Staff

Virginia W. Merritt – Executive Director & Attorney at Law

Virginia W. Merritt, J.D. graduated with Distinction from the University of Iowa College of Law in 2010. Virginia received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Political Science from the University of Iowa in 2007. During law school Virginia was a student writer for the Iowa Law Review and was an intern at the University of Iowa Student Legal Services. Prior to joining LAOC in August 2012, Virginia worked at Brown, Kinsey, Funkhouser & Lander, P.L.C. practicing primarily in probate, real estate, business entities and transactions, and civil litigation. Virginia is a member of the Minnesota and Olmsted County Bar Associations. Virginia became a member of the United Way of Olmsted County’s Board of Directors in 2015. Virginia also enjoys serving on the social committee for her neighborhood association. Virginia is a member of the Delta Zeta Twin Cities Alumni Chapter and volunteers for the national organization as a Membership Specialist. Virginia is the 2014 recipient of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women’s Community Ally Inspire Award and the 2015 recipient of the Battered Women’s Legal Aid Project’s Attorney of the Year Award.

Peter A. Foss – Attorney at Law

Peter A. Foss, J.D. graduated in 2006 from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he participated in clinical programs including the Wisconsin Innocence Project and the Public Defender Project.  Prior to joining LAOC in December 2014, Peter gained a variety of legal experience working as an associate attorney at small law offices in Wisconsin and Massachusetts and also as a temporary attorney working on large-scale corporate litigation projects in Washington, D.C.  He has practiced in multiple areas including criminal defense, family law, landlord-tenant, bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, personal injury, corporate fraud litigation, and FCPA investigations.  Peter received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Pacific Lutheran University in 2001, majoring in Communications (emphasis print journalism) with a minor in Philosophy.  Outside of work, he enjoys travel, reading, hiking, music, and recreational sports.

Michelle D. Dobson – Attorney at Law

Michelle D. Dobson, J.D. graduated from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2011, where she earned a Certificate in Advocacy, received two CALI Excellence for the Future Awards, and participated as a student representative at the Federal Low-Income Tax Clinic. Michelle received her Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis in 2007, with a double-major in Political Science and Psychology, and a minor in Spanish. Prior to joining LAOC in August of 2015, she was a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Jean Prendergast-Rooney in the Circuit Court of Cook County, worked as a financial advisor, and practiced in the areas of taxation, trusts and estates, and elder law. Michelle is licensed to practice law in Minnesota and Illinois, and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association and the Olmsted County Bar Association. She is also an active volunteer with Wills for Heroes and the AARP Tax-Aide Program.

Karen Fairbairn Nath – Volunteer Coordinator/Attorney at Law

Karen Fairbairn Nath, J.D. graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1988. She practiced labor/employment law at Dorsey & Whitney in Minneapolis before she went in-house and worked in the Holiday Companies’ Legal Department. Karen then took a lengthy hiatus from the practice of law to raise and homeschool her two children. Karen is originally from Rochester and graduated from John Marshall High School in 1979; she graduated magna cum laude from St. Olaf College in 1983. In addition to working at LAOC, Karen is an active member of the Friends of the Rochester Public Library. She enjoys running, cooking, time with her family and her collies.

Kristy Arndt Turner – Office Administrator

Kristy Turner started working as the LAOC Office Administrator in 2008.  Kristy is responsible for all bookkeeping, grant invoicing and billing, and payroll, as well as maintaining the office client databases.  Previously, she worked for 16 years as a legal assistant for attorney Mary Alice Richardson.  Outside of LAOC, Kristy works for a local farm operation and is the volunteer Service Unit Manager for the Kasson-Mantorville Girl Scout Service Unit.

Erica C. Magner – Paralegal & Receptionist

Erica C. Magner graduated from Winona State University with an ABA-approved Paralegal degree and a minor in History. While in school, Erica was a member of the Paralegal Association as well as Habitat for Humanity. Erica was previously a Human Resources Assistant at TRW Automotive before she accepted the paralegal and receptionist position with Legal Assistance of Olmsted County. Erica is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin before making the move to Minnesota for school and work. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and camping.