Lawyers make great leaders. That includes you.


Jennifire. You read that correctly. Jennifire. That was the nickname one of my coaches gave me while playing sports growing up. I was fiery. I liked to spark and rally my teammates. I liked the pressure of being the one to do the thing that was needed to hold the lead, to come from behind, to pull it off when it looked like we were down and out. In short, I loved to lead. I still do. The call to leadership is something that is innate in me, and it is certainly a big driver behind why I became a lawyer. 

Lawyers make great leaders. We are fiery, often providing the spark that rallies a movement or cause. Lawyer leaders are particularly important in times of change and lawyers will undoubtedly play a large role in leading our world into the post-pandemic era.

But leadership skills are like a muscle that needs to be conditioned and built, even when a person has natural tendencies for it. There are many ways to learn to lead, but I think the MSBA offers some of the best opportunities to practice one’s leadership skills. 

Step up now

Springtime in the bar year could be also dubbed leadership opportunity time. As we edge toward June 30 and the end of another bar year, we also start to think about the start of the next year and the opportunities to be involved as a MSBA leader. 

For instance, there are openings to join section councils and lead continuing legal education programing and legislative and amicus work within one’s practice area. There is also the opportunity to join an MSBA committee—like the Access to Justice Committee or the Technology Committee, to name a couple—and help develop, implement, and oversee the MSBA’s strategic goals and mission. MSBA members also have the option to lead by serving in the MSBA’s Assembly, the policymaking body of the association, or on the Council, the association’s board of directors. 

The MSBA also appoints a number of representatives to various boards and committees within the profession, including the Minnesota State Bar Foundation Board of Directors, Minnesota Supreme Court boards (such as the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board, Board of Continuing Legal Education, and Bar Admissions Advisory Council), and legal services boards. And, of course, there is also the opportunity and the honor to lead our profession as an officer of the MSBA, including as president.

So much to gain

I have been fortunate to have the chance to lead in the legal profession by participating in a number of the MSBA opportunities listed above. In doing so, I have gained valuable leadership skills in consensus building; motivating, incentivizing, and influencing; diversity, equity, and inclusion insights and skills; developing and executing strategic visions; leveraging strengths of others for the success of the larger group; communicating and receiving constructive feedback; evaluating and supporting initiatives; and managing conflict. All these skills make me a better lawyer and are transferrable to other areas of my professional and personal life.

Beyond the skills I have had the opportunity to build as a leader in the MSBA, there are other major benefits to be gained in serving. For instance, I have been able to experience unique and first-time professional opportunities, like appearing before the Minnesota Supreme Court to advocate for an MSBA position or drafting and collaborating on amicus briefs on matters of importance to my practice area and the profession. I have also made amazing professional and personal connections with other lawyers, judges and judicial branch staff, affinity bar leaders, MSBA staff, legal services providers, those involved in the administration and regulation of the profession, and many, many others. 

It has provided me with an amazing view into our profession, the justice system, and the practice of law, as well as expanded my professional and personal networks. And not to be overlooked, serving as a leader in the MSBA has been so very fun. There has been hard work, to be sure, but there is no doubt that working at or near the head of a project or cause is exciting and getting to know and work with lawyers around the state has been a pleasure.

The MSBA’s leadership opportunities are part of the call to MSBA membership. Whether leader was part of your childhood nickname or leadership is an experience you are looking to explore for the first time, the MSBA welcomes and encourages you to explore a leadership role within the association. 

To learn more about leadership roles, contact MSBA CEO Cheryl Dalby at: cdalby@mnbars.org

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.