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


“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” — Albert Einstein

On the morning of July 14, I drove into St. Paul, got off the Dale exit, and then sat on the bridge for about 20 minutes due to a temporary road closure. It turned out that I had arrived just in time to see the Philando Castile funeral procession. It was real because it was not on TV. It was a powerful march of sorrow. Watching the procession somehow silenced all thoughts and thrust you into the present moment of experience. It was “disruptive.”

Ever since the shooting death of Castile, many of you have asked me, what can lawyers do, what can the state bar do, expressing deep frustration as to whether anything can be done. For the past few years, we have been witnessing tragic events of violence across our country, including some here in Minnesota. Somehow things seem different. So I wonder, have we been disrupted?

The term “disruption” seems rather disagreeable, and my dictionary agrees. But in my experience, disruption can be positive and powerful. Sometimes it is
an opportunity for a paradigm shift. It can be a chance for hyper-growth. One of my all-time favorite books is The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn explains how and why extraordinary scientific breakthroughs occur. Most of the time, scientists solve puzzles within a dominant paradigm. Periods of accelerated scientific growth, however, are different. When anomalies challenging the dominant paradigm accumulate to the point that the dominant paradigm cannot explain them, they upend that paradigm, replacing it with an entirely new paradigm that revamps our view of the conventional scientific evidence and the world. The most famous example of this is the Copernican revolution, which replaced Ptolemy’s view of the universe. But Kuhn’s theories have been used across all fields of academia to explain how breaks with tradition and old ways of thinking occur. So I wonder, is our current paradigm working? Are we ready to upend it?

If you answered yes, and are ready for a paradigm shift, what is your proposal? What is the new paradigm? Because I don’t think we have a replacement. We don’t have the answers. We are going to have to find or create them. And to do that, we are going to have to think differently.

Albert Einstein once said, “[t]he significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” So I ask you to consider whether the way we see the problem is the problem.

I am a big Steve Covey fan, and in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he explains that “each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or as we are conditioned to see it. When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms. When other people disagree with us, we immediately think something is wrong with them. But… clearheaded people see things differently, each looking through the lens of experience.”

Covey tells us that “[t]he more aware we are of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we can take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view.” “We can only achieve quantum improvements in our lives as we quit hacking at the leaves of attitude and behavior and get to work on the root, the paradigms from which our attitudes and behaviors flow.” We must start first with “the most inside part of self—with [our] paradigms, [our] character, and [our] motives.” Why? Because in order to see things differently, you have to be different. Our vision is a result of, and is limited by, our character. Fortunately, who we are is our choice.

It appears as though we have to disrupt ourselves.

The MSBA is working on multiple fronts  so that we can better educate ourselves about the Gordian knot of issues associated with the shooting death of Philando Castile and the other tragic episodes around our country. We hope that this forum will pave the way for a robust and meaningful conversation within the bar about what, if anything, lawyers and the MSBA can and should do.

As we move forward, I ask you to consider whether the concept of disruption has anything to offer us as we engage in that conversation. Steve Covey tells us that the great cultural shifts started with the choice of one person, and such people first decided to change themselves from the inside out.

Would you do that? Would you stand in the possibility?

Robin-Wolpert-HeadshotROBIN M. WOLPERT is a legal strategist, litigator, and appellate lawyer at Sapientia Law Group, where she focuses her practice on complex business litigation, data privacy, constitutional law, and political law compliance. Robin represents clients in litigation involving private parties or the government, parallel civil and criminal proceedings, civil and criminal appeals, and investigations.

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