Chapter Update: Minnesota Chapter

Chapter Update: Minnesota Chapter
Joey Balthazor


In the early evening on Tuesday, October 25, the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association kicked-off its exciting new program The Vintage. Inspired by The Honorable Jeffrey J. Keyes, a former magistrate judge in Minnesota, The Vintage is a program designed to bolster the long tradition in Minnesota of fostering education, inclusion, service, and mentorship between seasoned members of the federal bar community and newer members. In bolstering this tradition, the Minnesota chapter will hold several social events with the intention of facilitating mentorship relationships through storytelling, the first of which is summarized below.

Storytelling as an ode to the past, building the road to the future
To start the first Vintage event, a fervent group of federal judges, lawyers, and law students gathered on the fifteenth floor of the Minneapolis Federal Courthouse for food and drinks. During this time older judges and lawyers introduced each other to newer lawyers and law students, providing an opportunity for law students to ask questions and seek advice from distinguished members of the federal bar in an informal setting. After a few minutes, former Hennepin County Bar Association President Tom Nelson ushered everyone inside Chief Judge Tunheim’s magnificent courtroom for story time.

Next, everyone sat down in front of a panel of local Minnesota heroes, including Judge Keyes, The Honorable Michael J. Davis, The Honorable Ann D. Montgomery, The Honorable David S. Doty, and Cornell Leverette Moore. Laughter filled the courtroom as each panelist shared a story about a time early in their careers during which an older attorney comically made a positive impact on them. These stories ranged from behind-the-scenes interactions with famous judges to embarrassing moments in front of the most supreme lawyers in the country. (You never know whom you might run into while submitting a brief to the Eighth Circuit.) Colorful commentary by Mr. Nelson underscored the evening’s atmosphere, which could best be described as joyful.

After each panelist shared his or her story, however, it no longer felt like we were all inside the largest courtroom in the state of Minnesota. Rather, it seemed as if we were sitting inside an old banquet hall, reflecting on the foundation upon which those before us built this federal bar communityeducation, inclusion, service, and mentorship. Through storytelling, each member of the audience felt a sense of belonging, no matter his or her status as a judge, attorney, or law student. This sense of inclusion reinforces the value of mentorship between older members of the legal community and younger members because it demonstrates to younger members of the Minnesota federal bar community we not only belong, but we also have the support from the most distinguished lawyers in our district.

For instance, each story provided an example of where an older attorney or judge supported a younger attorney through a difficult situation, albeit providing comic relief in most cases. At a basic level, this sense of support provides comfort for newer lawyers and law students who feel the constant pressure of sustaining perfection in the courtroom. At another level, this support communicates to newer lawyers and law students that it is important for experienced lawyers to guide and teach younger lawyers during the early part of their careers.

At the highest level, this support enlarges the pool of potential bar members from which a newer lawyer might find his or her mentor. Newer lawyers traditionally find mentors through a first job, whether in a law office or through a judicial clerkship, or during law school. The Vintage is therefore aimed to broaden mentorship opportunities for newer lawyers and law students by using storytelling as a means to introduce newer lawyers and law students to judges and older lawyers outside of the workplace. And the first Vintage event accomplished this goal by bringing together members of our federal bar community through storytelling.

Looking ahead, it is motivating to think of those in that courtroom who will be the subject of those stories in the future, and even more so who will be sharing them. In the meantime the Minnesota chapter will continue to use storytelling as a means to facilitate mentorship relationships in our federal bar community.

We hope to see you in attendance at our next Vintage event.

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