It was a very good year

By Paul Godfrey

During the years leading up to my time as president of the MSBA, several people asked me to describe my plan for the year. Since I wasn’t sure, and, because I knew from talking to past presidents that any plan can be derailed by events, I told them I needed to wait and see. As my term approached, events dictated my plan. Tim Groshens announced his retirement and we had made a decision to have One Profession conferences in every judicial district in greater Minnesota. Hence the plan: Hire a new executive director and implement the One Profession program. I am excited to report we were able to accomplish both goals. 

Achieving greater efficiencies

As our executive director, Tim Groshens did an excellent job of taking us from the era of paper billing to online dues payments. He also helped lead the discussions about merging the staffs of the HCBA, the RCBA, and the MSBA. In early 2018 all three boards agreed on a plan to merge staffs. Tim’s retirement provided an excellent opportunity to find a new executive director to lead the merged staff. I am happy to report that all three bar associations collaborated to make this process work smoothly. We formed a Joint Coordinating Committee to decide the scope of the search, choose a search firm, and determine the hiring timeline. The committee was made up of three members from each association. We met multiple times in summer and fall of 2018. All three boards approved Cheryl Dalby as the new leader of the combined staff in November 2018. Cheryl started her new role as chief executive officer on January 2, 2019. She is already making strides to make sure our members are served as efficiently as possible. 

For example, the communications staffs from all three organizations are now one team. They are all able to specialize in what they do best, whether it be writing, photography, graphic design, or social media. Rather than having three groups communicating with three separate but overlapping groups, we have one team getting the messages out to the right audiences. 

Bringing together legal professionals

The other goal for the year was to serve our members as a convener. We have a statewide reach, so we are well positioned to address issues that face the entire bar. Through the One Profession program we were able hold day-long meetings in six of the eight judicial districts in greater Minnesota during my year as president. The other two meetings are scheduled to take place early in Tom Nelson’s term. 

The program is aptly named. Lawyers and judges are all part of one profession. These meetings have been an opportunity for lawyers and judges in each judicial district to come together and discuss issues facing the district. Every meeting has included presentations by the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. They also include a state of the district presentation by the chief judge or a panel discussion of issues facing the court. At every meeting there was time for questions and answers. This is how the bench and bar collaborate: We get together, discuss issues, and look for solutions. The attendance at these meetings has been fantastic. I am proud that we were able to bring these meetings to our members. 

The MSBA is doing good things for our profession. Much of what we do depends on strong support from our staff. I want to publicly thank the staffs from all three organizations. They continued to produce quality work during times of uncertainty and have worked together on the staff merger. 

I also want to thank everyone for the opportunity to serve as president of the MSBA. It has been a wonderful opportunity to work with talented staff and attorneys to make our justice system better. 


PAUL GODFREY is the Managing Attorney for the Twin Cities Branch Legal Office for Farmers Insurance. He is a trial attorney. He has tried more than 40 cases to jury verdict, with issues ranging from claims for whiplash to claims for wrongful death.