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Message from your President

 

July 2014

Greetings: It is my distinct honor and privilege to assume the duties as President of your State Bar of South Dakota. I would be remiss if I didn’t begin by congratulating Terry Hofer for an outstanding job leading our organization over the last year. Terry challenged us to not only think about our calling as attorneys, but also to recall the important role that the legal profession, including a fair and impartial judiciary, plays in our republican form of government. Further, Terry and Janet were great ambassadors for the State Bar of South Dakota and were proud to represent our association at local, state, regional and national events. Thank you, Terry, for a job well done.

Why is it we lawyers do what we do? For most, it is not just a way to earn a living. We are indeed called into a profession that helps others,
often in their darkest hours. But further, we take our skills and good qualities as human beings to make the communities in which we live better for all.

During the discussions and implementation of Project Rural Practice, it has been repeated by attorneys of all ages who have chosen a small town practice that the small town lawyer is looked to for leadership, progress and non-legal advice on many occasions. The same is true for all lawyers who, regardless of the size of their community, assume leadership roles in a wide range of situations. Whether it is a local chamber of commerce, economic development group, or other civic organization, we as lawyers possess the skills to assist. Do we do it for
money? Most often, the answer is no. Do we do it for notoriety? The answer is always no. We do it out of a sense of pride and for the gratification felt when success is achieved.

The preamble to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct contains 21 items including 13 duties of a lawyer and 8 paragraphs identifying the scope of the rules. READ THEM. Throughout, you will note the duty of a lawyer extends beyond representation of a client and
extends to our duty to all citizens and to serve not only the public interest, but also to “exemplify the legal profession’s ideals of public service.”

One area where public service is invaluable to the citizenry is service in the state legislature. Thank you to all lawyer candidates who have chosen to run. The value of a lawyer’s training and understanding of the application of legislation cannot be overstated and we owe it to ourselves as a profession to participate in the legislative process in a meaningful manner. More will follow on this topic.

Each and every day, our colleagues are doing great things in their communities. Some of these stories need to be told. If you know of a
lawyer who has done something of significance in their community, please let me know and we may be able to feature them in an upcoming
newsletter. For those of you who were able to attend the annual meeting, you heard of the many things that our President-elect Eric Schulte has done outside the practice of law. Below, in Eric’s words, he describes for you the incredible experience he has had as a drug court mentor.

I first met Levi in March of 2012. He was recently admitted into the Drug Court program and in need of a mentor. I recall during our first meeting that he told me “I’ve never had a mentor before, I’m not quite sure what to expect.” I told him in reply, “well, I’ve never been a Drug Court mentor before, so we will work it out together.” When we first started I knew it was critical for Levi to get a steady, fulltime job. He was living at the Mission at the time, and didn’t have a dime to his name. I was worried that without work he would give up hope for changing his life and moving forward. I remember Levi telling me he had never had a steady job before. We talked about the expectations of employers, and I remember him telling me he did not have an alarm clock. So, my mentoring of Levi all started with an alarm clock. I let him use an old
one that I owned so he could make sure to get out of bed in the morning to get to work, and to get to Drug Court on time. Fortunately, the alarm clock worked, and he made it to Drug Court on time, with one notable exception. I went to Drug Court on a day where I knew Levi was getting an award for staying sober for a certain period of time. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the one day where he slept in and did not make it on time. Judge Riepel issued a bench warrant for his arrest. I was red hot at Levi for not being there. I remember calling him from the
Courthouse and waking him up. I told him he had 3 minutes to get to Court or else he was going to jail. At the time, he lived a few blocks away from the Courthouse. He ran and made it just as court was ending, and fortunately his bench warrant was pulled. He knew I was disappointed in him, but as far as I know this was the last time he was ever late to Drug Court.

My goal as a mentor at first was to keep Levi busy. I am very lucky that my family and friends gave him various odd jobs to do while he looked
for work. I owe a particular debt to my brother for his assistance. Eventually, through the assistance of Drug Court, he received a great job with South East, where he still works today. He received a plaque just recently for one year of service. They appreciate his hard work, and I am so proud of him.

As far as my role is concerned, I just tried to be there for Levi when he needed guidance. We would meet about once a week and talk about what was going on in his life. This usually took place over dinner or breakfast. We would also go to baseball games and just hang out. I tried to give helpful advice when I could, but mainly I just tried to be a friend. My goal was to show him there was a wonderful life to be lived without
using alcohol and drugs. Eventually, he even started coming to my family’s house on occasion for meals. I am lucky that he was embraced by my friends and family.

Since his graduation in September of 2013 I have continued to stay in close contact with Levi. To say I am proud of him would be a massive understatement. He has stayed clean. He gets out of bed to be at work by 6:00 am Monday through Friday. He pays
his bills. And, I know he has embraced his sobriety. I am very, very proud of him.


The opportunities to serve are endless. Be sure to do your part. The reward and gratification from doing so will last long beyond a favorable
verdict.


Tom Frieberg

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