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A ‘fulfilling position’ – Bemidji lawyer named Attorney of the Year

Bob Enger is believed to be the first legal-services attorney to be named president of the Minnesota State Bar Association. He now has been named one of Minnesota Lawyer’s Attorneys of the Year. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 2
Bob Enger, center, supervising attorney for the Bemidji office of Legal Services for Northwest Minnesota, braved the elements and took part in the Brrrmidji Plunge last weekend with his daughter, Martie Enger, left, and Nicolas Gaal. The team raised more than $600 in pledges that benefit nonprofits. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer2 / 2

BEMIDJI – Bob Enger always imagined himself going into international corporate law, but then he took a job with Minnesota Legal Services.

“I did not go to law school to be a legal services attorney,” Enger said from his office in downtown Bemidji. “But after doing what I do and seeing how badly people need your help, you can’t do anything else.”

Enger, supervising attorney for Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota’s Bemidji office, now is believed to be the first legal-services attorney to serve as president of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Enger will be honored next month as a recipient of Minnesota Lawyer’s 2012 Attorneys of the Year.

“Legal services attorneys, we stay in the background quite a bit,” he said, pondering reasons as to why no other legal-services attorney before has served as the MSBA president. “We’re not in the public or the limelight as much.”

Enger was involved in the State Bar Association long before he was named president, previously serving as its secretary and treasurer and on several committees.

He was nominated for president, he said, as an outstate, or rural, representative to become president.

“I am aware of the needs and concerns of attorneys throughout the state,” Enger wrote in an interest statement for the MSBA presidency. “I will continue to use my experiences as a greater Minnesota practitioner, as a public law attorney and regional law office manager, as an active MSBA leader, to support and promote leaders’ shared values and beliefs.”

As president, Enger serves as the spokesman for the association. The position entails a lot of travel, “a lot of windshield time,” as Enger describes it.

He said his involvement with the MSBA would not be possible without the support of his executive director, Mary Deutsch Schneider, stationed in the Moorhead office.

“She gently pushed me” to get involved in the MSBA, Enger said, noting that she has continued to support him as he moved up in the association. “I don’t think I could have done it if she didn’t (support me).”

Enger first started working at Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota in early 1995. LSNM does not provide criminal defense work, but works with low-income clients on matters including family law, divorce, orders for protection and support needs.

“It’s a fulfilling position,” said Enger, noting that the variety in cases keeps the job interesting. “It’s probably working in this office that’s kept me in the business.”

He was named the supervising attorney for the office in 2004. He estimates that he now handles about 350-400 cases a year; others are expected to handle about 300.

“The best part of my job is knowing, when I leave, that I can look in the mirror and know I did something to help someone, their family, their lives,” he said.

Enger has been married to his wife, Becky, for 23 years and has three children, one grandchild and two step-grandchildren.

He actively volunteers with numerous nonprofits, including the Northern Dental Access Center, Evergreen Youth & Family Services and the Mississippi Headwaters Blood Bank.