Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

An Association in Balance: Who We Are

Boozhoo Niijii; Gdinimikoon. Hello, Friend; I greet you in a good way.

The traditional Ojibwe/Anishinaabe view of the journey through life requires learning the necessary life skills to serve the practical needs of oneself as well as those of the community (Giikinoo’ amaadiwin) and involves ongoing efforts to enhance and grow in spiritual ways—to seek wisdom (Midewiwin). Having only the skills to live, but without knowledge of the spirit—without wisdom—would be an unbalanced life, one without purpose, depth, or meaning. To seek only spiritual growth is to ignore, at some peril, the realities of what is necessary to sustain the body in what can be a very harsh physical world. Only together by obtaining the necessary life skills and seeking wisdom throughout life will one’s journey in this world be in harmony or balanced—be on the “Good Path” (Mino-Bimaadiziwin).1

The Minnesota State Bar Association provides its members with the means to make the journey through their professional lives on a “Good Path.”

Through the collective work and dedication of the staff and members of the MSBA, the Minnesota legal profession is seeking to fulfill its own spiritual mission of sorts by advancing broader goals that promote the greater good throughout the entire Minnesota community. The MSBA and its members do this, in part, by devoting a great deal of their time and resources to supporting efforts to maintain an accessible, affordable, and adequately funded quality justice system; to fighting against attempts to place a burdensome sales tax upon the legal services that clients require in their times of need; to arguing for constitutional reforms that would protect and maintain the impartiality of the state courts as well as the public’s trust and confidence therein; to working to demonstrate the value of diversity in the legal community both by word and by deed; by its members performing innumerable hours of pro bono work every year to help satisfy the unmet need for legal services among those who are suffering economic hardship; and by its members helping to enhance and deepen the civic education of our communities’ children.

The MSBA also provides direct member services that empower lawyers in ways that will supplement their practical skills and training in order to increase the efficiency and improve the quality of their practice. Just some of the direct services that membership in the MSBA affords include: CourtOps (a court opinion email delivery service); (providing resources for pro bono and legal service lawyers); Listservs (covering 22 distinct subject matter discussion areas); mndocs (an automated legal-document-automation program that can be synchronized with electronic client files); (a client referral resource); Certification (four practice area programs leading to Minnesota Supreme Court-approved legal specialist certification); Time’s Up (a comprehensive and easy-to-use reference guide to Minnesota civil statutes of limitation); Sections (34 discrete member-governed bodies—with 18,173 total members—each having a specific practice-area focus); (hundreds of legal forms and resources viewed more than 110,000 times by MSBA member lawyers last year); and Fastcase (a free online computer-assisted legal research service visited 12,000 times by MSBA member-lawyers last year). The foregoing direct services, as well as others available through MSBA membership, allow lawyers to better serve the needs of their clients as well as compete and succeed in a highly competitive business world.

The legal profession is unique in our society. We are allowed to be a self-regulating profession. In return, we have an obligation to use our practical skills and training to protect the rights of our clients zealously within the bounds of the law—sometimes for a fee (in order to support ourselves and our families) and sometimes pro bono (to satisfy a societal need). We also have a more esoteric, but no less real obligation to do what we can to protect and promote the accessibility, inclusiveness, and impartiality of the justice system and thereby enhance and promote faith in and adherence to the rule of law. We in the legal community have these obligations both because as lawyers we work in the courts and also because as lawyers we are “officers of the courts.” These two obligations—one focusing on the practical and the other promoting the aspirational—often compete for our ever more limited time. As the window for renewal of membership in the MSBA for the next bar year draws near, consider that the MSBA, and all of the services it provides, are here specifically to help all members of the legal community balance these obligations so that they can keep the journey through their professional lives on the “Good Path” (Mino-Bimaadiziwin).

Miigwech bizindawiyeg. Thank you for listening to me.

1 Thomas Peacock & Marlene Wisuri, Ojibwe: We Look in All Directions, 1st ed. Afton, MN: Afton Historical Society Press, 2002.

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