Helping Our Members in Their Practices
By James L. Baillie
The role of the Bar Association
has two equal parts: serving the public and helping our members in their
practices. Among the challenges in helping our members is the fact that
our members practice in increasingly diverse ways. In recent years,
a great deal of emphasis has been placed on diverse ways of helping
our members practice. In at least two ways there have been substantial
advances this year.
Practicelaw.org supplies forms, links to outside resources, case summaries, and articles
in specific areas of practice. On December 31, 2003, new forms libraries
were launched including family law forms and real property forms. These
were added to the family law file, employment law file, claimant law
file, appellate practice file, marketing file, the Uniform Conveyance
Blank forms, and the guardianship and conservatorship file. In addition,
the Bankruptcy Section, receiving national funding from the American
College of Bankruptcy, has added forms for bankruptcy practice focusing
on pro bono. As of December 31, 5,304 members (35% of our membership)
subscribed to this free service and by next December 31, we expect 8,000
subscribers, more than half of our entire membership! Much of the work
in this project is done by staff, but several of our sections - including
real property, family law, and probate and trust - have been critical
contributors. Individual lawyers also contribute their forms and are
Discounts for Smaller Firms. After a lengthy period of
investigating alternatives and negotiating, in 2004 we entered into
a three-year agreement with Thompson/West. We had found that solos and
smaller firm practitioners (up to 40 members), smaller corporate legal
departments and government law offices (up to 20 attorneys) have needs
for assistance in online legal research with more and better information
at a lower cost. West will offer a package of content and features designed
to meet the needs of MSBA members at a rate comparable to that paid
by larger firms. The discount for MSBA members in these segments for
the standard Westlaw PRO packages will range from 17 percent to 25 percent,
depending on the length of the contract (one to three years). Significant
discounts are also made available for print publications and technology
CourtOps offers daily digests and full text of state and
federal court opinions in civil and criminal categories (four in all).
There are 3,352 users of this program (6,138 subscribers across the
four lists). I use this feature and like it a lot. The very first day
of my subscription several years ago, I received a report of an 8th
Circuit case directly on point (and favorable) in a matter I was working
on that helped me reach a favorable settlement.
Discussion lists are offered for those with particular
interests - "solosmall" (solo and small firm practices), "estate,"
"familylaw," "bankruptcy-talk," "animal-law,"
and "acw-law" (Aitkin and Crow Wing County Bar Association),
for a few examples. Most of these lists are used by several hundred
members each. Rick Hendrickson, the lawyer who was shot, told me how
much he valued these lists and how much he help he had received from
other lawyers in recent years through these online discussion groups.
Bench & Bar articles, columns and "Notes and
Trends" case summaries are listed online. Articles from 1999 on
are archived on the site and are researchable. In addition, there is
an index listing all articles and authors from 1995 on with links to
the articles. This site draws an average of 8,900 monthly visits.
Legal News Digest provides services, summaries and links
to breaking news stories affecting lawyers. About 11,600 MSBA members
receive this service and it ranks high on member surveys.
n Sections and Committees that help keep us up to date in our practices
are there for most of us. These provide the communities of lawyers we
most closely relate to in the Bar. Every section and committee has a
"mini-website" for meeting notices, minutes and reports. Many
sections post documents of use to their members. These sites receive
11,700 monthly visits. These sections and committees also offer their
own email discussion lists as well. Active members of the sections,
of course, receive many hours of free CLE.
Other Benefits. Classified ads from Bench & Bar
are also posted online. There are ads for "attorney wanted,"
"office space," "professional services" and other
services. This site receives 8,500 monthly visits. The online directory
of MSBA members (excluding those who do not want to be listed) has more
than 8,300 monthly visits. The lawyer referral program continues online
and matches clients with lawyers each month.MSBAdvantage gives discounts
on car rentals, advantageous credit cards, etc. Our most popular benefit
of this type is insurance. Our Insurance for Members Committee has recommended
a number of products and arranged favorable pricing.
These are some examples of the way in which your association seeks to
help you in your particular practice. All of these services (except
for the modest section membership dues) are free. They are used by a
large portion of our membership. We plan to keep expanding practicelaw.org
and adding new aids to our membership in their practice.
JIM BAILLIE is president of the Minnesota State Bar Association.
A shareholder in the firm of Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., he concentrates
his practice in business bankruptcy and insolvency law and related litigation
and business transactions.