April 3, 2013 – Leading comes naturally to Gerald (Jerry) O’Brien. Even when there’s turbulence, he stays the course. O’Brien will receive the Senior Lawyers Division Leonard Loeb Award on May 15 at the 50-year Member Recognition luncheon in Delafield. The award is given to a senior lawyer whose outstanding leadership has advanced the fundamental goals of the legal system.
State Bar Service
O’Brien was State Bar of Wisconsin president in 1987-88, the year the State Bar, as a consequence of federal litigation, operated as a voluntary rather than a mandatory organization. Frank Gimbel who was past president during O’Brien’s term recalls, “Jerry exercised extraordinary skill in overseeing the State Bar operation with his leadership style that made this difficult period very smooth. He still provides the same quality leadership skills to many state and local nonprofit organizations today.”
“I have learned some valuable lessons from Jerry that have served me well during my terms on the Board of Governors and as State Bar president,” said former State Bar President Mike Guerin. “Frankly, Jerry’s involvement is one of the reasons why I have continued to enjoy my service to the Bar. I suspect there are many lawyers who are grateful for his leadership and opportunity to serve.”
O’Brien’s service to the bar includes terms chair of the Litigation Section, Facilities Committee, and Consortium on Member Relations and the Public, and member of the Multidisciplinary Practice Commission, Legislative Oversight, Strategic Planning, Public Affairs Advisory, and Legal Assistance committees, as well as delegate to the ABA. A long-time member of the Wisconsin Law Foundation, O’Brien has served in several leadership positions including president, and he is a Fellow.
“I have worked with Jerry for more than 30 years on behalf of the State Bar,” said former State Bar President Lane Ware. “Jerry has done it all … Bar president, Foundation and Fellows, and visionary as to what was possible in constructing the State Bar’s current headquarters. He is truly a gifted leader.”
Practice and the Community
O’Brien’s service includes gubernatorial appointments to the Wisconsin Public Intervenor Board and as chair of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. The Wisconsin Supreme Court appointed him to the Board of Professional Responsibility (now the OLR) and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission. O’Brien also has served on numerous boards and organizations in the Stevens Point community.
Deb Heneghan is the publications reporter for the State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached by email at org dheneghan wisbar wisbar dheneghan org or by phone at (608) 250-6135.
Jon P. Axelrod, who served with O’Brien on the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility, recalled his commitment to the highest ethical standards for the legal profession. “Jerry was knowledgeable, hardworking, and fair to the grievants, the attorney-respondents, and the interests of the public. I have litigated cases with Jerry as co-counsel and as opposing counsel. In every instance, he has demonstrated himself as a skilled advocate, ethical practitioner, and most of all as a gentleman who showed respect to everyone in the legal process.”
Tom Bertz, a partner with O’Brien at Anderson, O'Brien, Bertz, Skrenes & Golla in Stevens Point said, “By virtue of his work for the State Bar and the state of Wisconsin, Jerry has shown great respect for the legal system and has demonstrated the love for the law and what it seeks to accomplish.”
O’Brien is a trial attorney, at Anderson, O'Brien, Bertz, Skrenes & Golla in Stevens Point. He focuses his practice on insurance defense, plaintiff personal injury, construction law, employment law, and business litigation. He graduated from U.W. Law School in 1959. Prior to that O’Brien served in the U.S. Air Force.
The award will be presented at the 50-Year Member Recognition Luncheon on May 15, in Delafield. For more information about this event, contact org bdrake wisbar Beth Drake at (608) 250-6171 or (800) 444-9404, ext. 6171.