Paul Peterson: A Journey Beyond Presidency

In the ever-changing landscape of legal affairs, attorneys often find themselves navigating uncharted waters. Just like the shifting tides, one accomplished leader is succeeded by another and a sense of achievement and renewal fills the air. For attorney Paul Peterson, who has just completed his term as president of the Minnesota State Bar Association, this is just such a moment. And, as he passes that proverbial baton, he’s experiencing conflicting emotions that are both celebratory and bittersweet. Even as he takes a beat to appreciate and savor the unique adventure of serving in such an important role, he’s already eagerly looking ahead anticipating what the next part of his journey will entail.

The steady course of Peterson’s career thus far represents nearly 35 years of fighting the good fight for hundreds of clients, accumulating the most prestigious industry awards along the way, and earning the respect and admiration of colleagues and clients alike.

For the last 20 years, he has helped build the thriving firm of Harper & Peterson, PLLC that he co-founded with partner, Bill Harper. Together with their tight-knit support staff, the partners realized their vision of creating a firm better known for their personalized attention to each client than how big or how quickly they might grow. Peterson indicates that this intentional approach is not only how they envisioned their firm but also one of the things that makes it so unique.
“I think it’s our ability to process complex cases both medically and from a liability side,” he says. “I also think that the fact that we choose to not be a high-volume firm we are able to spend a lot of time with our clients who have direct access to both my wonderful staff as well as both partners.”

Getting to spend more time with the two most important things in my life–my family and my firm.

His Presidential Legacy

Now, after a highly productive tenure as the association president, Peterson bids farewell to his leadership role, marking the end of a significant chapter in his professional life. His years of service to the members of the association culminated last year when he proudly took the reins. It was a natural progression, a pinnacle achieved through years of service and participation.

“I first became active in the Ramsey County Bar Association as a new lawyer practicing in St. Paul,” says Peterson. “My career as an active member of the MSBA began in approximately 2003. It is incredible to have been selected to serve as president this past year—and to think back and appreciate the many wonderful people I have encountered along the way. I am grateful for the opportunity.”

Ever humble and always gracious, in his first column Peterson wrote, “Our leadership, however, is not embodied by the president but by the varied positions that make up the organization. From our bar foundation and our section leadership to our wonderful staff, strong committees, and outstanding new lawyers section, the president of the MSBA is but one of many leaders. My goal in this coming year is to humbly assist the great leadership we have in place so that our organization can shine.”

According to many, he achieved this goal and much more. In-coming MSBA president Paul Floyd who has worked alongside Peterson has this to say:  “During Paul Peterson’s tenure as president of the Minnesota State Bar Association, a significant revitalization of support between the bench and bar was achieved. Emphasizing the importance of personal connections, he dedicated time and effort to establish a strong rapport with the district court and appellate judges, leaving a lasting impact that will endure for years to come.”

His years of service have left an indelible mark on the legal community of Minnesota and beyond, but with his term now concluded, Peterson looks forward to turning the page and embracing a new chapter – one that while keeping him involved with the association and its members will include the opportunity to spend more time with family as well as return to the laser focus he’s always strived for at Harper & Peterson, PLLC.

Paul Peterson
Paul Peterson

The Next Chapter

Historically, for many of the past presidents of MSBA, their term has somehow symbolically if not actually marked the end or winding down of their legal careers. A Swan Song exit if you will. If anyone thinks for a moment this might be true of Peterson, they obviously don’t know him well.

Don’t even think to hint he might be slowing down, because this is a man who is not only a very active, hands-on father to two college-age sons but a 10 and 2-year-old as well! When asked what he’s most looking forward to as his schedule becomes suddenly considerably lighter, Peterson doesn’t hesitate: “Getting to spend more time with the two most important things in my life—my family and my firm.”

As the proud father of three sons and a baby girl, Peterson’s is a “yours, mine, and ours” situation. The two oldest Tommy and Charlie, now in college, and 10-year-old Jordan from his lovely wife Stephnora’s first marriage, were joined two years ago by a beautiful baby sister Ellie. Peterson who adores his blended family candidly admits he did have some reservations about starting with diapers and midnight feedings again, but says he’s discovered that he’s enjoying fatherhood in a whole new light.

“It’s remarkable to be able to have lunch with two very bright and mature young men who are my sons and then return home to enjoy the delightful antics of my younger children. They might not have clever commentary on world events, but through their eyes I’m once again seeing the world as brand new and exciting.”

Paul Peterson


Anticipating how much more time he’ll have to again focus on his practice, Peterson happily discusses his eagerness for this next phase.

“While I was still able to practice while serving as president, time was always so precious and there just never seemed to be enough,” he says candidly. “I’m the kind of attorney who spends as much time with a client as necessary and I did not enjoy the feeling of being limited or rushed. It will be good to be back to how I prefer to practice. I also look forward to connecting more with the lawyers that refer us clients. Our association with great lawyers in helping our mutual clients is really rewarding.”

As much as he’s looking forward to these things, there is one more aspect of his career that Peterson is very excited about.

“Something that has quietly become part of my practice over the past few years has been me serving as a mediator,” he says. “I’ve been asked more and more to serve as a mediator. I look forward to expanding my practice in that area. I really enjoy helping people settle their cases. I’m flattered that people are requesting me to assist them.”

On a final note, Peterson wanted to express how much he enjoyed serving as president. “It was a lot of fun, I got to work with a lot of great people and the lessons I took from that experience will be applied to both my professional and personal lives. I will miss holding the position but it is good all around that it is a one-year term.”

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