Inside Track: State Bar Association gets new leader

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Phil Duran, a veteran nonprofit lawyer, on July 1 will become the first openly gay president of the Minnesota State Bar Association, a 16,000-lawyer-member organization that provides continuing legal education, public service opportunities and advocacy for the legal system.

Duran is the part-time legal director of OutFront Minnesota, which advocates for equality for GLBT people. He also works part time for MAP for Nonprofits, which provides legal, financial and other consulting and training to nonprofit organizations.

“The bar was always interested in diverse leadership,” Duran said. “I talked to a number of people about if this would kill me or I would kill the bar association and they said ‘go for it.’ ”

Duran, 46, was elected secretary, treasurer and president-elect before he was voted in for his final and fourth year of executive service as president by the 128 members of the state bar assembly.

The passage of Minnesota’s gay marriage law this spring was a victory for the bar association. But Duran’s presidency has other issues, including streamlining the number of projects and programs the association sponsors.

“We probably have spread ourselves too thin,” Duran said. “This will be an opportunity to go to back to core functions and advance those missions. It could be a multiyear process. We may end up offering fewer programs. It’s too early to say what’s going to go by the wayside. But we hope to restore our focus on access to justice [for the needy]. And the bar supports full funding for the judicial system and we stand with judges who increasingly are under attack. We stand for a properly funded, impartial, independent state judiciary.”

Duran graduated from Michigan State University and received his law degree magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School.

Faegre bolsters its Silicon Valley presence

Faegre Baker Daniels will launch an expansion to Silicon Valley in July led by two veteran partners who are relocating from Minneapolis in the inaugural California push.

“We really don’t have a number of attorneys in mind for Palo Alto,” Faegre managing partner Andrew Humphrey said. “We are responding to clients. We have several based out there, or significant operations, and this will allow us to serve them better. Whether in intellectual property or other practices.

“We’re considering expanding in immigration, privacy, food and agriculture. It will be a small, focused, high-performing office.”

California-based Seagate Technology, which has a big research-and-manufacturing facility in the Twin Cities, is a Faegre client.

The Palo Alto office will be opened by veteran intellectual property partners Calvin Litsey and David Gross, a nationally recognized litigator. ­Litsey will serve as Silicon Valley office boss.

schulze, fit as a fiddle, is ready for his next challenge

Dick Schulze, the Best Buy founder who wisely avoided a fight for the electronics retailer earlier this year, is enjoying life, happy with rebounding Best Buy’s management and up for the next challenge.

Schulze, now worth nearly $2 billion in Best Buy stock, will hire Mark Dienhart, the chief operating officer at the University of St. Thomas, as CEO of the beefed-up Schulze Family Foundation, into which Schulze will gradually inject about $1 billion (www.startribune.com/a2326). Dienhart, who oversaw a $520 million capital campaign at St. Thomas, will hire staff and direct research that will result in grants. Schulze told me last week he wants to advance health and K-12 education organizations, with some leftover for scholarships.

Schulze, 72, who said Mayo Clinic doctors recently pronounced him as fit as a guy half his age, expects to donate half or more of his wealth over the next generation. He wants to live to see the impact.

“We’re feeling good about this,” Schulze said of his wife and blended family of 10 kids and 27 grand­kids. It’s estimated that Dick and Maureen Schulze, who married after losing spouses to cancer, already have invested about $200 million in St. Thomas, medical research, health and education and charities. “I’m prepared to make meaningful contributions,” Schulze said. “Our work will be driven by research. We’re encouraging partners. We want to do transformative work that benefits mankind.”

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