while reveling in a gorgeous environment and walking around the facility hearing the kids playing and laughing,” Wallace-Jackson says. “It was a beautiful experience.”

“From the start, we have prioritized culture over everything else because culture drives everything else,” Gilbertson says. “We were blessed with incredible client response to our launch and have enjoyed success beyond what any of us could have predicted, but what thrills us most is creating a culture that makes for the most satisfying possible way to practice law.”

Fisher adds, “We’ve had great successes already in our first two years, from helping clients recover millions of dollars, to protecting novel technology, to enforcing constitutional and civil rights, to avoiding significant criminal convictions. And we do it all by fully trusting every one of us to have each other’s back.”

Standing: Caitlinrose Fisher and Andy DeMarea. Seated: Matt Forsgren, Ginny McCalmont and Dan Tysver

Forsgren sounds a similar theme: “Credit-seeking and internal competition serve no purpose in what we are trying to do. We are looking to make the pass as much as we are looking to take the shot.”

The firm’s distinctive culture is reflected in its new offices, located in the Capella Tower in downtown Minneapolis. Designed for comfort and collaboration, there are spaces for teamwork and socialization, including a pool table and a beautiful private outdoor roof deck where the firm’s lawyers and staff members enjoy dining together al fresco.

As Forsgren Fisher’s second anniversary approaches, the group says it is committed to preserving the core values of authenticity and team that have thus far yielded such satisfying results.

“Trust is so important for this enterprise to thrive,” McCalmont says. “We will undoubtedly add people and expand within our various practice areas, but our core values will never change.”

Forsgren Fisher McCalmont DeMarea Tysver LLP

Capella Tower
225 South 6th St, Suite 1500
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 474-3300
forsgrenfisher.com

Kansas City
2345 Grand Boulevard,
Suite 1950
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 339-9300

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