More Things Change
By David Stowman
as a profession have reasons for optimism.
I met many of those reasons recently.
On October 29, a new crop of lawyers was admitted to practice
before the courts of Minnesota during a ceremony conducted at Roy Wilkins
Auditorium in St.
Paul. The Supreme Court presides over the ceremony
and the MSBA president is invited to give remarks.
1972, I sat in the audience, freshly scrubbed, wide-eyed, feeling
relief at having passed the bar, looking forward to a new career.
This year, I observed from the podium, reflecting back to that
earlier time when Minnesota boasted about 5,000 attorneys.
number has increased to nearly 25,000.
This year, St. Thomas graduated its first class, contributing
to the pool of 765 newly admitted lawyers, which is up from 751 new
attorneys in 2003. Eighty-eight
percent of those taking the July bar exam passed.
admissions ceremony is an exciting moment and one of the most memorable in the
life of an attorney. Following
undergraduate school, there is the LSAT, an application for admission,
three more grueling years of study, research and exams, and then upon
graduation, a bar review course, bar exam, and an eternity of waiting
for results. With all of that behind us, we are ready for
the “real world.” As I watched
this year’s class sworn in, I contrasted present conditions with the
world of three decades ago.
More Things Change
that earlier time:
An unpopular draft decided the fate of many.
Young men were assigned a “number” by lottery, which determined
the order of call for compulsory military service.
Domino theory: Communism
was treated as a commodity for export, and military forces were
dispatched to Viet Nam to prevent its spread.
At 18, young people were eligible for military service, but the
right to vote was not conferred upon that group until the 26th Amendment
was passed in 1971, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.
As the Watergate scandal erupted, Senator Walter Mondale said in
July of 1973, “I am shocked by the number of lawyers involved in
the Watergate scandal … . The sad truth is that the legal profession performed miserably
in the entire Watergate affair.”
John Dean asked: “How in God’s name could so many lawyers
get involved in something like this?”
1972, the Senate approved the Equal Rights Amendment guaranteeing
equality for women but it was not ratified by the required number
In Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that
women have the unrestricted right to abortion in the first trimester
of pregnancy, after which the state has some interest in protecting
the fetus. (1973)
towering World Trade Center became New York’s latest calling card in 1973.
establishing the Legal Services Corporation passed in 1974, providing
funding for civil legal services to the disadvantaged.
approved the Election Reform Act limiting contributions to presidential
campaigns and capping the presidential candidates’ budget. The act encouraged the growth of political action
word processors began to populate offices in the early 1970s. The machines resembled typewriters and permitted
basic text editing. In 1975,
Microsoft Computer Software Company was founded by Paul Allen, age
22, and Bill Gates, age 19.
1975, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to
require lawyers to continue their professional education to keep
their license to practice.
State Board of Professional Responsibility had its first meeting
in 1971 and has become an integral part of the self-policing of
the legal profession
U.S. Supreme Court ruled that lawyers could advertise, as prohibitions
against it infringed upon free speech.
into the 1970s, the organized bar had an auxiliary called Lawyers’
Wives, which sponsored fashion shows, teas, and ran the MSBA’s
State Fair booth. Although
women and minorities had broken into the profession by 1900, Minnesota’s legal profession was still overwhelmingly
white and male.
Average Minnesota lawyer income in 1970 was $23,439. Only 4 percent earned over $60,000 annually.
In July 1972, MSBA President George C. King’s inaugural column in
Bench & Bar introduced upcoming issues for the bar year, which
included endorsement of “no-fault” auto insurance and divorce based
upon “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage.
In December of that year, King wrote about prepaid legal
services: “Prepaid Legal Services is a problem … or an
opportunity if we so choose … that is upon
More Things Stay the Same
American military forces invaded Iraq for the purpose of introducing freedom
to the area. It is the domino
theory in reverse.
Even without the Equal Rights Amendment, women have greater opportunity
to participate in military service, but none are being drafted.
The Roe v. Wade controversy is back in the
The World Trade Center is being replaced.
It is nearly impossible to keep up with the latest advances in technology.
Prepaid legal services is a program that
still hasn’t found its niche.
Legal Assistance to Disadvantaged continues to provide for unmet
association remains the unified voice of the profession.
We continue to face new challenges, but with each incoming
class, new leaders emerge who are problem-solvers and part of the
solution. I met several from this year’s class whom I
believe will evolve into that role.
They give us reason for celebration and optimism.
STOWMAN of Detroit Lakes is president of the MSBA, a certified civil
trial specialist, and a top 100 SuperLawyer. He concentrates his practice in products liability
and personal injury law and related litigation.