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

“When The Going Gets Tough …”

The test of any professional association is its continued strength and solid performance in delivering value to its members in tough times. By any measure, the MSBA is strong, having maintained its membership level of over 16,000 members through the recent stretch of economically challenging conditions. We believe this represents a recognition that now, more than ever, members have faith in, and find value from, membership in “their association” when it matters most.

That value may come from the many technological tools to empower your practice, such as practicelaw, mndocs, Fastcase, listservs, Time’s Up, and CourtOps—to name a few major examples. Likewise that value is found in the 34 substantive law sections of the Association and the work of our 29 committees.
MSBA sections address cutting-edge legal and ethical topics with quality, timely, and affordable CLE programming; information to guide practitioners; and recommendations to improve legislation for the benefit of the profession and the public.

The value may come from helping members gain recognition of their special expertise through obtaining certification. MSBA now conducts certification programs in four areas of law: Criminal, Labor and Employment, Real Property, and Civil Trial—all approved by the State Board of Legal Certification.
In this internet age many clients find an attorney on the internet. gives members a recognized, authoritative site on which to post a web profile and gain access to potential business.

At the Minnesota Legislature (and yes, even in the halls of Congress) the MSBA is working hard on legislation that impacts your profession, your practice, and your clients. Many legislators have told us that they value our participation in supporting necessary legislation and also in reviewing other legislation for negative aspects or unintended consequences. Many MSBA leaders are on guard on your behalf at the legislature:

  • We join with other partners in seeking adequate funding for the judicial branch with all its affiliated component groups.
  • With our partners, we support legislation and a constitutional amendment for merit selection and retention elections of Minnesota judges. We believe this will best protect the fairness and impartiality of our judiciary from threats of special-interest and highly financed groups that would seek to place “their candidates” on the bench, thus eroding public confidence in our respected judiciary. For over 100 years, Minnesota’s judiciary has delivered a high quality of fair and impartial justice to citizens—a proud tradition we want to continue.
  • We resist regressive measures that would impede access to justice and raise its cost, such as proposals to extend the sales tax to legal services.

Financially the MSBA, through the Operations Committee of the Assembly, has carefully guided us through the difficulty of the past three years and we remain solidly able to meet our goals and missions and support all our programs and member services.

The Association will engage in a strategic planning process in 2010-2011 to assure that our missions and services remain relevant to the needs of our members and our profession and that we have the proper resources to deliver results. In this regard we will be seeking your involvement and counsel. As the saying goes “none of us is as smart as all of us.”

We strive to be transparent in our operations and governance and welcome your ideas, comments, and criticisms to make your association stronger. We want to be the professional partner of each lawyer and judge in every community throughout the state, engaging all members.

“And do as adversaries do in law—
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends”
Shakespeare – The Taming of the Shrew, 1, 2, 1593-1594

Between June 10 and June 24 many of us participated in a groundbreaking venture, the “unconventional convention,” also known as “Nine Days in June”. During the first eight of those nine days approximately 1,000 lawyers and judges, respected professional colleagues and friends all, convened in eight statewide locations within the eight nonmetropolitan judicial districts for reports on the state of the judicial districts, interesting and entertaining presentations on district contributions to Minnesota legal lore, and timely and well-presented CLE programming. On the last of those days over 600 more gathered at Target Field in Minneapolis for similar presentations, the passing of the presidential gavel, law school receptions, the Presidents’ Reception, remarkable performances by “lawyers with more than legal talent,” and dessert (hosted by the New Lawyers Section).

Just think of it—a convention that engaged 1,600 of our profession! At no cost except modest charges for lunches and to help defray the cost of the Presidents’ Reception.

It is my hope that everyone that participated in the collegiality, fun, and friendship came away from these events with a full understanding of why lawyers and judges in Minnesota are such a special group. We spend much time as adversaries or judges resolving contested matters, but have the unique ability to come together as respected and valued colleagues and to enjoy each other’s friendship as we celebrate our profession and its contributions to our society. Our sincere appreciation to all who helped in the planning and presentations for a job well-done!

Always bear in mind that
Your own resolution to succeed
Is more important
Than any other one thing.
Abraham Lincoln – Letter to Isham Reavis, November 5, 1855

Over the past year we have had the honor to be served by outgoing President Leo Brisbois. Leo represented us with remarkable skill, professionalism, resolve, and energy. He unselfishly dedicated countless hours to the matters of our association and our profession. He did this not for any award or gratitude, but because he understands the “social contract” that requires us all to give something back to our profession and society. We thank Leo and will remember his many contributions and exemplary leadership. See you again—friend!

Also the MSBA thanks all of the many leaders and volunteers who do so much every day to allow our association to meet its missions and objectives. We look forward to working with you in continued service to our association and profession.


  1. lowcashflownewlawyer
    Jul 18, 2010

    “By any measure, the MSBA is strongf, having maintained its membership level of over 16,000 members through the recent stretch of economically challenging conditions. We believe this represents a recognition that now, more than ever, members have faith in, and find value from, membership in “their association” when it matters most.”

    Of course it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact attorneys are REQUIRED to be members if they want to practice law in Minnesota. If the requirement were removed, do you really think that your membership numbers would’ve stayed up? I suspect that many would have let their membership lapse if it were an option – especially those of us who’ve recently graduated and could use the extra few hundred dollars.

  2. Bench & Bar
    Jul 19, 2010

    The MSBA is a voluntary professional association of attorneys. Because Minnesota attorneys are licensed through the state courts, not through the MSBA, membership in the MSBA is not required to practice law in Minnesota. While the rate of growth in the MSBA has slowed in the past year, attorney membership numbers have increased. Our retention rate is stable, and we continue to enroll a significant number of new members in addition to new admittees to the bar who receive a free year of membership.

    That said, your comments indicate that you are not experiencing the membership value appreciated by over 16,000 of your attorney colleagues. If you are not aware of the programs and services the Bar offers to support attorneys’ practices and the legal profession in Minnesota, I encourage you to learn about and try them. They may change your mind about the benefits of membership.

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Terry Votel

Terry Votel was the 2010-11 president of the Minnesota State Bar Association. The division attorney for the Midwest Division of the Claims Litigation Department of Farmers Insurance Group, he practices in the area of insurance defense. He received his J.D. degree from William Mitchell College of Law.