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Meet HCBF President Matt Ralph

Meet HCBF President Matt Ralph 800x300px-01

Meet Hennepin County Bar Foundation (HCBF) President Matt Ralph. Ralph talks about how the HCBF has continued to fulfill its mission of promoting access to justice for residents of Hennepin County and how bar members can support the Foundation through donating or attending the Bar Benefit on June 2.

Tell us about your legal career and how you got involved in the HCBF.

I came to Minneapolis after law school to clerk for Diana Murphy on the Eighth Circuit.  The following year I joined Dorsey & Whitney, where my best friend’s dad was a corporate lawyer.  At Dorsey, I’ve practiced commercial litigation for 20 years with a specialization in antitrust law.  I applied to the HCBF board at the suggestion of two Dorsey colleagues – Thad Lightfoot, the former HCBA president, and Bridget Hayden, a former HCBF board member.  

What should HCBA members look forward to for this year’s Bar Benefit on June 2?

Historically the HCBF has scheduled the Bar Benefit in early March, when the event doesn’t have to compete with good weather. But this year we were determined to return to an in-person event, so we rescheduled the Bar Benefit for early June. We have secured a great location at St. Anthony Main (the Minneapolis Event Center) that has indoor and outdoor areas. We want to capitalize on the pent-up sociability of our members for a lively event.

Community needs related to racial justice and public health have been put in the spotlight these last few years. What sorts of changes have you seen in the needs of our grantees?

The HCBF’s mission is “access to justice.”  Recent events have underscored the significance of this mission and HCBF’s work promoting it.  It isn’t so much that the community’s needs have changed as our constituents have been energized by society’s increased concern for addressing these needs.

What would you like the local legal community to know about the HCBF?

Each year the HCBF disburses between approximately $200,000 and $300,000 toRalph_200 Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) and other legal organizations. These organizations serve primarily low-income Minnesotans with issues related to criminal justice, domestic violence, child custody and children’s rights, healthcare, tenant rights, immigration, entrepreneurship, and wills. HCBF’s grants serve people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, women, children, veterans, and the elderly. In short, the HCBF’s mission promotes and serves diversity.

How can HCBA members get involved and support the HCBF?

The HCBF raises money through the annual HCBA membership dues-checkoff, our spring Bar Benefit, and our fall Golf/Tennis/Biking event.  Anybody can get involved by simply joining the HCBA or by attending these events. Every additional dollar we receive is one more dollar we can put to work for our community.  In 2019, the HCBF also implemented a Fellows Program modeled on the ABA program of the same name.  The Fellows Program is an honorary society of attorneys, judges, law professors, and other legal professionals who have committed to support HCBF’s goals and objectives by donations of $300 per year for five years.  Fellows’ names are published on the HCBA/HCBF website and in the Hennepin Lawyer magazine. Fellows are also given access to special programming, such as a pre-reception at the HCBF Bar Benefit and a Fellows Breakfast.

Outside of your work, how do you stay well?

I exercise, attend lots of kids sporting events, read detective novels, and drink Manhattans. 

Any other fun facts that HCBA members might not know about you?

Before becoming a lawyer I studied German intellectual history.  Each year from 2012 to 2020 I gave a free lecture at Dorsey on impractical things.  Topics have included: Plato, Homer, Aeschylus, Thucydides, Parmenides and Heraclitus, Myth and Philosophy, Hitler and the Germans, and German Philosophy Bingo.  My attendance rose from four in the first year to about 50 at the end.    

More information and registration for the 2022 HCBF Bar Benefit. 

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Nick Hansen

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Joseph Satter