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

Personal & Professional Development

I am proud to be a member of the MSBA because of the opportunities it provides for members to be leaders.

Sure, it may seem obvious to speak about leadership opportunities when you’re the president, but it’s not just about this particular, mighty office (side note: at the April 25 Assembly meeting the announcement will be formally made that the Elections and Appointments Committee is soliciting statements of interest from people who want to replace me as the “at-large” officer—power is fleeting).

This comes up a fair amount in discussions with law students who are facing graduation and a challenging job market where they will be competing with many others for the available positions.  In a sea of recently minted law graduates, how can one person stand out?  One way is by demonstrating involvement and leadership in the legal community, and the MSBA offers many such opportunities—to students, recent graduates, and seasoned lawyers alike.

A Thousand Opportunities

Between the Council and Assembly, nearly 150 leadership opportunities beckon, allowing individual members to represent sections, geographic areas, or particular demographic segments of the legal community.  The 37 different sections, which bring together attorneys around particular aspects of the law or around other significant shared interests (e.g., the New Lawyers or Outstate Practice sections), each have governing bodies of their own, where an attorney wanting to hone leadership skills can get that experience.  The MSBA has 21 geographically defined districts, covering all areas of Minnesota; a complete list can be found at  Like the sections, every district has officers and a board where lawyers can serve their communities and make a difference.  These represent literally hundreds of chances to get involved, contribute one’s talents, and set one’s self apart.

Not enough for you?  At that same April Assembly meeting, the delegates will appoint people to serve on the Client Security Board, the State Board of Continuing Legal Education, the boards of the Legal Services Advisory Committee and of Central Minnesota Legal Services, and as MSBA delegates to the American Bar Association (ABA).  This is far from an exhaustive list of the entities to which the MSBA appoints members, each being another opportunity to expand one’s connections, develop leadership skills, deepen one’s knowledge of an aspect of the legal community, and make an important difference.

You want more?  Once again, at the April meeting, the Assembly will be voting on appointees to the board of our affiliate, the Minnesota State Bar Foundation.  Similarly, but through a different process, the MSBA appoints the board members for our highly respected subsidiary, Minnesota Continuing Legal Education, which was organized to support the MSBA’s educational and charitable efforts, and regarding which the MSBA retains significant oversight responsibilities.

While these are “officially designated” opportunities for leadership, many more exist.  One need not be a member of a section’s governing body in order to have a role in creating programs, providing education to others, or even engaging directly in lobbying work on a section-sponsored bill.  Additionally, the MSBA offers several very active committees where people can pursue important issues and become leaders.  Among the most active this year have been the Human Rights Committee, which has dug into several challenging topics; the Diversity Committee, which has been working with our new director of diversity and inclusion to advance new initiatives; and the Mock Trial Advisory Committee, which has recently wound up yet another successful season while working with the Council to strengthen this vibrant program for the future.

Without actually attempting to do the math, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the Council, the Assembly and the district bars, and all their various committees and subcommittees; the MSBA’s sections and committees; our ABA delegates; and the affiliated boards and commissions to which the MSBA appoints members together may offer a good thousand chances to contribute, and to lead.

Why Bother?

So what?  Lawyers are busy people, and have lots of pressing matters to attend to, from clients’ cases to other community activities they engage in.  Why take on more?

Simply put, these are all chances for both personal and professional development.  The MSBA is committed to being an indispensable partner to its members, providing them opportunities not available elsewhere for education, networking, skill-building, practice development, and leadership.  We believe the MSBA can be a unique and powerful resource for lawyers throughout Minnesota to be the sort of lawyer they always hoped to be.  We want Minnesotans to know that among the many lawyers who can help them, a lawyer who’s a Bar member is a cut above the rest, because they have access to tools and knowledge that will make them exceptional.  And our members want not only clients, but potentially future employers, appointing officials, or even voters to see them standing out from the pack as lawyers, elected officials, or appointees.  Wherever you hope your professional path will take you, becoming actively engaged in the Bar and taking advantage of the many leadership opportunities it provides is likely to help make that journey more rewarding and successful.

So if you were waiting for an invitation to get involved, this is it—tear or print out this page, put it where you can find it again, and plan to take even fuller advantage of your membership in the MSBA.  If you are already serving in one of these capacities, thank you—your involvement means a lot to us all.

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Phil Duran

Phil Duran was 2013-14 president of the Minnesota State Bar Association. A Minnesota resident since 1997, he serves as legal director for OutFront Minnesota, an LGBT advocacy organization, and advises nonprofit organizations as staff attorney for MAP for Nonprofits, both based in the Twin Cities.