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Attorneys of the Year: Michael Unger

There’s nothing quite like consistent performance: This marks Michael Unger’s fourth time on the Attorneys of the Year list, and each time has showcased his strong leadership in the profession.

An experienced civil trial attorney who represents negligence victims for serious injuries and wrongful death, Unger is currently president of the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) and past president of the Hennepin County Bar Association. In his presidential role, he’s been working to increase the level that the MSBA plays in advocating for strong courts.

The association has been able to reorganize the bar’s committee structure to provide timely input to the Supreme Court on rules and policies that impact members, he notes. “Unfortunately, in the past there has often been too little time allowed for public comment on rules and policy changes to permit the MSBA to provide comment on behalf of the profession,” Unger says, adding that in the past two years, they’ve approved a series of bylaw changes that enable them to do a much better job. In 2015, they provided a number of thoughtful comments to the court, and several of them were reflected in final decisions.

Another important effort in the past year has been organizing and appointing a task force to look at whether there’s a need for non-lawyer legal professionals to help meet the demand for legal services among those who can’t afford a lawyer, Unger added.

“This task force puts our association in a position to be a national leader among bar associations in examining these issues,” he says. “Lawyers are the backbone of our justice system, and the role and support of lawyers in any new initiatives designed to expand access to justice is simply critical.”

In addition to expanding the impact of MSBA, Unger continues to embrace opportunities to represent injured clients and their families. After nearly 30 years doing that type of work, it seems his enthusiasm only seems to get stronger. He loves the practice of law, he says, because it offers a chance to effect meaningful change and justice for others.

Unger got started in the profession because he enjoyed advocacy, and his skills have been bolstered by extensive experience in community engagement and service that has included nonprofit involvement, church service, and political activity. “These have helped me to be able to develop and implement policy solutions that work and make a difference for people,” he says. “The bar association is a great place to make that kind of contribution.”

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