Vol. 81, No. 3, March
A Giant Among Its Peers
The State Bar of Wisconsin is recognized as one of the most
productive and innovative bars in the nation, thanks to the many lawyers
who selflessly serve their colleagues. Still, there's always room for
improvement, and so informed feedback is vital to its continued
by Thomas J. Basting
I've been a lawyer for a long time.
In fact my grandson George was heard to say, "My grandpa is
older than dirt."
I was admitted to the practice of law in Wisconsin in 1962 and have been
State Bar of Wisconsin member ever since. If I was able to live my life
I wouldn't change a thing (well, maybe a few things). I still would have
a lawyer and maybe I would have been more active in the State Bar.
I've been chair of the Litigation Section and of the Professional Ethics
I was never involved in State Bar governance until I became president.
you are probably asking, "So what's your point, Tom?" My point
During my term as president, I've been struck by how some
for ways to build the State Bar and help set the stage to meet future
challenges while others do little but criticize the organization, its
its mission. Every organization should welcome thoughtful,
informed critiques of its operations and strategic goals; sadly, some
critics offer little more than critical and bitter diatribes about how
does nothing for its members or pursues goals that don't matter to them
personally. (Apparently, such matters as access to our justice system
residents and preserving the neutrality of the courts are trivial
Those critics should ask their peers from other states what
associations have done for them lately. As president, I've had the
meet attorneys from across the nation, and I can confirm that the State
Wisconsin has long been recognized throughout the legal profession as
the most productive, innovative, and service-oriented bars in the
Because Wisconsin lawyers have always been strong, service-oriented
who care for this organization and the people it serves.
I don't have adequate space here to list all of the services the
Bar provides to its members and to the public, so I'll name just a few.
- Practice411 provides an array of law practice management resources
help lawyers, especially solo and small-firm practitioners, run
more efficiently and effectively.
- The Ethics Hotline is available when members need to work through
difficult legal ethics problems and to understand and implement the
Professional Responsibility for Attorneys in their practices.
- The Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program provides trained
and confidential, 24-hour guidance to help lawyers resolve personal
before they negatively affect their careers.
- WisBarTM is a Web site rich in information about the
including opportunities for leadership training and participation;
it offers free
online legal research capabilities and is a gateway to many other
important to lawyers.
- State Bar CLE provides high quality, Wisconsin-specific continuing
legal education publications and seminars using a variety of
- CaseLaw ExpressTM, a free email subscription service,
informs lawyers about recent court decisions.
- Public outreach programs like the High School Mock Trial
give members an opportunity to invest in the next generation of
Many members have told me how pleased they are that the State
made protecting the public from the unauthorized practice of law a
nonresident members have applauded the Bar's success in gaining approval
comity for CLE credits; and still other members are pleased with the
lobbying efforts to support legislation favorable to the profession and
I could go on, but I'll stop here, except to say this: If you
of your Wisconsin peers offer uninformed statements about the Bar doing
for its members or for the public, suggest that he or she find out the
and offer constructive input:
- If we're not paying enough attention to an emerging issue - tell
- If we're overlooking a service that could help law offices
more efficiently - show us.
- If we've failed to do enough to build a more accurate image of
many ways attorneys serve Wisconsin - let's work together to do
As I approach the end of my term as president, I am very
the strong leadership and dedication to professionalism I see within the
Bar of Wisconsin. I regret that I didn't spend more time serving on one
committees, sections, or divisions or volunteering for other leadership
opportunities. Uninformed criticism leads the profession and the Bar
Leadership and dedication to service to one's peers are needed to
continue to make
the State Bar of Wisconsin one of the nation's best bar associations.