Mike McCarthy (right), head coach of the of the Green Bay Packers, served as emcee at the swearing-in ceremony for Robert Gagan (left). The two are family friends in Green Bay. Gagan is the 59th president of the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Shirley Abrahamson, chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, administers the oath to Robert Gagan. His term starts on July 1, 2014.
Robert Gagan with his wife Jenny. Gagan's family, friends, colleagues, and many fellow State Bar members attended the swearing-in ceremony.
June 26, 2014 – You are off to a good start when Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy introduces you as the next president of State Bar of Wisconsin. And that’s exactly what happened to Robert Gagan, sworn in as the 59th president last evening.
McCarthy, a close family friend of the Gagan clan, emceed the State Bar’s Annual Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony at the Geneva Grand Resort in Lake Geneva. Telling various tales, the humorous McCarthy said Bob Gagan is the ultimate nice guy.
“My parents love Bob Gagan,” said McCarthy, the Packers’ stoic leader. “When my parents call, they say ‘how’s the wife, how are the kids, how’s Bob Gagan.”
Amidst family, friends, law firm partners, and fellow State Bar members, Gagan took the presidential oath of office from Shirley Abrahamson, chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, who has administered the oath to the last 17 State Bar presidents.
The chief justice noted the important role of the bar, and emphasized the president’s oath to aid the Wisconsin Supreme Court in improving the administration of justice.
“I hold you to it,” she said. “We have to depend on the people to have trust and confidence in the judiciary as fair, impartial, neutral and nonpartisan, and we need the support of a bar. An independent judiciary must be supported by an independent bar.”
The affable Gagan, a native of Green Bay and a partner at Calewarts, Duffy, Gagan & Erdman, said he’ll use his presidency to build on the good work of former presidents, including outgoing President Patrick J. Fiedler and outgoing Past-President Kevin Klein.
“My job this year is to build on what Kevin Klein and Patrick Fiedler have already accomplished and just keeping moving the sticks down the field,” Gagan said.
Gagan, the son of a railroad engineer and a nurse, seemed humbled and overjoyed to assume the presidential reins in front of his wife Jenny and their two young children.
“I grew up in Green Bay and was lucky enough to move back home to practice law,” said Gagan, who represented District 14 on the State Bar’s Board of Governors. “Anybody knows me knows I love Green Bay. Heck, I brought Mike McCarthy with me.”
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In this video clip from the swearing-in ceremony, Bob Gagan lays out his plans as president in the coming year.
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Mike McCarthy, head coach of the Green Bay Packers, tells a story about his trip to Montana with friend Bob Gagan.
Gagan Finds the Law
Gagan, the youngest of six children and the first lawyer in his family, graduated from Marquette University Law School in 2001 and returned to Green Bay, joining what is now Calewarts, Duffy, Gagan & Erdman. Gagan practices primarily in the civil litigation and municipal law areas. He is settled now. But the law was a career change for him.
A finance and marketing major at U.W.-Madison, Gagan intended to be a banker, and worked for the Federal Reserve banks of Cleveland and Minneapolis after college.
He earned an M.B.A. in night school while working full-time in Milwaukee. But the law started calling. His lawyer contacts in Green Bay encouraged him to attend law school. Now, still in the upswing of his law career, Gagan assumes the top leadership spot.
“I love being a lawyer, and I welcome the opportunity to lead this organization for the next year,” Gagan said.
Gagan says he wants to focus on four major issues: helping young lawyers; promoting diversity and bar governance; making an impact on public policy and the reputation of the courts; and encouraging volunteerism and leadership with communities.
“Part of what I want to accomplish this year is to help our younger and minority attorneys get the opportunity that I received as a new lawyer,” said Gagan.
Specifically, Gagan said he’ll focus efforts on helping young lawyers succeed. He noted that a “Committee on the Challenges Facing New Lawyers,” appointed in January, recently produced a report that will guide the State Bar’s efforts in the next year.
Gagan said he’ll also work to promote ongoing efforts to improve diversity in the legal profession. He noted that the State Bar’s “Diversity Task Force,” created by Fiedler, recently submitted a report with recommendations to improve diversity and inclusion.
“I thought it was excellent,” Gagan said. “I will do what I can to see this report is adopted by the Board in September and that the recommendations are implemented.”
With his support, Gagan indicated that the State Bar’s Judicial Election Steering Committee will continue to pursue a change in the way state supreme court justices are elected. A task force appointed by former State Bar President Jim Brennan in 2011 concluded that a one, 16-year term for supreme court justices would work to remove negative aspects of the current system, which requires justices to run every 10 years.
The measure requires a constitutional amendment, approved by two consecutive legislatures and adopted by statewide referendum. Gagan supports that change.
“Our sponsorship of this proposed amendment demonstrates that the bar is a force for positive change in this state,” Gagan said. “I am proud of the bar for taking on this effort and ask you to join in making it successful.”
Gagan said he will continue to foster volunteerism and leadership in Wisconsin’s communities. Gagan is the co-founder of the Brown County Free Legal Clinic and still volunteers there. He said the clinic was started with a grant from the State Bar.
“When we take time to volunteer and help our community, people notice,” Gagan said. “I think this is another example of what the State Bar does right.”
Gagan’s sister has a Packer Bus – a renovated school bus decked with Packer gear. He said members are invited to stop by, but could not promise another McCarthy appearance. “If you are ever in Green Bay, send me an email, and I will give you directions to the bus. Mike will be busy, but I will show you around,” Gagan said.
“Thank you. I am honored,” Gagan said. “It’s going to be a great year at the State Bar of Wisconsin.”