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2020 Readership Survey


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October 2020


Pro bono isn’t charity. It’s part of the profession.

On one of the bookshelves in my office, nestled among photographs of my daughter, a few trinkets and plaques, and a variety of CLE materials, is a framed print entitled “Lawyers’ Pledge of Professionalism.” I don’t recall exactly where I got it; it may have been something I was given in law school, or perhaps when I was sworn into the bar. It has always been on display in my office and, while it’s easy to overlook in its nondescript frame, it details in a succinct yet profound way what it really means to be a lawyer

I pledge to the public, to my colleagues, and to myself, that I will:

REMEMBER that the practice of law is first and foremost a profession, and subordinate business and personal concerns to professionalism concerns.

ENCOURAGE respect for the law and our legal system through my words and actions.

REMEMBER my responsibilities to serve as an officer of the court and protector of individual rights.

CONTRIBUTE time and resources to public service, charitable organizations, and activities in my community.

WORK to make our legal system more accessible and responsive.

RESOLVE matters expeditiously and without unnecessary expense. 

KEEP my clients well informed and involved in making the decisions that affect them.

ACHIEVE and maintain proficiency in my practice.

BE courteous to everyone during the course of my work.

HONOR the spirit and intent, as well as the requirements, of the applicable rules of professional conduct, and encourage others to do the same. 

When my law firm moved to new office space a few years ago, this pledge could have easily joined the box of items retired from display in my new digs. But I never hesitated about finding a spot for it in my new office because it holds a special place in my heart.  

Shortly after I started working at the firm, one of the partners used this pledge to explain the importance of doing pro bono work. I have a very vivid memory of Mike Ford, an attorney who served as a mentor to so many attorneys, including myself—
and also served as MSBA president (2008-09)—sitting across from me in my office. Mike picked up the pledge, read it quietly to himself, and put it back down. He then proceeded to engage me in a conversation about what it means to be part of the legal profession. We talked about the importance of knowing the law we practiced, safeguarding client confidences, maintaining a good reputation, and being candid with the court. 

Pretty soon, our conversation segued into a discussion of Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which states that “[e]very lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.” Mike told me in no uncertain terms that he expected the attorneys in our firm to satisfy this aspirational goal. We talked about how doing pro bono work is part of the social contract, the “deal” between the larger society and the legal profession. On the one hand, attorneys are allowed to self-regulate and control the professional aspects of our practices. On the other hand, the profession agrees to provide all members of society with equal access to the legal system entrusted to us.  

Mike was particularly frustrated by the oft-made argument that pro bono was “charity work” and the organized bar had no business telling attorneys how and in what way they should be charitable. Mike was adamant that pro bono representation is not charity; it is part of the deal that we made when we signed up to be officers of the court and members of the bar. I remember him saying we can “do well, by doing good.” This discussion with Mike made a lasting impression on me and helped me to understand my professional obligations. I suspect that this is also one of the reasons I came to understand the importance of the MSBA.

Ensuring access to the legal system through pro bono work is woven into the fabric of the MSBA. The Access to Justice Committee (formerly known as the Legal Assistance to the Disadvantaged Committee) works tirelessly to address issues that negatively impact low-income individuals and communities across the state and to identify how lawyers can help reduce the barriers that prevent fair and equal access to the legal system. Every October, the MSBA highlights the importance of pro bono work. This year, Pro Bono Week is October 26-30. In addition to offering a wide variety of programming and CLEs, Pro Bono Week will showcase the “Pro Bono All-Stars”—more than 140 MSBA members who have participated as North Star Lawyers for seven or more years since the start of the program. A panel of some of these all-stars will also be featured and will share tips and ideas for doing pro bono work.

The pandemic and the limited financial resources available to the various legal aid service providers across the state highlight now more than ever the importance of lawyers holding up our end of the social contract. The pledge in my office serves as a daily reminder that it is our professional obligation to engage in pro bono work to ensure equal access to the legal system. I hope you will join me in finding ways to satisfy this obligation. 



Dyan Ebert is a partner at the central Minnesota firm of Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., where she served as CEO from 2003-2010 and 2014-2019. She also served on the board of directors of Minnesota CLE from 2012-2019. 


 

Dyan Ebert is a partner at the central Minnesota firm of Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., where she served as CEO from 2003-2010 and 2014-2019. She also served on the board of directors of Minnesota CLE from 2012-2019. 

 

Dyan Ebert is a partner at the central Minnesota firm of Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., where she served as CEO from 2003-2010 and 2014-2019. She also served on the board of directors of Minnesota CLE from 2012-2019. 

 

Dyan Ebert is a partner at the central Minnesota firm of Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., where she served as CEO from 2003-2010 and 2014-2019. She also served on the board of directors of Minnesota CLE from 2012-2019. 

 

Dyan Ebert is a partner at the central Minnesota firm of Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., where she served as CEO from 2003-2010 and 2014-2019. She also served on the board of directors of Minnesota CLE from 2012-2019. 

 

Dyan Ebert is a partner at the central Minnesota firm of Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., where she served as CEO from 2003-2010 and 2014-2019. She also served on the board of directors of Minnesota CLE from 2012-2019. 
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