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WER Fall 2019 From the President
Volume LXX, Issue II

In This Issue:
"Lawyers Making a Difference Through Community Service"

MWL News

Upcoming MWL Events

View all of MWL's Upcoming Events


2019-2020 Board of Directors

View all MWL Leadership

2018-2020 Strategic Plan

 

MWL Welcomes Your Comments

From the President

By: Amy Taber

Amy Taber is Prirme Therapeutics' Employment and Litigation Senior Legal Counsel where she provides legal advice and support to Prime's human resources and facilities teams and assists with oversight of Prime's employment and general business litigation activities. Amy began practicing Law in 2004 and was a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP before joining Prime. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Amy was a human resources professional for 10 years. Since joining the MWL Board as a Director in 2012, Amy has served in the role of Secretary and President-Elect. Amy is also a two-time recipient of  the Service to MWL Award.

Amy Taber

By being part of the MWL community, I have learned what a critical impact pro bono work and volunteering can make in our local legal community. The articles in this issue provide a small sampling of the many different ways MWL members get involved in various kinds of community building and volunteer work, both inside and outside MWL.

Having recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Rosalie Wahl Leadership Lecture, and having the pleasure of listening to Luz Maria Frias’s keynote remarks, as well as the insightful and poignant comments offered by Ann Anya, Justice McKeig, Karen Wilson Thissen and Karla Vehrs on community, it is worth reiterating a theme that wove throughout that conversation-as lawyers, we have the ability, and obligation, to help others.

Our Obligation to Provide Pro Bono Services

As noted in a September 2006 Bench & Bar article written by Patrick R. Burns, First Assistant Director Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, “[t]he roots of voluntary pro bono go deep.” This article discussed the history and evolution of the rules of pro bono and cited non-mandatory Ethical Consideration 2-25 found in the Code of Professional Responsibility adopted by the ABA in 1969 and in Minnesota in 1970:

"The basic responsibility for providing legal services for those unable to pay ultimately rests upon the individual lawyer, and personal involvement in the problems of the disadvantaged can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the life of a lawyer. Every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence or professional workload, should find time to participate in serving the disadvantaged. The rendition of free legal services to those unable to pay reasonable fees continues to be an obligation of each lawyer, but the efforts of individual lawyers are often not enough to meet the need. . . . Every lawyer should support all proper efforts to meet this need for legal services."

Today we have Rule 6.1 of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, which establishes an aspirational goal of “at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.”  Notably, the Preamble provides that, as lawyers and public citizens, we should “be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance. Therefore, all lawyers should devote professional time and resources and use civic influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who because of economic and social barriers cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel.”

There are a multitude of organizations that need volunteer attorneys to provide pro bono services.  During my legal career, I have provided pro bono services to the Immigration Law Center of Minnesota, LegalCORPS, Children’s Law Center, Tubman, MAC-V and SMRLS, to name a few. I will note that being aware of and being able to connect with pro bono opportunities was much easier working in private practice, since the law firms I worked at had a pro bono coordinator or committee, whereas that is not necessarily the case when you are an in-house attorney. I am proud to say that Prime’s legal department created a pro bono committee a few years ago and is a member of the Minnesota Corporate Pro Bono Council to ensure we are aware of and communicate pro bono opportunities to our lawyers and paralegals. 

Community Building and Volunteer Work

Although the values of MWL—Equality, Leadership and Community—drive everything MWL does, they are front and center for MWL’s Community Action & Advocacy Committee (“CAAC”). The purpose of the CAAC is to facilitate greater community service and public policy programming and activities. Current focus areas of the CAAC include: 1) violence against women; 2) pay equity; 3) access to justice; and 4) girl empowerment. CAAC activities may be coordinated in conjunction with other associations, professional groups or organizations, both within and outside of the legal community. 

One of CAAC’s annual events is Girl Scout Law Day. This very popular event provides girls in grades 3-5 with an empowering perspective on careers in the law through exceptional speakers, activities, and a mock trial. Topics include a day in the life of a police officer, how a bill becomes a law, and careers in law. The event concludes with a mock criminal trial, with the girl scouts role playing relevant pop culture plaintiff, defendant and witness roles, with the assistance of a local judge, prosecutor, and public defender.

MWL strives to provide its membership with a variety of programs and events to build community in partnership with other associations, the courts, professional groups, and organizations. Of course, our members are also involved in a wide variety of other volunteer work through their workplace or other organizations. As an example, last year I learned about a newer program, UPLIFT, led by Catherine Ahlin-Halverson of the Maslon law firm. Maslon UPLIFT (Legal Institute for Teens) was launched in 2017-2018 at the St. Louis Park Middle School based on the school’s strong commitment to racial equity and its diverse student body. Maslon UPLIFT is an after-school mock trial program serving 8th grade students. UPLIFT offers students engaging opportunities to learn from volunteer attorneys about the legal profession, criminal justice, and the court system. Participation in the program helps students build confidence, develop analytical and speaking skills, foster long term vision, and create a framework to pursue academic excellence in high school. The program culminates with the students presenting criminal mock trials before actual Minnesota Judges in courtrooms at the University of Minnesota Law School. Volunteering to be a coach for UPLIFT was a wonderful, rewarding experience for many different reasons and I plan to do it again for the 2019-2020 class year. Honestly, I think I learned so much more from the 8th graders I coached then they learned from me. In that vein, I’m going to reuse a quote by Justice Ginsburg that was in the article I wrote in the Summer issue of With Equal Right:

“Whatever community organization, whether it's a women's organization, or fighting for racial justice … you will get satisfaction out of doing something to give back to the community that you never get in any other way.”

I fully recognize that the practice of law is demanding and time is limited, but as lawyers we have an obligation to be an advocate for equality and justice and be a change agent. We cannot afford not to devote our professional time and resources and use our civic influence to ensure equal access to justice for everyone. 





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