10 Questions with Jamal Knight

10 Questions with Jamal Knight


Jamal Knight is a partner in the real estate group at Taft, where he focuses much of his practice on the representation of commercial real estate investors, developers, non-profits and other entrepreneurs. He is experienced in all aspects of real estate law, including purchases and sales, development, financing, leasing and environmental considerations. Jamal was recently appointed by Governor Walz to the Cannabis Advisory Council to bring expertise in minority business ownership to the panel.

1. What is something you never get tired of talking about?

I’m glad we’re starting with an easy question because I could talk forever about my brilliant and amazing wife, Kristin Kelly, and our two wonderful daughters, Emerson (7) and Sloane (5). When I’m not gushing about them, I’m usually talking sports—be it college basketball (Go Duke!) or any of my Dallas sports teams. Seriously. Go Mavs!

2. Tell us about your practice. What brought you to commercial real estate, and what do you like most about being a real estate attorney?

I love building—both literally and figuratively—and as a commercial real estate attorney, I get to work with teams that are transforming communities near and far.

When I moved to Minneapolis in 2013, real estate became my unique way of getting to know the community. Seeing the tangible impact of our work—whether driving by a new development or walking through a revitalized neighborhood— is incredibly rewarding and reminds me of the lasting difference a built community can make.

3. What are some trends or changes you foresee in commercial real estate in the next few years?

Now this is a tougher one, but it’s the one I am most passionate about. I’m incredibly hopeful that we’ll see greater representation of minority developers in the local and national commercial real estate market.

4. You’ve been appointed to the Cannabis Advisory Council. What are the primary responsibilities you’ll have in this new role? As expert in minority-owned businesses, what sort of considerations do you hope to bring to the council about cannabis sales?

I’m honored and grateful to be part of The Cannabis Advisory Council and bring expertise in minority business ownership. I feel a great responsibility to represent historically underserved and marginalized entrepreneurs that have not typically had access to financing, technical assistance, and other resources required to be in the pipeline for such opportunities, and I hope to bring valuable perspectives and insights to advise the Council on inclusive business practices to ensure that the Black and Brown communities feel seen, heard, and valued as it relates to national and state cannabis policies.

5. What are a few businesses in the Twin Cities that you love to support?

Few are as inspiring as the brilliant social entrepreneur Houston White. He has his hands in many different creative ventures and excels at each.  Check out the Get Down Coffee Company and the Camdentown Flats — each of which is about creating spaces with purpose. I look to Houston when it comes to community building, fostering genuine connections, and empowering underserved communities who deserve better.

I also love to support Minneapolis’ impressive dining scene. You’ll find me at Dario with colleagues after a day in the office or on a date night with my wife snacking on Oysters Dario and sipping a Mezcal Gimlet.

6. What’s a great piece of advice you’ve received?

Invest in mentorship—it’s a game-changer. I was fortunate to be connected with a real estate attorney, John Herman, when I moved to Minneapolis in 2013. He taught some of the real estate basics, but more importantly, he showed me the importance of building my brand, network, and community. He emphasized that it's not just burying my head in work, but forging meaningful relationships, being open to feedback, and remaining coachable. To say that John changed my life as my mentor would be an understatement.

7. What is one achievement—personal or professional—of which you’re proud?

Making partner at Taft last year is undoubtedly my proudest professional achievement. My path to partnership wasn’t particularly direct (and many who know me are aware that as recently as 3-4 years ago, I still found myself thinking somewhat regularly about what I wanted to do when I grew up), but there’s a fair amount of sacrifice, grit and resilience required in this pursuit, and I know I wouldn’t have made it here but for the support of my wife, daughters, mom, sister, friends, and, of course, the Taft team. I’m especially looking at you, Jing Jin and Justin Weinberg. Thank you for everything.

Beyond this professional milestone, making partner is another opportunity to show up and give back to the community. I want others to know that while the pathway may at times be difficult, it’s within reach.

8. What are a few ways you build and maintain strong relationships with your clients?

Building and maintaining strong relationships with my clients is the cornerstone of my practice. It’s all a function of showing up. I love introducing clients to each other and helping them build their own communities. It's about planting the seeds for deep relationships and watching the possibilities unfold.

9. Who is your dream dinner party guest? 

Well, I always invite my mom Linder to my dinner parties, and the Obamas (though they haven’t yet accepted).

10. What’s a non-law-related book, movie, television show, podcast, or other pastime you’ve been enjoying recently?

Our law firm’s softball league is at the top of my list. The league brings so many people in the Twin Cities legal community together, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer evening than being outside, working together, and having fun. Come watch as Taft brings our A-game all summer long!

Managing Editor
Elsa Cournoyer

Executive Editor

Joseph Satter