MSBA in Action

Welcome back!

2021–22 MSBA President Jennifer Thompson  kicked off the association’s annual convention on June 22 in downtown Minneapolis, welcoming members back to the bar for its first in-person convention since 2019. The two-day event featured great networking and CLE presentations, including the annual State of the Judiciary address from Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea. During the first day of the convention, the association’s Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to George Soule for contributions to the profession and community throughout his career. And the MSBA leadership gavel was passed from Thompson to 2022-23 President Paul D. Peterson. Both big baseball fans, Thompson and Peterson donned Twins jerseys during their presentation, getting in the spirit for that evening’s baseball-themed MSBA social and a Twins game at Target Field, which capped off the first evening of the convention for attendees.

More awards

Other prominent annual MSBA awards were presented at the June 30 Assembly meeting, where this year’s Professional Excellence Award recognized the many professional contributions of the Hon. Matthew J. Opat. The President’s Award went to the development and business teams behind the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s Minnesota Court Records Online (MCRO) initiative. And Senior Judge Susan R. Miles, author of “Stress is what you think: the importance of a clear mind,” was named the winner of the Elmer Wiblishauser Award, presented by the Publications Committee to the author of the best article to appear in Bench & Bar in the preceding year.

Emeritus rule: Seeking input

The MSBA’s Access to Justice Committee is seeking input on the emeritus rule, the state’s program to allow retired attorneys to continue practicing pro bono with a legal services provider while in retirement status. The committee is particularly interested in hearing from those who are retired, approaching retirement, or considering retirement. To provide input, please complete a two-minute survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/msbaemeritus.

If you would like to learn more about the requirements for becoming an emeritus-status attorney, you can visit the Minnesota Board of Continuing Legal Education’s emeritus page at https://www.cle.mn.gov/lawyers/retired-lawyers-emeritus-2/

Pro bono and donor spotlight: Carole Pasternak

Carole Pasternak

Carole Pasternak is a partner at Klampe Law Firm, where she has been practicing for over 20 years. In addition to her practice, she spends her professional time volunteering for Legal Assistance of Olmsted County, where she currently holds the position of board chair, as well as logging hours with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services and the Volunteer Lawyers Network. Through her work with Legal Assistance of Olmsted County, she has regularly spent time representing family law clients. 

With an extensive and impressive resume, it can be hard to imagine finding time to invest in pro bono work. How does Pasternak do it? “I don’t make time [for pro bono],” she says. “My pro bono cases are just part of my caseload. They get the same attention as all other cases.”

With this mindset, it’s no wonder that she has been honored as a North Star Lawyer for the past 10 years—an honor that few attorneys have achieved. Pasternak, no doubt, invests much of her time into pro bono work, but why is it important to her? “First,” she says, “attorneys have specialized knowledge about the court system and such knowledge should not be inaccessible to those who cannot pay for an attorney.  Next, providing pro bono assistance is an asset to the court system as it allows the court to operate more efficiently.  Third, pro bono work provides an opportunity to learn an area of law with the assistance of a mentor.”

Advocacy is clearly at the core of the work that Pasternak engages in, and she urges others in the legal community to think the same. “Most of my pro bono clients truly appreciate my efforts,” she reflects, “and I know that I am providing a way for my client to know their rights and allow them to be confident in their decisions on how to proceed through their case.”

Pasternak also recognizes the educational benefit she’s realized through pro bono work. Working with the assistance of a mentor in the past, she was able to learn new skills and insights that she could use in her law practice. Besides doing pro bono work, she also urges her colleagues to make legal aid programs part of their annual giving.
Pasternak’s work reminds us to slow down, take in our surroundings and work toward giving back. “While attorneys may say they are too busy to take pro bono cases,” she notes, “the recommended 50 hours per year is just one hour per week. Take advantage of the opportunity to share your knowledge, alleviate a burden on the court system, learn a new skill, and change someone’s life. We all have an hour per week for that.”