We are family

By Paul Peterson

I want to start my first President’s Page with an expression of gratitude to our immediate past president, Jennifer Thompson. I have had the pleasure and honor to serve as the president-elect to Jennifer during her incredible year of leadership. My mere words on this page do not do justice to the outstanding service she gave to our organization. She is a visionary leader and I have big shoes to fill. Jennifer, thank you for your service. Our profession is better because of you.

Our leadership, however, is not embodied by the president but by the varied positions that make up the organization. From our bar foundation and our section leadership to our wonderful staff, strong committees, and outstanding New Lawyers Section, the president of the MSBA is but one of many leaders. My goal in this coming year is to humbly assist the great leadership we have in place so that our organization can shine.

As you will see elsewhere in this edition of Bench & Bar (“Answering the call,” p. 14), I was born at second base from a legal standpoint. I didn’t hit a double. I did not set out to be a lawyer in my formative years, despite being the son of someone I consider to be one of the greatest lawyers I’ve ever met. I was born on second base in the legal profession because my parents, and especially my dad, created opportunities for me. I was and am lucky.

But what about the next generation? Who will be the leaders to emerge in our profession? Many of them may be like my dad, the first in his family to go to college and certainly the first to go to law school. I know I will meet in the coming year people like him, the first attorneys in their families. When we speak about diversity, it is important to note that we must embrace diversity not only from the standpoints of gender, race, origin, or sexual orientation, but also from an economic standpoint. 

Often diversity is embodied by a combination of the factors I just mentioned. Those of us who are second or third or fourth generation in the legal community must have the awareness that we enjoy a leg up. We are blessed. It is incumbent upon us to recognize our good fortune and to lift up those who are new to our organization and to our profession and to provide them opportunity. If we do this, we will not only be fulfilling our personal responsibility to make our society and our profession better. We will be paying forward the good fortune our families delivered to us. 

Who are we? We are the Minnesota State Bar Association. We are the voice of our profession. We are the leaders, each and every one of us, in a profession vital to a society committed to the rule of law. We are not always appreciated and even frequently vilified. This gig isn’t for the faint of heart. But in the bar association, we come together as a family to represent our profession. We come together as a family to lift each other up and make our profession the best it can be. The MSBA is also the pre-eminent organization in which anyone in our profession can become a part of something bigger than their own practices and personal situations.

It is my honor to serve as your president. It is my honor to be a lawyer. To absolutely steal a phrase from one of my favorite people, Justice Paul Anderson, I like lawyers. I like being around lawyers. Lawyers are good people. I thank you all for the honor of serving as the MSBA president. I look forward to our joint efforts to make things better in all respects in the coming year. Jennifer, if I have a “walk-up” song for the coming year, it’s “We are Family” by Sister Sledge. But I won’t forget “Here Comes the Boom!” 



Paul D. Peterson represents families in personal injury and wrongful death cases. His office is in Woodbury and he is licensed in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. He is the proud papa of four above-average children and one outstanding dog.