By Paul M. Floyd

Last spring, as my presidency approached, many people asked me what my theme for the year would be. Would it be promoting pro bono and access to justice (a critical need)?  

Would it be championing civility in the courts and practice (a worthy aspiration)? 

Would it be advocating for the rule of law (a prescient challenge)? 

Would it be growing the number of MSBA members and expanding member benefits (an evergreen endeavor)? 

In the end, I chose to focus on bridge-building and being an “encourager.” Arriving on the other side of the covid years, whiplashed from the stress of isolation and the myriad changes and challenges affecting our law practices and our lives, it was clear to me that what our profession needs now is encouragement. I knew I needed to speak and write about my personal experiences as a lawyer to encourage all of us to renew our commitment to being the best lawyers we can be for our clients, for our colleagues, and our social networks.

“Encourage” is defined by Merriam-Webster 2024 (online) as:

  • to inspire with courage, spirit (hearten);
  • to attempt to persuade (urge);
  • to spur on (stimulate);
  • to give help or patronage to (foster).

To inspire with courage, spirit (hearten)

It takes courage to be a lawyer. Heck, it took courage just to go to law school, pass the bar, and become the lawyer you are today. It takes courage to take your practice or career to the next level. We are always in the process of becoming rather than being. And while it is important at times for our own mental well-being to just “be” rather than to always “do,” as lawyers we are called upon to do a lot. The law is constantly changing, as are our society and communities, and as lawyers we are constantly adapting to meet those challenges. It is one of the strengths of our profession and what makes us effective lawyers. 

Looking back over the years of my law practice as it morphed through various iterations from mid-size to boutique to small-firm and solo practice, I have regularly been reenergized by adapting to the changing times. I hope that each of us has the chance from time to time to refocus our law practice. It helps ensure that the practice remains relevant, effective, and fresh. Recently, upon entering my classroom at the University of St. Thomas School of Law to teach sales, there was a sign on the door that read: “You got this.” I smiled and realized that that slogan is a good one for all of us lawyers: “You got this.” 

To attempt to persuade (urge)

In each of my columns I have had one main point that I wanted the reader to take away, weaving it into the narrative with the goal of persuading the reader to see the point as I do. In one instance, it was to consider being the nicer lawyer, as it may well pay off in the end (“Nice lawyers finish first”). In another, it was to be more kind to those around you, since they may have a hidden disability and need an accommodation (“I had a secret”). In another, it was the need for civility in the practice (“Sorry/not sorry for interrupting”). Finally, in another, it was the freedom to say “No” rather than overcommitting, to encourage lawyers to take on only those tasks in which they intend to be fully engaged (“Let your yes be yes, and your no be no”). Many lawyers have voiced their appreciation that I urged us to be the best lawyers we can be. 

To spur on (stimulate)

When society is in a time of great change and turmoil, the role of lawyers as truthtellers and as the most rational people in the room is of vital importance. As the MSBA continues to advocate for better access to justice; for more diverse, inclusive, and equitable processes and outcomes in the profession; and for the training and leadership of future generations of lawyers, it strives toward its core purpose of spurring us all to be better lawyers. In my faith tradition, a common benediction begins with the following exhortation:

Go forth into the world in peace. Be of good courage, Hold fast to that which is good, Render to no person evil for evil, Strengthen the faint hearted, Support the weak, Heal the afflicted, Steward the earth, Honor all people …

Look for the prayer, the mantra, the watchword that encourages you to give more of yourself each day.

To give help or patronage to (foster)

Finally, I want to encourage you to be a member and to support and be active in the MSBA, in your local district bar, and in the affinity bars. They have much to offer, especially when so many of us are working and communicating remotely. Your fellow bar members can enrich your practice and enhance your well-being. 

Through my bar associations over the years, I have developed friendships that have lasted for decades, making my practice easier and more enjoyable. Bar colleagues and bar staff have been an invaluable support network for me. I have tried throughout this year to be of good courage, but I could not have done it alone. I am grateful to our CEO, Cheryl Dalby, our director of policy, Nancy Mischel, our director of finance, Paula Schulze; the MSBA officers (Sam Edmunds, Tom Pack, Kenya Bodden, and Colin Hargreaves); each member of the Board of Governors members, and all of the MSBA staff for their support, hard work, and encouragement to make this bar year a success. 

In the spirit of good courage and the turning of the seasons, I pass the gravel to Sam Edmunds, the incoming MSBA president for 2024-2025. I encourage him to pick up the baton and serve you all well in the coming year. 

2023-MSBA-President-Paul-FloydPaul M. Floyd is one of the founding partners of Wallen-Friedman & Floyd, PA, a business and litigation boutique law firm located in Minneapolis. Paul has been the president of the HCBA, HCBF, and the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. He lives with his wife, Donna, in Roseville, along with their two cats.