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John Cairns Law
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Charter School Law Practice: John Cairns
John Cairns Law Professional Association

The nation’s leading champion for Charter Schools…then and now.

John CairnsNearly 20 years ago, John worked to establish the nation’s first charter schools and secured  501(c)(3) status for these schools.  Thanks to his pioneering work in this area, hundreds of charter schools across the country are now benefiting from their tax-exempt status, which is a critical component of providing effective public education.

Today, John Cairns is widely regarded as the most experienced charter school attorney in the United States. His leadership has had a profound and lasting impact on public education. 

John was recognized as a Super Lawyer® by Minnesota Law & Politics for his work on behalf of charter schools. He has also been honored to receive an AV® Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest possible rating from his legal peers and indicates his reputation for professional excellence.

Prior to founding John Cairns Law, P.A. in February 2008, John was a shareholder at Briggs and Morgan, P.A. in Minneapolis. During his 19 years with the firm, John was member of the Business Law Section and the Education/Tax-Exempt Organization Practice Group.

Like many of his clients, John has given generously of his time to improve the community—and public education in particular. Some of these roles include:

  • Founding member of Public School Incentives, a nonprofit organization that helped raise over $25 million for school reform and restructuring in Minnesota.

  • Former Executive Director (1979-1984) of Minnesota Business Partnership (MBP), the first business organization in the U.S. to take a serious look at achieving better outcomes for public school students.

  • Former President and Member of the Minneapolis City Council.

  • Board Member for nonprofits including the Illusion Theatre and New Dance Ensemble in Minneapolis, and the Center for Victims of Torture, the world’s leading nonprofit group involved in helping torture victims and preventing torture by governments and their agents.

  • Consultant for The Business Roundtable in their work to achieve public school reform on a national scale.

Born in Wilmington, Delaware, John received his B.A. from Carleton College and his law degree from the Duke University School of Law. He has been published in Harvard Business Review and Education Week, and has spoken at various conferences on topics of education and school reform.

John and his wife Sonia reside in Minneapolis. In his free time, John enjoys spending time with his family and ten grandchildren; he is an avid golfer. He has also traveled extensively in the U.S. (and even played golf in) West Africa, Israel, and Central America