Looking at the first real task that has been asked of me as the president of the Minnesota State Bar Association, I have to ask myself, has it been four years already? It’s hard to believe four years have passed since I attended my very first Council meeting and then President (now the Hon.) Leo Brisbois greeted me, extending his hand to me and saying, “Boozho Niijii Gdinimikoon,” and then told me what it meant: “Hello, Good Friend; I greet you in a good way.” It does not seem like it’s been four years since I attended the last traditional MSBA Convention in Duluth and was lucky enough as an association member to enjoy the tour of the Glensheen Mansion.
Ongoing Service to Members
But four years have flown by and there have been a number of changes in our association. Let’s start with a significant change that has provided more of our members an opportunity to participate directly with the bar association and has provided our association a direct opportunity to better serve members, that being the change from the traditional convention format to the current, “unconventional convention” format of “9 Days in June.” I understand that some members miss the old convention format—I’m one of them!— but the change to the new format allows our association to offer attorneys and judges in each judicial district an opportunity to spend a day with friends and colleagues from that (or any other) district and earn CLE credits at a significantly reduced price. It also provides the bar association an opportunity to inform lawyers in each judicial district of the services that the bar association has to offer its members.
Here are some of the programs currently offered by the MSBA that are not new and existed four years ago: ProJusticeMN.org (which provides resources for pro bono and legal services lawyers); practicelaw.org (which includes hundreds of legal forms and resources that were viewed by nearly 115,000 unique visitors last year); mndocs (an automated legal-document-assembly program that can be synchronized with electronic client files); CourtOps (an email service delivering court opinions) and Fastcase (an online computer-assisted legal research service), just to mention a few.
New Services & Programs
But in that much has happened in our association in just the last four years, I think it is important to point out some of the recent changes. In the last year alone and under the direction of Past President Brent Routman, the Minnesota State Bar Association held a diversity summit, reorganized and reinvigorated the Bar Leaders Summit, convened a meeting of the Sections, created Committee 36 to support new lawyers, and was instrumental getting the ball rolling in the Amicus Society to support the justice system. A very useful addition to the services that the association now provides is the Minnesota Judges’ Courtroom Preferences service. Developed by the MSBA Civil Litigation Section, this online service improves the quality of legal services by informing lawyers of judges’ courtroom preferences, allowing the attorneys to prepare in advance for their appearance before a specific judge. If you have not heard of this program, please go to mnbar.org and do a search for “judicial preference.” I assure you that if you haven’t previously appeared before one of the listed judges (and maybe even if you have), this will help you to understand the expectations of that judge.
Another major change that occurred in this last year dealt with the governance of the Bar Association. The responsibilities and duties of the Assembly and the Council were reorganized to better and more efficiently use the time volunteers who make up the Assembly and of the Council commit to the association. The Council now has responsibility for the operations of the association and the Assembly has responsibility for policy decisions that affect our profession or our association as a whole.
The changes that I have seen and that I have mentioned are by no means the only changes that the bar association has been involved in. The association has grown the services it provides to its members as well as expanding its commitment to be an integral part of our profession and to aid us as members to be the best practitioners that we are capable of being.
In that this, my first article, has so far discussed changes that have occurred, it is only fair for me to answer the question, “What changes do you see in the next year for our association?” To this my response is simple: None. I know that is not a realistic answer, but I can tell you it is an honest answer. I do not have a crystal ball, I do not read tea leaves, and I have no gift of prognostication, so I cannot really say what changes I see. But I can state that I believe any such changes that may come the way of the association and of the profession will involve the MSBA and its members working to ensure that such changes are in the best interests of our members and our profession. I look forward to the challenges that this next year may bring and I look forward to meeting as many association members as wish to take the time to meet me. Thank you.