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

Sharing staff

Last year President Sonia Miller-Van Oort chaired the committee that put together the MSBA’s new three-year strategic plan. That plan was adopted by the Assembly on June 29, 2018. The five priorities, in no particular order, have been set as follows:

  • The MSBA will expand upon and improve how it uniquely connects and provides a statewide network for all of its members.
  • The MSBA will serve as the voice and spokesperson for the legal profession and justice system and proactively communicate its positions and actions to members. 
  • The MSBA will provide reliable practice tools and resources to practicing members that they cannot otherwise easily or economically obtain or access.
  • The MSBA will make operational and administrative changes internally, and in collaboration with other bar associations, to realize greater efficiencies, cost-effectiveness, and better service to members throughout the state.
  • The MSBA will incorporate diversity and inclusion best practices into the way the association operates, provides services, and develops leaders.

This month I want to bring you up to date on how we are approaching the goal of making operational and administrative changes to become more efficient and provide better service to all of our members. Five years ago members of the executive committees and executive directors of the MSBA, RCBA and HCBA got together to discuss ways we could all operate more efficiently. I am going to summarize five years of discussions in a few sentences—so forgive me, or thank me, if I leave out a few details. 

Everyone agreed there were significant opportunities in this area. For example, if we have one team doing all of the publications for all three organizations it would be more efficient and produce a more cohesive product. It would work well if all three organizations would share staff to serve all of our members. The points of contention focused on organizational identity and mission. Each organization wanted to continue to provide its own unique programs and services. Needless to say, the talks stalled.

Now let’s fast forward five years. At the beginning of 2018, MSBA Associate Executive Director Nancy Mischel asked me, as the president-elect of the MSBA, if I was interested in the shared staff concept. When I thought about my response I knew two things. I knew talks on this subject had gone nowhere for years, and I knew that life is too short to work on projects that will never happen. So, I asked Nancy, “Why would I want to spend time on a project that is going nowhere?” That’s when she told me things had changed. She told me all three groups had come to the realization that we can share staff and maintain our individual organizational identities. When she told me that, I told her I was all in on the project. 

At this point the project to form a shared staff has taken significant steps. The MSBA, HCBA, and RCBA have all adopted a resolution authorizing a “shared staff model” that combines the executive director and staffs of MSBA, HCBA, and RCBA into a single staff. We are now past the discussion phase and into the implementation phase. The resolution authorizes the formation of a Joint Coordinating Committee. Each organization has appointed three members to the committee. I will be on the committee along with two MSBA members from greater Minnesota, Dyan Ebert and Bob Enger. Dyan and Bob were specifically chosen to make sure our members from greater Minnesota will have representation during this entire process. Now, and after the transition to a shared staff, the MSBA will serve all of our members throughout the state. 

The charter for the Joint Coordinating Committee is to select one executive director for all three organizations. The committee will set the parameters of the search process, conduct a search, and make a recommendation to each board. The first meeting of the Joint Coordinating Committee is set for July 23, 2018. The goal is to have the new executive director in place by the time Tim Groshens retires in January 2019. 

This shared staff system will be good for the MSBA and all of our members. It will allow us to provide member services and support in a more efficient manner. We will be able to eliminate overlapping programs, create flexibility, and maximize resources. I am excited to be part of this change.

 

 

PAUL GODFREY is the Managing Attorney for the Twin Cities Branch Legal Office for Farmers Insurance. He is a trial attorney. He has tried more than 40 cases to jury verdict, with issues ranging from claims for whiplash to claims for wrongful death. 

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