MSBA Professionalism Committee
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2001-02 | 2000-01

MSBA Professionalism Committee
2001-02 Annual Report

1. History of the MSBA Professionalism Committee. In a 1996 report, the ABA Professionalism Committee concluded that "lawyer professionalism has declined in recent years and increasing the level of professionalism will require significant changes in the way professionalism ideals are taught and structural changes in the way law firms operate and legal services are delivered." Teaching and Learning Professionalism, Report of the Professionalism Committee 4-5 (August 1996). In the fall of 1996, the MSBA formed a Professionalism Task Force chaired by Dean Harry Haynsworth of William Mitchell College of Law. The Task Force's primary recommendation was for the formation of a Commission on Professionalism. The Task Force also made a number of other recommendations, including statewide convocations on various professionalism issues, the development of a professionalism code, a statewide mentorship system, professionalism programs for law students, and development of a professionalism component to the CLE Bridge-the-Gap program.
In the fall of 1997, the MSBA formed an ad hoc Professionalism Committee to study the Task Force report. The Professionalism Committee began work on a professionalism aspirations code and, as an alternative to a Supreme Court Commission, recommended that the MSBA form a permanent Professionalism Committee. The MSBA adopted this recommendation in June 1998. The first meeting of the permanent Professionalism Committee was held in January 1999. The current co-chairs are Judge Susan Miles and Thomas Vasaly.

2. Professionalism Aspirations. The Professionalism Committee completed work on the Professionalism Aspirations in 1999. The Aspirations were based on Standards for Professional Conduct adopted by the U.S. district court for the district of Arizona and the seventh circuit court of appeals. The Aspirations were adopted by the MSBA in January 2000. The MSBA filed a petition with the Minnesota Supreme Court asking the Court to adopt the Aspirations, and the Court approved and endorsed the Aspirations on January 11, 2001. The Aspirations can be found at Minn. Rules of Court-State 1037 (2002) as well as on the MSBA website. Some district judges, in their standard scheduling orders, require counsel to be familiar with the Aspirations. Rules of the State Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) provide that proceedings are conducted in accordance with the Aspirations and the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct. Minn. R. 1400.5600, subp. 2(N).

3. Programs for Judges. A major activity of the Professionalism Committee, many of whose members are judges, has been sponsoring programs for judges to give them the training and encouragement to curtail promptly breaches of professionalism by lawyers. The training model uses realistic hypotheticals and engages the participants in discussion on how to best handle the situations. To date, programs have been given at the Annual Conference of Judges, OAH, and several judicial districts.

4. Programs for Lawyers. Over the past several years, members of the MSBA Professionalism Committee have participated in a variety of Professionalism programs to educate lawyers on the topic. An interactive teaching approach is used with participants reacting to hypothetical situations and then using their own experiences to describe appropriate responses. The Professionalism Aspirations were used in these sessions to give the lawyers a practical reference point when dealing with difficult clients, difficult lawyers or issues that arise with the courts. In 2001, the Professionalism Committee worked with Minnesota CLE to create a training program that could be used by law firms throughout the state to educate their members on professionalism. Minnesota CLE developed a discussion guide (Professionalism In Your Practice) and then sent an invitation to the leaders of law firms around Minnesota to request copies of these materials (free of charge) for use in their firms.

5. Programs for law students. The Committee is currently discussing ways of bringing professionalism training to the law schools. The Committee hopes to develop a law school program during the coming year.

Thomas Vasaly, Chair

MSBA Professionalism Committee
2000-2001 Annual Report

The Professionalism Committee continued to have an active year in 2000-2001.

The Minnesota Supreme Court approved and endorsed the Professionalism Aspirations as the aspirational standards of conduct for the Bench & Bar of Minnesota. These Aspirations have been published in the Minnesota Rules of Court.

The Professionalism Committee continued to work hard on promoting education on professionalism by the bench and practicing bar. The Professionalism Committee facilitated a presentation on professionalism to the Ramsey County District Court Bench on November 16, 2000. The Honorable John E. Simonett facilitated the discussion.

Several members of the MSBA Professionalism Committee participated in various continuing education programs on the topic of Professionalism and the Professionalism Aspirations as follows:

1. 01/01--Julius Gernes did a presentation at a DRI Seminar on Ethics and Professionalism

2. 1/26/01--Attorney Generalís Office (Tom Vasaly and Chief ALJ Nickolai)

3. 4/4/01--Hennepin County Attorneys (Tom Vasaly and Judges Klas and Miles from the Professionalism Committee and Judges Bush and Mabley from the Hennepin County Bench)

4. 5/17/01--Hennepin County Bar Association (Tom Vasaly and Professor Neil Hamilton)

5. 6/22/01--Minnesota County Attorneys Association (Tom Vasaly and Judges Klas and Schurrer)

Members of the MSBA Professionalism also continued to write various articles on the topic of Professionalism, including a number of articles written by Neil Hamilton and one written by Julius Gernes that appeared in the April, 2001 Bench & Bar magazine.

In February, 2001, the Rider, Bennett law firm went forward with two half-day training seminars on the topic of Ethics and Professionalism that involved John Sonsteng serving as its moderator.

The MSBA Professionalism Committee also continued to consider preparing educational materials that could be used by law firms throughout the state of Minnesota to educate on the topic of professionalism.

Jessie Nicholson and Julius Gernes served as the co-chairs for this committee. We would like to personally thank all of the members for their active participation over the past year with the various projects. Mr. Gernes would also like to thank these same members for the privilege of serving as the co-chair for this committee over the past three years.

Jessie Nicholson and Julius Gernes

- Last Updated 12/2/02-