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What we’re working on

BY JENNIFER THOMPSON

Every year, in continued service to its mission to promote the highest standards of excellence and inclusion within the legal profession, provide valued resources to its members, and improve the law and the equal administration of justice for all, the Minnesota State Bar Association advances numerous policy positions through multiple avenues. As we cross the midway point in the 2021-2022 bar year, here’s an update on the MSBA’s policy work.

Petitions in progress

• Attorney licensure petition: This petition was filed in October and the MSBA continues to await action by the Minnesota Supreme Court. While the MSBA still firmly believes that the approach outlined in its petition is the preferable approach with respect to the scope of and process for studying attorney licensure in Minnesota, we also continue to work cooperatively with the Board of Law Examiners (BLE) in its bar exam study. The BLE is establishing a working group to study various topics and report back with any recommendations. MSBA-appointed Bar Admissions Advisory Council members will serve on the working group. For more information on the issue of attorney licensure, see Leanne Fuith’s excellent article in the December issue of Bench & Bar.

• Petition to amend Rule 7 of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct: The MSBA filed this petition, which concerns attorney advertising, in June 2021. At the same time, the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility and the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board filed an almost identical petition. The two petitions differ only in how they approach language pertaining to “specialist” or “specialty status.” A comment period was open until December 20, and as this article went to press the MSBA had requested time to present its position at a public hearing on January 26. 

• Parental leave petition: This petition is being finalized as I write and is expected to be filed by the end of January. 

Comments on petitions filed by other groups

The Office of Lawyer Registration (OLR) filed a petition in September to amend the Rules of Attorney Registration. The OLR is requesting that the income threshold for reduced fees be raised from $25,000 to $50,000. The petition also requests that certain information lawyers provide as part of the registration process no longer be made available to the public. In addition, the petition proposes some changes to the demographic questions on the attorney renewal form. The MSBA filed comments in support of the petition.

Amicus curiae

This past summer, the Minnesota Supreme Court granted the MSBA’s request to participate as amici curiae with the MN Defense Lawyers Association and the Minnesota Association for Justice in the Energy Policy Advocates v. Ellison appeal. The amici curiae brief, filed in September, asks the Court to affirm that the common-interest doctrine is recognized in Minnesota, and to articulate a general rule that will provide additional guidance to Minnesota attorneys seeking to rely on the common-interest doctrine to advance client interests.

Access to justice

• Fundraising: The Minnesota State Bar Foundation approved a request from the MSBA to use $75,000 of its reserves and provide a matching grant of up to $25,000 that will be distributed to income-based civil legal services providers in the state. 

• Civil Justice Subcommittee of the Committee for Equality & Justice: The MSBA and its appointees to the Civil Justice Subcommittee continue to work collaboratively with representatives of the Minnesota Judicial Branch on multiple projects to increase the number of low-income and disadvantaged people receiving civil legal assistance and reduce barriers to access in Minnesota state courts. 

Legislative lobbying priorities

In December, the MSBA Council voted to approve the following lobbying priorities for the 2022 legislative session:

  • a bill that addresses seven previously established MSBA positions relating to certain technical and other real property matters; 
  • a bill consisting of two previously established tax-related MSBA positions affecting single member LLCs; 
  • a bill establishing a civil right to appointed counsel in public housing eviction actions alleging breach of lease; and
  • supporting proposals to ensure adequate funding for the courts, public defenders, and civil legal services.

While much policy work has been accomplished already this bar year, there is significant work yet to come. Watch for further updates on these and other policy matters in MSBA’s weekly Legal News Digest. 


JENNIFER THOMPSON is a founding partner of the Edina construction law firm Thompson Tarasek Lee-O’Halloran PLLC. She has also served on the Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company board of directors since 2019.

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