State Bar President-elect Kevin Klein overviews the “Challenges Facing the Legal Profession” report that was discussed at today’s Board of Governors meeting in Madison.
April 13, 2012 – The draft budget for Fiscal Year 2013, including the possibility of a member dues increase in FY 2014, was the main topic of discussion at the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors’ meeting at the State Bar Center in Madison today.
The proposed budget for FY 2013 (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013) would use reserve funds to stabilize the State Bar’s budget with no dues increase.
However, Finance Committee Chair Margaret Hickey discussed the need for a $35 increase for FY 2014 in order to maintain a “sustainable” future, noting the organization has been running at a deficit four of the past five years.
The current State Bar dues amount of $224 has remained unchanged since the last increase in 2004. Several board members suggested increasing dues for FY 2013 instead of using reserve funds to cover a deficit for another year. Others voiced opposition to a dues increase at all. Some opposed proposed cuts, and others opposed specific spending items.
The Finance Committee, which had a series of budget meetings to create a draft proposal, will reconvene and submit its final budget for action at the board’s June 13 meeting.
Board discusses challenges to the profession report
In 2010, then-State Bar President Jim Boll appointed a Challenges to the Profession Committee, comprised of members of the board, to examine the changes impacting the future of the practice of law in Wisconsin. The committee assessed the current landscape, what has changed since its last review in 2006, and the competitive challenges facing Wisconsin lawyers.
The committee developed a report, “The New Normal: The Challenges Facing the Legal Profession,” which identifies economic pressures, technology, regulation of the profession, and new lawyer training/development as some of the top challenges that lawyers face. It also recommends actions the State Bar can take to address these challenges.
Gov. T.J. Molinari (left), Milwaukee; Building Bridges Native American liaison Hon. Stephan Grochowski, Keshena; and Wisconsin Supreme Court nonlawyer representative Leland Wigg-Ninham, Green Bay; listen to board discussion.
State Bar President-elect and committee member Kevin Klein says the challenge moving forward is to use components of the report, along with the budget process, to address the concerns for the benefit of members and the public through strategic planning.
Board Secretary Mike Remington, also a member of the committee, says the report serves as a time capsule but should be a “work in progress” to address constant change.
“This is just a time capsule for the changes in the profession that we are all facing, and they are substantial,” said Remington, who practices in Washington D.C. “The role of the bar is to assist in rechanneling changes, and boy do we have a lot of changes to rechannel.”
Attorneys Crystal Banse and Sarah Fry Bruch appeared on behalf of the State Bar’s Diversity Outreach Committee to discuss the Board’s adoption a diversity declaration to demonstrate the State Bar’s commitment to diversity.
The statement reads: “The State Bar of Wisconsin is an inclusive organization committed to recognizing, respecting, promoting and encouraging diversity among its leadership, its membership and the entire legal community. We encourage all local and specialty bars to promote diversity and inclusion in their membership and leadership. We encourage legal employers and law firms to promote diversity and inclusion within their workplaces to mirror the world in which we practice.”
The committee asks that the declaration be placed on the State Bar’s website, and in various publications, with an invitation for law firms to adopt the declaration as signatories.
The committee also asks the Board to appoint a diversity task force to conduct ongoing studies related to diversity in Wisconsin’s legal community and to explore continuing legal education programs and opportunities related to diversity.
Treasurer Margaret Hickey, Milwaukee, provides an overview of the draft FY 2013 State Bar budget.
Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers Liaison Anique Nicole Ruiz, Milwaukee, Gov. Nathaniel Cade, Milwaukee, and Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association Micabil Diaz Martinez, Madison, wait for meeting to begin.
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The matter will be taken up at a future board meeting.
Emeritus status and dues
The board discussed a recommendation from the board’s Governance Committee to assess one-half dues (currently $112) to those practicing lawyers with emeritus status (members age 70 and over) to address the changing financial impact that emeritus status will have on the State Bar. Currently, emeritus members do not pay any dues.
William Fale, chair of the Governance Committee, says the number of emeritus-eligible lawyers will increase in large numbers in the next 10 years.
Senior Lawyer Division representative Joe Melli voiced concern that the final recommendation did not include a sunset provision.
The issue will be taken up at a future board meeting. Past-president Jim Boll noted that any changes to the dues structure would require Wisconsin Supreme Court approval.
The board approved the date and location of the State Bar’s 2013 Annual Meeting, which will take place June 12-14 at the Marriott Madison West in Madison.
President-elect Kevin Klein appointed current board chair Patricia Struck, District 9 Gov. and past chair Susan Collins, and District 11 Gov. Richard Summerfield to a nomination committee that will select the next board chair.