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Attorneys of the Year: David Brink

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The Minnesota State Bar Association once sent a survey to its members asking who they would most like to see present continuing education courses. Ninety-three percent of the respondents mentioned David Brink.

“Maybe I told some good jokes, I don’t know,” says Brink. His modesty doesn’t last, though, as he begins talking about the accomplishments in his lengthy legal career, from which he retired in the late 1980s – nor should it.

The 94-year-old Brink was a mainstay at the firm that is now Dorsey & Whitney, as well as a past president of the Hennepin County Bar Association, the state bar and the American Bar Association, the latter of which he helmed for a term in 1981-82. He’s the only living Minnesota lawyer to have led the ABA.

He was also considered for many years to be the dean of the profession in trusts and estates. An article on the subject for the University of Minnesota Law Review is one of that publication’s most frequently reprinted stories.

“I was very active with reform in my field,” Brink said. “I led legislative efforts to simplify and make more accessible the probate process and find alternatives to probate, and I drafted some bills that were designed for improving and simplifying trust law and probate law.”

As ABA head, Brink worked hard to fight so-called “court stripping” legislation that some members of Congress pushed in order to quash what they saw as progressive principles being put into law.

“They thought these cases wouldn’t be dealt with by federal courts,” recalled Brink. “They wanted them dealt with by state courts, where they could get a little home cooking. I took it as my mission to fight those bills in Congress.”

Now Brink keeps busy by working on the board of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers and in the ABA’s house of delegates, as well as indulging his longtime passion of writing poetry.

“I don’t do as much as I once did, but I still do plenty,” he said.

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