Inside Track: Foundation Supports Leadership Development with Don O’Melia Scholarships:

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  • Foundation Supports Leadership Development with Don O’Melia Scholarships

    The Wisconsin Law Foundation introduced the Don O’Melia Scholarship in March. O’Melia was a dedicated public servant who helped found Judicare. Through these grants, the Foundation makes an ongoing commitment to support the mentoring and cultivation of the next generation of State Bar leaders.
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    Leadership Summit class photo

    Twenty-four young lawyers, who were nominated by legal professionals statewide, attended the second State Bar Leadership Development Summit in Green Bay in March. The attendees and bar leaders gathered for a photo.

    May 21, 2014 – When 24 young lawyers attended the 2014 State Bar Leadership Development Summit in Green Bay in March, Wisconsin Law Foundation (WLF) Vice President and Grants Committee Chair Mark Pennow stopped in to see them. Pennow, who is from Green Bay, had more on his mind than meeting and greeting these young professionals who were gathering in his neck of the woods. He was there to inspire them to the call of leadership with the Foundation’s inaugural Don O’Melia Scholarship.

    The Leadership Summit, sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Leadership Development Committee, brings together newer lawyers with current and past bar leaders to give the newer lawyers the tools they need to become tomorrow's bar leaders. The attendees, from Chicago to Keshena to New Richmond to Milwaukee, were nominated by legal professionals statewide.

    After a crash course about the State Bar of Wisconsin, the newer attorneys interacted with veteran bar leaders and discussed the importance of getting involved – it’s never too soon to begin – and they discussed how and where to find opportunities and how to step into leadership positions.

    Pennow told the following story about a northwoods lawyer who spent a lifetime volunteering, serving the profession, and enjoying life:

    “I’m here to talk to you today about a wonderful man who left us some years ago, Don O’Melia. I met Don many years ago at a State Bar Convention. I was chair of the Lawyer Referral and Information Service Committee, and I told him we didn’t have enough lawyers from his neck of the woods to help us with our lawyer referral service. He invited me to come up and talk at a local bar meeting. I did. Before I arrived, he urged me to be sure I had a hotel room.

    “Don was a clever man: in addition to owning the building where his office was, he owned the building next door. The building had a sign on it that read: The Office. It was a tavern. After we finished our meeting at the Rhinelander Café, Don stood up and proudly announced, ‘We are all going to the office now.’ I thought we were going to his office; it turned out we were going to the tavern. That’s the man who brings me here today, a man full of life and full of fun and one of the most respected lawyers in the northwoods.

    “Don left behind a legacy of truth and justice, and it is with that spirit I come here to you today to announce that the Wisconsin Law Foundation will give all of today’s Leadership Development Summit participants who commit to volunteering in a leadership role with the State Bar this year a scholarship in the name of Don O’Melia. This scholarship will pay for your tuition and meals at the 2014 Annual Meeting & Conference in Lake Geneva in June.

    “If Don were here, he’d probably say something pithy right now. But I can tell you that every one of you is going to be an important part of the future of the State Bar. We need you, we hope that you need us, and we look forward to working with you.”

    Through the O’Melia grants, the Foundation makes an ongoing commitment to support the mentoring and cultivation of the next generation of State Bar leaders. The return of the State Bar’s Annual Meeting & Conference offers the opportunity to connect these future leaders with the broader profession. The Foundation has also extended grants to the lawyers who attended the inaugural Leadership Summit in 2013 and accepted leadership roles with the State Bar last year.

    About the Wisconsin Law Foundation

    The Wisconsin Law Foundation is a charitable and education organization that serves to promote public understanding of the law, improvement of the administration of justice and other law-related public service through funding of innovative and creative programs that improve the vision of the American justice system.

    Support the work and impact of the WLF by including a donation on Line 9 of your State Bar dues statement or call (800) 728-7788. For other Foundation giving options, visit