Wow, has time flown by! Here it is, the middle of the spring, and I was just informed I have only this column and one more to pen. This means that my year as president is almost over and when I’m asked how has the year been and have I enjoyed it, my standard response is pretty consistent: First, it has been an honor to serve as the MSBA President and it has been very exciting; and second, you bet—I have enjoyed it all.
A Rare Privilege
Very few Minnesota attorneys have had the privilege to serve as the Bar President and even fewer have served from as far away from the Bar office and the Capitol as I have. Yet the opportunities and the obligations for me were very similar to those for other presidents who were much closer to the action. No matter where you come from, you are asked to put into the office what you wish to take out. While I have not been able to attend all of the functions put on by the Bar or by our affiliated organizations, I have been very fortunate to have worked with other officers—Phil, Richard, and Mike—who were willing to help me out when I needed it, both personally and on behalf of the association. These fellow officers have stepped in at times when I’ve been unable to attend an event on behalf of MSBA, and on other occasions I’ve attended by phone. I believe members understand these situations and so want to encourage all those MSBA members who wish to be part of the association’s leadership to seize the opportunity to get involved.
There are many, many ways for an attorney to be involved in the association and its leadership. One could start by pursuing a law-related interest as a member of a section or committee, become involved in one of the specialty bars or other organizations affiliated with the MSBA, or seek election to the MSBA Assembly and learn what the leadership of our association is all about. No longer should distance to the Twin Cities be an issue, nor should membership in a big downtown law firm be considered essential. With today’s communications technology and the speed and reliability of modern transportation, there really is no barrier to any attorney, anywhere throughout this great state, becoming involved in bar association activities or leadership.
While I may not have the biggest name or law practice, this last year I was recognized as the president of the Minnesota State Bar Association; and for all attorneys in our association and throughout this state, I held that banner high and proclaimed our message loud at every function I attended on behalf of the association. I am proud of this state, I am proud of our profession, and the attorneys in our state are recognized nationwide as some of the hardest working, most innovative and ethical practicing attorneys. They are, in two words, role models. That is why I can honestly say it has been an honor.
A Personal Pleasure
It has been a pleasure. Yes there has been some stress, especially when we were looking at a $2 billion deficit and all three legs of our access-to-justice stool needed some reinforcement. And let’s not forget the two constitutional amendments that we voted on last November and that were controversial within our own organization. A bit of stress comes without saying, but in context with everything else, it has been a fun four years.
Four years? Yes, being and becoming MSBA President actually is at least a four-year cycle. Someone on the officer track starts in year one as the secretary, becomes the treasurer in year two, is president-elect in year three, and becomes president in year four. Many doors have been opened to me as an officer of the association that I otherwise might not have even encountered. You all know that I am a legal services attorney in Bemidji, and as such I lead a fairly low-key, out-of-the-spotlight kind of life and career. In my three and a half years as an officer and representing the association I have been lucky enough to meet many important and accomplished people. While space does not permit naming them all, these have included a legal services hero—former Vice President Walter Mondale, all but one of Minnesota’s Representatives in Washington, and Senator Amy Klobuchar, who signed a sponge Capitol building for my son Paul, who is a huge fan of hers. I am hoping to meet Senator Al Franken this spring during ABA Day at the Capitol. I have participated in the investiture of Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Wright, have met and sat next to Governor Dayton, have become friends with Chief Justice Gildea, and have met celebrities such as Kent Hrbek and Ken Starr. There have been travel opportunities that realistically never would have been presented to me, such as the educational exchange trip to Cuba where 31 Minnesota attorneys, then-President Brent Routman, and I learned in-depth about the Cuban legal system.
I have no other way to say it: This has been an honor, a privilege, and a whole bunch of fun. And again, I encourage everyone who has an interest to give it a shot. Thank you all for the privilege of serving as your president.