A Discussion of Current Events
By Michael J. Ford
I believe it is important that each member of the Minnesota State Bar Association be informed of the issues of the day. Let’s take a moment to review issues affecting the practice of law and lawyers that have arisen over the last five months.
- A Proposal to Amend the Rules Governing the Bar Examination. The Minnesota Institute for Justice has proposed amendments to the rules governing the Minnesota Bar Examination that have fostered some lively discussion within the bar. The libertarian Institute’s proposal to the Minnesota State Board of Law Examiners and the MSBA Rules of Professional Conduct Committee urges that graduates of law schools that have not been accredited by the American Bar Association be permitted to take the Minnesota bar examination.
- “Diploma Privileges” for Graduates of Accredited Law Schools. Minnesota State Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL—Inver Grove Heights) conducted a meeting on October 29th with representatives of the four Minnesota law schools, the Board of Law Examiners and the MSBA to consider a proposal to extend “diploma privileges” to graduates of American Bar Association-accredited law schools in Minnesota.
- Funding the Legal System. The Association has stepped up its traditional support of adequate funding for the legal system, which has been defined as the courts, legal services, public defense, and prosecutors.
This year the MSBA has joined those four entities in a combined effort to secure adequate funding for the legal system. The MSBA sponsored a meeting on November 20th with lawyer-legislators to discuss the issues that the Legislature will be facing this year with respect to funding the legal system.
A new professional networking site, 1000supporters.org, offers members information resources on the topic as well as opportunities to network with others working to ensure adequate funding for Minnesota’s system of justice, including the courts, prosecutors, public defense, and legal aid.
- Judicial Selection. The MSBA Judiciary Committee continues its efforts to raise public awareness of the issues involved in the judicial selection process. The committee’s website, at www.mnbar.org/committees/judiciary, is devoted to the topic and provides attorneys and others with information that can be used for public presentations. The Civic Education Committee is recruiting attorneys to speak in local schools on the topic and may be contacted via staff member Brian Bell at email@example.com.
The College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph recently hosted a forum on the topic of judicial selection that featured presentations by Karna Peters, chair of the MSBA Judiciary Committee, former Gov. Al Quie, Sen. Julianne Ortman (R—Chanhassen), and others. Other such presentations are being considered.
The Minnesota Legislature is expected to take up the issue of judicial selection again in the next session despite the mounting financial concerns facing us all.
- Law Firm Profitability. The Association continues with its efforts to assist attorneys in private practice in the efficient, effective, and economical delivery of legal services. Computer-assisted legal research (FastCase), automated document-assembly systems (MNDOCS), and professional networking sites (Mypractice.org,) are just some of the products that the Association has deployed in this effort. Plans are underway to develop a “profitability conference” to be presented as part of the 2009 annual meeting in Duluth.
- Pro Bono Committees. Some of the MSBA sections have undertaken to create committees dedicated to developing pro bono opportunities for their members. The Military Law Committee Pro Bono ListServe and the Probate & Trust Law Section Wills for Heroes Program are examples of innovative approaches to this area of our practice.
- Diversity Committees. There are currently efforts underway to educate attorneys and the law firms regarding the benefits of the Diversity Best Practices Guide developed by the MSBA. MSBA sections are being asked to create committees for the purpose of educating their members in the benefits of the guide. The guide can be found online at www.mnbar.org/
- MSBA Programs and Services. Tim Groshens, the MSBA Executive Director, and the professional full time staff that he leads are always willing to work with volunteer members of the Association who have an idea, or a passion, that they want to run with. I urge you to take the opportunity to become involved in this, your association, and join us in working to address current issues of common concern.
* According to Wikipedia, “‘Whassup?’ was [a] commercial for Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser beer from 1999 to 2002. The first spot aired during “Monday Night Football,” December 20, 1999. The ad campaign was run worldwide and became a pop culture phenomenon. The phrase itself is an alteration of the phrase ‘What’s up?’”
MICHAEL J. FORD is president of the Minnesota State Bar Association. A shareholder in the law firm of Quinlivan & Hughes, PA, St. Cloud, Minnesota, he is a graduate of St. John’s University and received his JD from the William Mitchell College of Law. He concentrates his practice in the areas of civil litigation, insurance coverage, employment and government liability, and land use and general casualty law.