Maisa Frank

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Following three grinding years of law school, Maisa Frank was finally preparing to begin as an associate at Gray Plant Mooty when she received a startling bit of news. Her start date was being deferred.

It was 2010 and law firms around the nation were still reeling from the market crash of ’08 that had sent shockwaves through the world’s financial system. Like many firms, Gray Plant Mooty didn’t have enough immediate legal work for all of the new associates they had tapped for employment.

“The economy was bad and a lot of firms were really struggling,” recalled Maisa, today a franchise and litigation attorney in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office.

Fortunately, Maisa’s wait was not long–less than two months.

“I had friends who were deferred for six months or a year,” she said. “I was very fortunate.”

The Road to Law School

Maisa grew up in Eagan and attended Eastview High School in Apple Valley. After graduating, she enrolled at Carleton College, a private liberal arts school in Northfield, Minnesota, where she studied economics and danced.

Several instructors at Carleton helped mold her mind, she said, but one professor in particular still stands out: Martha Paas, the Wadsworth A. Williams Professor of Economics. “She did a great job of teaching and recruiting women to the department,” said Maisa.

Her undergraduate studies went well; she graduated cum laude in 2005. But she had more than a hunch that her studies were not complete. She decided on law school because it seemed a natural extension of the liberal arts education she had very much enjoyed.

In 2006 she applied to the University of Minnesota, the state’s top-ranked law school, and was accepted. While enrolled at the U, Maisa became a managing research editor of the Minnesota Law Review and applied for a program through the Minnesota State Bar Association that helped place minority students at select firms in the state. She landed at Gray Plant Mooty, where she worked as a summer associate in 2008 in the firm’s Minneapolis office and split between there and the firm’s D.C. office the following summer, gaining a wealth of experience.

Life as an Attorney

After having lived much of her life in the Midwest, after her graduation Maisa decided it was time for a change. As it happened, the firm’s D.C. office had an opening.

“I wanted to be in a larger, more diverse city,” said Maisa. “So it was a great fit.”

Life as an associate at a prominent law firm has its appeal: good pay, stimulating work, and more than a bit of prestige. But it can also be stressful and demanding, and many an attorney has passed the bar only to buckle beneath the pressure.

Maisa attributes her background in dance, which she started at age five, as one of the experiences in her life that has helped her succeed. Both the discipline dance requires and its emphasis on performance helped prepare her for her legal career.

“Having the experience of performing, I think it helped me a lot,” said Maisa.

A network of support also goes a long way. For Maisa, the support comes both inside the firm and outside. At GPM, many people have provided her sound advice and insights over the years, she said. Eric Yaffe, Ashley Bennett Ewald, and Iris Figueroa Rosario are among the colleagues  who’ve offered guidance as her practice has blossomed.

One of the lessons she learned was the virtue of patience. As a new associate, Maisa often found herself working on a vast caseload, which at times precluded her from becoming more deeply involved in cases important to her.

“As my career has progressed I’ve had deeper involvement in cases that go further,” she said, adding that this allows more opportunities to be involved in depositions, hearings, and case strategy, facets of cases she finds engaging and stimulating.

Another attorney Maisa identifies as someone who has played an important role in her career: her husband, Joe Cappola, an appellate attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Having a partner who’s also an attorney has its advantages, it turns out. On the professional level, Maisa can bounce legal ideas off her spouse at the dinner table. On the personal level, her husband is in tune with the demands of her profession.

“My schedule is flexible in some respects, but it’s driven by court deadlines as well,” Maisa said. “He understands that.”

It’s a dynamic that has cemented their small family, which includes Ginger, the couple’s mixed-breed dog, and a baby the couple is expecting in January.

Speaking from her office in the Watergate Complex that overlooks the nation’s capital, Maisa sounded thoughtful as she reflected on her career following the market crash in ‘08.

“I was so lucky to get this job at Gray Plant,” she said. “If I had not worked with them my first year, with what was happening at the time, it could have been bleak.”