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  • WisBar News
    June
    15
    2012

    Innovation is Key to Current Economic Climate, Institute Speaker Says

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    “I believe innovation is the only way forward for companies, both in Wisconsin and around the world, to stay competitive in the global environment,” said Di Frances, who notes that innovation isn’t just a new breakthrough product. It applies to all aspects of business.

    State Bar Recognizes Volunteers During Annual Meeting

    A number of lawyers and judges received awards at the State Bar of Wisconsin's Member Recognition and Networking Celebration last night at the Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells, which coincided with the State Bar's annual meeting and two PINNACLE® Institutes. Here's a list of award recipients:

    • Michael Gonring, Pro Bono Lifetime Achievement Award;
    • Deb Smith – Jack DeWitt WisLAP Award;
    • Stacia Conneely – Outstanding Young Lawyer Award;
    • Michael Gengler, Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award;
    • John Hendricks, Leonard Loeb Award;
    • Hon. Barbara A. Kluka, Lifetime Jurist Achievement Award;
    • Hon. Maryann Sumi, Judge of the Year Award;
    • James P. Peterson, Donald O’Melia Local Service Award;
    • Bobby Peterson, Dan Tuchscherer Outstanding Public Interest Law Attorney Award;
    • Todd Cleary and Michael Skindrud, Hon. Charles Dunn Wisconsin LawyerAuthor Award
    • Ellen Frantz, Hotline Attorney of the Year Award;
    • Paul Conrad, Nonresident Lawyers Division Founders Award;
    • Melissa Longamore and Kathryn Finley, Outstanding Public Interest Law Student Award;
    • Presidential Awards: Jim Boll Jr., Susan Collins, Margaret Hickey, Frederick Kaftan, Patricia Struck, Michael Waterman, Amy Wochos.
    Judges Kluka and Sumi with Justice Abrahamson

    Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson attended the Member Recognition and Networking Celebration to honor retired Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Barbara A. Kluka (left) and Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi (right), both award recipients.

    Justice Abrahamson with 2012 Presidential Award recipients

    Several members in State Bar leadership received Presidential Awards from State Bar President Jim Brennan (third from left) at the awards ceremony, with opening remarks from Chief Justice Abrahamson. From left, recipients included: Jim Boll Jr., Margaret Hickey, Susan Collins, Amy Wochos, and Frederick Kaftan. 

    Visit the State Bar Facebook page to see a photo album of the event.

    June 15, 2012 – Only “innovation” will help businesses and lawyers remain successful amidst changing economic tides, according to executive advisor John Di Frances.

    A business consultant for 25 years and a Wisconsin native, Di Frances was one of many presenters and panelists at the State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE’s two-day Real Estate and Business Institute, which began yesterday at the Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells.

    Di Frances, who consults Fortune 500 and middle market businesses on creative problem-solving, is especially concerned about innovation, or lack thereof, in Wisconsin. Without it, he says, market forces will down businesses that don’t think outside the box.

    “I believe innovation is the only way forward for companies, both in Wisconsin and around the world, to stay competitive in the global environment,” said Di Frances, who noted that innovation isn’t just a new breakthrough product. It applies to all aspects of business.

    In his presentation, “The Power of Free Markets and the Future of Wisconsin’s Business Environment,” Di Frances discussed current challenges to the free market system before enlightening Wisconsin lawyers on the role innovation plays.

    Quoting Peter Drucker, a renowned management consultant to big corporations such as Coca-Cola and General Electric, Di Frances identified innovation as “change that creates a new dimension of performance.” And innovation, Di Frances says, “is the test of our time.”

    Innovation for Lawyers

    Declining gross domestic product worldwide, renewed credit crunch, fiscal and monetary collapse in Western economies – the daily news uncovers economic hardship on a global level, he says. The question is: What are businesses, including law firms and lawyers, going to do?

    First, lawyers can help their business clients develop innovative ideas. “So often businesses, especially smaller businesses, do not have a large staff or large board of directors, so they are really starved for ideas and input, which limits growth,” Di Frances said.

    Attorneys can impart value beyond the law by understanding the client’s industry, the market forces driving the industry, and use other knowledge sources to provide input, he says. Sun Prairie solo practitioner Michael Allen, who attended the presentation, is doing just that.

    Allen spends half his time educating himself on the energy industry and relevant law, a key growth area of his practice. “It’s a way to identify new markets for existing services,” Allen said.

    Secondly, lawyers can use innovation in their own practices.

    “Value billing is just one example,” Di Frances said. “The client isn’t interested in what [lawyers] do; they’re interested in the value they provide.” Innovation involves new processes, he says.

    In addition, Di Frances believes the rules disallowing nonlawyers from being partners in law firms should be an innovative industry change, noting that he was a nonlawyer partner in a law firm in Washington, D.C., where the rules of professional conduct allow the arrangement.

    “Those rules need to change,” Di Frances said, noting that business clients should be able to buy package services that address accounting, marketing, legal, and other aspects in one stop.

    While Di Frances gave lawyers tools and inspiration to innovate, the Real Estate and Business Institute, which wraps up today, is providing lawyers with substantive CLE programming.

    Other Institute Topics

    Delavan attorney Brian Schuk packed the room with his presentation, “Tenant’s Rights: What’s Left in This Fast Changing Field.” In it, Schuk discussed developments in state and federal law that impact both landlords and tenants, largely focusing on Wisconsin’s new 2011 Act 43.

    “Importantly, the security deposit rules are broader and have different times upon which the landlords have to return security deposits than they did under the original rule,” Schuk said.

    From the perspective of representing tenants, Schuk says the new state law “potentially gives rise to a lot more claims and a lot more protection for the tenant” and detailed the specifics to lawyers in attendance.

    Across the hall, Milwaukee business lawyers Hal Karas and Rebecca Bradley discussed the pitfalls of electronic communications in “Oops, I Didn’t Know That Could Actually Create a Contract.” In the presentation, both used real case scenarios to help lawyers down the road.

    “In our practices, Rebecca and I have noticed that electronic contracts are increasingly being formed by accident,” Karas said. “It is no accident. State law permits contracts to be formed electronically, so we wanted to explore the conditions under which that can happen.”

    Earn Institute CLE via Webcast

    Other breakout sessions on both real estate and business law topics have filled a two-day CLE extravaganza. If you missed it, visit WisBar’sMarketplace” in the near future, as select programs will be available via webcast.

    Those who attended either Real Estate and Business Institute or the Litigation, Dispute Resolution & Appellate Practice Institute can earn more credit for programs they may have missed. Select sessions will be available via webcast in the near future. Attendees view for free.

    Other Articles from this Week’s Institutes and Annual Meeting

    Visit the State Bar’s Facebook page for photos and video clips from these events.