Official Publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association

Vol. 60, No. 2 | February 2003
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Sections Bring Out the Best
By Jon Duckstad

"Every citizen should play his part in the community according to his individual gifts."
- Plato

It has rightly been said that sections are "the engines that drive our bar association." Asked to name the leading benefits of MSBA membership, members consistently give high ratings to their section memberships. Thus it is not surprising that the sections also draw many of the best and the brightest among us.

MSBA offers members 33 sections to choose from, ranging across legal specialty areas and varying in size from 80 to 3,376 members. The New Lawyers Section is the largest, but another half-dozen substantive law sections boast memberships in excess of 800 each.

Sections have their own bylaws, elect their own officers and council members, establish their own dues, and choose their own projects and areas of interest. The challenge of leading such organizations annually attracts many talented, committed, and generous members. One such member, who this year chairs our 1,000-member Family Law Section, is Barbara Runchey.

Runchey has had a lifelong connection to law. Following in her father's footsteps, Runchey, her sister, and her husband have become lawyers and practice together in her father's old firm.

Runchey's talent was recognized early in her career. After clerking for Ramsey County Judge James M. Lynch, one of the best trial court judges ever to serve the state of Minnesota, she served Ramsey County as a prosecutor and the Supreme Court as associate director of continuing legal education before returning to Marshall in 1982 to begin private practice.

While maintaining an active practice, Runchey has found time to serve as an officer or board member with a wide variety of state, community, and law-related organizations. She has been president of both her county bar association and the associated district Bar. She served on the state Judicial Merit Selection Commission under two governors (1990-2002), and has also served on the Board of Law Examiners. A former member of the 9th District Ethics Committee, she currently serves the 8th Judicial District as a child support magistrate.

Runchey was honored in 1994 as Central Minnesota Legal Services' outstanding volunteer attorney, and she has twice been recognized by her hometown as an outstanding member of the business and professional community. She has also provided leadership for such diverse organizations as the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce, Prairie Home Hospice, and Minnesota Continuing Legal Education, among others.

The Family Law Section needs an accomplished volunteer like Barbara Runchey to lead it. Like other MSBA sections, it also needs volunteers to publish its newsletter, produce cle programs, and develop and promote legislation. Section members perform a wide variety of additional functions, and virtually without exception, they report they gain more from their involvement than they give up. These opportunities are there for all MSBA members. Which section is right for you?

Barbara Runchey

  • Location: Marshall, Minnesota
  • Career: 1992 - Present -- Runchey, Louwagie & Wellman law firm; 1980-82 -- Associate Director of Continuing Education, Minnesota Supreme Court; 1980 -- Special Assistant Ramsey County Attorney
  • Service: 2003 - present -- Child Support Magistrate, 8th Judicial District; 2002-03 -- Chair, MSBA Family Law Section; 1996 - present -- Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners; 1990 -- President - Judicial Merit Selection Commission; 1989 -- President - Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce; 1988 -- President, 9th District Bar Association
  • Education: 1980 -- J.D., William Mitchell College of Law; 1976 -- B.A. Political Science, Hamline University

JON DUCKSTAD is president of the Minnesota State Bar Association. This month he visits Barbara Runchey, in Marshall, Minnesota.