Mark F. Bernstein ’89

Raised in Alaska, Andrea Canfield ’14 traveled east to play softball and complete her education, but she came home to apply her skills to building wealth for the Native-owned corporations that now dominate Alaska business.

Canfield is a partner in the Anchorage office of Stoel Rives, a large regional law firm with nearly 400 attorneys. She is a mergers and acquisitions specialist, with a wide and diverse practice that includes advising small- to medium-sized businesses, and handling debt and equity financings. But her work with Alaska Native corporations adds an unusual dimension and purpose to her work.

Alaska Native corporations were created in 1971 by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, or ANCSA. It divided the state into 12 regions, each of which has its own privately owned, for-profit corporation to which all qualifying Alaska Natives belong. ANCSA also created more than 200 village corporations. Much of the revenue these corporations earn comes from natural resources, but they can invest it anywhere.

And, by all accounts, they have a lot to invest. In 2020, the three largest regional Native corporations each had revenues of well over a billion dollars. Those regional Native corporations also comprised 18 of the 20 largest businesses in the state by gross revenue, according to Alaska Business magazine.

Big or small, they all need legal and business advice to help them diversify, which Canfield and her firm provide. To pick just two examples, in 2020 she represented Afognak Native Corp. in its acquisition of Brown Jug, the largest retailer of liquor, beer and wine in the state. The purchase helped Afognak diversify its commercial business portfolio and provide a new revenue stream for its Alaska Native shareholders. She later represented a subsidiary of Bristol Bay Native Corp. in its acquisition of all the assets of several fuel and lubricant distribution companies based in the Pacific Northwest.

As merger and acquisition attorneys, “we specialize in acquiring and divesting assets, but we also manage transactions to get to closing,” Canfield explained. That can mean anything from preparing contracts to connecting representatives of the Native corporations with tax, labor or intellectual property specialists in her firm.

Outside of her work for Alaska Native corporations, Canfield has also been part of a team working on a restructuring deal for a huge ranching group operating in 15 states, and another representing a biofuels company based in Minnesota. In 2014, she assisted Atlantic Tele-Network Inc. in its $64 million asset acquisition of Green Lake Capital, which owns solar power systems in Massachusetts, California and New Jersey.

Hailing from Eagle River, a small community just outside Anchorage, Canfield earned a scholarship to play softball at Delaware State University. She graduated in three years, majoring in political science with a minor in business administration, and used her final year of athletic scholarship eligibility to obtain an MBA.

At UVA Law, she was the community service chair for the Black Law Students Association, served as digital editor of the Virginia Journal of International Law and — naturally — played in the North Grounds Softball League. But her best experience, she said, came in the spring of 2013, when she and a group of five other BLSA members traveled to Freetown, Sierra Leone, for eight days to provide support to the legal community in that country.

When it came time to pick a place to build her legal career, Canfield says she and her husband were torn between Alaska and Massachusetts, where their families are located. Alaska won out, of course, and Canfield has been at Stoel Rives ever since.

Seven years after beginning her legal career, Canfield became the first associate to be promoted to partner in her firm’s Anchorage office, which has been open since 2010. At the time of her promotion, she was the youngest partner at the firm. Though she has traveled the country and the world, Canfield always knew she wanted to do the kind of work she is doing.

“I was fortunate enough that I found the specialty that I wanted to practice, and I went straight for it,” she says. “It’s something that I tell folks who are coming out of law school. It helps when you know what you want to do, and you focus on that practice area.”

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