By Leo I. Brisbois
Boozhoo Niijii; Gdinimikoon. Hello, Friend; I greet you in a good way.
I feel tremendously honored and humbled at having been extended the privilege of becoming the president of the Minnesota State Bar Association for the 2009–2010 bar year. In Ojibwe/Anishinaabe traditional culture, the concept of leadership—ogema—is not a European top/down construct where the leader unilaterally sets the agenda for the community to follow, but rather, it is a leadership model driven from the community; the leader in Ojibwe/Anishinaabe culture is obligated to work to serve specific needs as determined by the community. It is from this contextual perspective that I sincerely look forward to serving the members of the MSBA in order to address the needs and advance the interests of the legal community during the coming 12 months.
As I begin my term of office with the start of the new Bar year, many of you may yet be considering whether or not to renew your membership in the MSBA. I would like to respectfully offer a couple brief thoughts on the value of joining in association with your fellow lawyers.
Participation in the Minnesota State Bar Association is, first and foremost, the essence of the exercise of a foundational civil liberty found in our national Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble … .” [See, Constitution of the United States, 1st Amendment.]
By joining the Minnesota State Bar Association in the exercise of your civil liberties, you are directly supporting and making possible a whole array of member programs, services, and section/committee activities which are available to improve the immediate, individual practice experiences of your fellow members of the Association community. These member benefits include, but are not limited to, such things as: free computer-assisted legal research through Fastcase; online practice-specific resources, legal forms, case summary databases, and other practitioner tools accessed through practicelaw.org; a new online automated document assembly program—mndocs—which will generate documents ready to file, serve or mail; and the many practice-area-specific member listservs along with the many member-oriented activities and events that the 52 sections and committees of the MSBA organize throughout every bar year.
The constitutional right to assemble is not just exercised by organizing for the purposes of immediate, mutual support, but Congress is precluded from abridging “the right … peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” [See, Constitution of the United States, 1st Amendment (emphasis added).] Your membership in the Association community not only provides immediate, individual benefits for your colleagues, but it also directly supports and provides broader professional and societal benefits.
Benefit Your Community
By joining the Minnesota State Bar Association in the exercise of your civil liberties, you directly support and help achieve broader professional goals which benefit society at large. MSBA members form a voice that is 16,000-plus strong and capable of successfully championing the causes of an adequately funded, quality justice system; successfully advocating for the maintenance of meaningful access to that justice system for all of our state’s citizens without a regressive sales tax burden applied to essential legal fees; advocating for state judicial selection reform that will maintain an impartial state judiciary which has been nationally recognized and in which your fellow citizens have for so long held such a high degree of trust and confidence; and improving the science of jurisprudence through annual legislative initiatives brought forth by MSBA sections and committees.
So, as I begin my term of office with the start of the 2009–2010 bar year, I would like to say to those of you who have already renewed your membership in the Minnesota State Bar Association, as well as, to those of you who will do so, that in my eyes you are all leaders—ogema. The decision by more than 16,000 of you to actively enter into an association with your fellow lawyers makes you all leaders within the legal profession because by your membership you are directly contributing to meeting the needs and advancing the interests of your legal colleagues, the state’s justice system, and the citizens of your larger communities.
Miigwech bizindawiyeg. Thank you for listening to me.