President
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Aubrey Fiebelkorn-Zuger

SBAND President

STRIVING TO CONTINUE SBAND'S MEMBER FOCUS

On Sept. 23, 55 attorneys were admitted to the North Dakota State Bar. It was a chance for the admitted and their families to celebrate years of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication. The new attorneys were greeted and congratulated by Governor Doug Burgum, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, UND School of Law Dean Michael McGinniss, and members of the State Board of Law Examiners.

The State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND) also had the opportunity to welcome these new members and extend our heartfelt congratulations on this accomplishment. As I told the new attorneys, we are excited to have them join SBAND and eagerly await the contribution of their skills, energy, and talents to continue to improve our association. We hope many of these new attorneys will join our sections, committees, and task forces, as well as attend our social events and annual meeting.

In turn, SBAND has programs, resources, and services available to help all our members. Included in these are the ability to seek an ethics opinion to help address difficult ethical dilemmas, as well as the Member Assistance Program, which provides attorneys and their family members free, confidential, and professional counseling services. SBAND also offers members access to Law Pay (a vendor that processes client payments and helps ensure earned and unearned fees are properly segregated), CLIO (a legal practice management and client intake software), and free access to Casemaker (an online research tool).

We are always looking for new practice management tools. Most recently, SBAND added Smith.ai as a new service for our members. Smith.ai provides virtual receptionist services, including telephone answering and client intake. Plans vary and include low-cost options that help small law firms and solo practitioners better manage their practices. SBAND hopes members find this service useful and that it provides flexibility and assistance to new and growing law firms.

While we strive to maintain and expand the services we offer to our members, SBAND also continues to consider its structure and address the legal challenge it faces. To that end, on Aug. 30, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued its decision in Fleck v. SBAND. On remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Eighth Circuit considered whether the Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018) impacted the Eighth Circuit’s earlier decision which had affirmed summary judgment in favor of SBAND

The Eighth Circuit considered two primary issues: (1) whether the plaintiff ’s First Amendment right to freedom of association is violated by SBAND’s integrated membership; and (2) whether SBAND’s revised Keller1 procedures adequately protect First Amendment rights.

With respect to the first issue, the Eighth Circuit did not decide how Janus impacted a freedom of association claim raised by a member of an integrated bar. Instead, the Court determined the plaintiff had forfeited this issue by previously conceding the claim was foreclosed by Keller and by not developing an evidentiary record.

On the second issue, the Eighth Circuit determined SBAND’s revised license fee statement and procedures properly advise attorneys of the Keller policy and allow members to determine whether to pay the “Keller-deduction” related to SBAND’s nongermane expenditures. As the Eighth Circuit explained, if a member decides to take the Keller deduction, the member simply writes a check for less than the full license fee amount. Deciding both issues in favor of SBAND, the Eighth Circuit again affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment.

SBAND is encouraged by the Eighth Circuit’s decision but remains mindful of the manner in which it operates. SBAND’s primary focus has been, and will continue to be, regulating the legal profession and improving the quality of legal services. If you have any suggestions for how SBAND can better meet those goals, please do not hesitate to contact me or SBAND Executive Director Tony Weiler.

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