By org jforward wisbar Joe Forward, Legal Writer, State Bar of Wisconsin
Dec. 15, 2010 – Attorneys James Carney and Kevin Klein, both candidates for State Bar of Wisconsin president-elect, have a lot in common. Both grew up in small Midwestern towns, both have two children, both are U.W. Law School graduates, and both like to fish.
In addition, both have a common goal when it comes to the State Bar: maximize member benefits and enhance the profession. Carney and Klein will visit local and specialty bars state-wide in the next four months to speak with members and address the different ways in which they can, if elected, help improve the profession for its members.
For those who haven’t had the privilege of meeting Carney or Klein, the State Bar caught up with both of them to learn more about their personal backgrounds.
Jim Carney, a partner at Carney, Davies & Thorpe LLC in Janesville, was born in Lebanon, Ind., outside Indianapolis. He worked on the family dairy farm. Growing up, Carney said he wanted be a professional baseball player, or a lawyer.
“The Cubs haven’t called yet, although they could use some help,” said Carney, who was not asked why he didn’t say the Brewers. “I don’t know why I wanted to be a lawyer. I just had that in my mind. I didn’t know any lawyers growing up.”
Kevin Klein, a solo practitioner in Phillips, grew up in Elmhurst, Ill., and moved to Butternut, Wis., at age 14. Klein also had the early lawyering bug, taking an interest in the profession as a high school student. He took that interest with him to college.
“Pursuing law was just something I always knew I wanted to do,” Klein said.
Both went on to college in the Midwest. Klein attended the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, majoring in personnel and industrial relations management with minors in law and society and math. Carney attended Kalamazoo College in Michigan and majored in political science and religion. After attending U.W. Law School in the 1980s, both Klein and Carney made Wisconsin their home.
Life and the practice of law
In Phillips, a city with a population of about 1,600 located in Price County, Klein is a true general practitioner. The variety of projects he gets as a general practitioner is a big part of what he enjoys about practicing law. A 1981 law school graduate and father of two grown children, Klein is moving in on 30 years in practice, with no signs of slowing down.
“I do almost everything,” said Klein, who currently serves on the State Bar Board of Governors and its Executive Committee. “In a typical day, I’m working on 20 to 25 files, and they are all different. I think small-town practice is built on developing in depth relationships with clients. They come to you with a variety of issues in different areas of law. That variety is something I really enjoy about general practice.”
Klein, who describes himself as a steady and stable person who works hard to accomplish the goals he has set for himself, also enjoys the camaraderie that comes along with practicing in a smaller town and traveling to other counties.
“You really get to know the different judges, lawyers, court personnel, and clients,” said Klein, a family man who plays and follows basketball and loves trout fishing in his leisure time. “It’s that camaraderie that you develop with people in the legal system that I enjoy most about being a lawyer.”
The personable nature of smaller town practice is something Carney enjoys as well. Janesville, with a population of about 60,000, isn’t necessarily small. But Carney, a former member of the State Bar Board of Governors, said the small town atmosphere is still present.
Carney, who graduated from law school in December of 1985 after finishing in 2.5 years, has always been a motivated person, and that hasn’t changed. He practices primarily in the area of civil litigation, but also provides counsel to corporations on nonlitigation matters. He said his favorite part of practicing law is solving problems.
“People hire us to solve their problems and to think,” said Carney, an extremely active person who ran the Boston Marathon in 2005 and road his bicycle cross-country with his wife and two children this past summer. Carney, like Klein, also likes to fish. “There’s always something new to think about, and that keeps the practice fresh.”
Both Klein and Carney are running for president-elect because they care about improving the legal profession. Asked to address their top reason for running, both Carney and Klein talked about the importance of improving member benefits to enhance the profession.
“It seems to me that the bar leadership’s number one priority should be to maximize the benefit and services of the organization to the members,” Carney said. “We have the organization, whether we like it or not, and so let’s use it to our advantage. We need to focus to identify the different constituencies and subgroups within the bar, and ask: ‘What can we do for you as an organization?’ One shoe doesn’t fit all, and that’s the reason to be involved in leadership.”
Nominees for Treasurer
Nicholas J. Vivian
Kelly C. Nickel
Nominees for Judicial Council
Joseph M. Cardamone III
Beth Ermatinger Hanan
“We have to be able to help attorneys practice, and continuing and improving member benefits is one of the best ways to do that,” Klein said. “In addition, by providing those benefits to the profession, we benefit the public. By maximizing the benefits, we can address the challenges facing the profession.”
The Feb. 2 issue of InsideTrack will include answers to specific questions posed to the candidates about their plans as a president-elect, along with links to biographies and platform statements. That issue will also feature video interviews with the candidates.
Other elections: Treasurer and Judicial Council
Nominees for State Bar treasurer are Kelly C. Nickel, Leece & Phillips Law Offices S.C., Elkhorn and Nicholas J. Vivian, Eckberg, Lammers, Briggs, Wolff & Vierling PLLP, Stillwater, Minn. The treasurer serves a two-year term.
Nominees for Judicial Council are Joseph M. Cardamone III, Kenosha County Corporation Counsel, Kenosha, and Beth Ermatinger of Hanan, Gass Weber Mullins LLC, Milwaukee. The Judicial Council representative serves three years.
Members interested in running for one of these offices can file a petition, which must be signed by 100 active Bar members, with the State Bar by Feb. 1. To receive a petition, contact org jmarks wisbar Jan Marks at (608) 250-6106, or (800) 444-9404, ext. 6106.
- Interested in running for the State Bar Board of Governors? Petitions are due March 1, 2011. To receive a petition, visit Board of Governors or contact org jmarks wisbar Jan Marks.
- Learn more about Government Lawyers (GLD), Nonresident Lawyers (NRLD), Senior Lawyers (SLD), and Young Lawyers (YLD) divisions elections.