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    President's Message

    Naturalist and author Charles Darwin once said the species that survives is not necessarily the most intelligent or even the strongest, but the one most able to adapt to change.

    Michelle Behnke

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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 77, No. 11, November 2004

    The Times They Are a Changing

    Naturalist and author Charles Darwin once said the species that survives is not necessarily the most intelligent or even the strongest, but the one most able to adapt to change.

    by Michelle A. Behnke

    Michelle Behnke This profession is facing change, and how we are able to adapt to that change could determine how our profession survives. The changes that we face, the questions before us, do not often lend themselves to "yes" or "no" votes but require a consideration of a "mega issue." Are we prepared to address such issues? How do we, as an organization, make the big decisions that are ahead?

    Recently, the State Bar Board of Governors held a two-day meeting. While there was nothing unusual about the meeting or even the length of the meeting, there certainly was something unusual about how the board went about its work.

    The Board of Governors spent the first half of the meeting learning tools for a knowledge-based governance strategy. Before your eyes glaze over, let me explain. Glenn Tecker of Tecker Consultants explained that successful governance has more to do with the willingness of people to do things differently than their knowing what to do differently. Tecker also indicated that associations are moving from a traditional political model of decision- making to a more business-based model focused on information and insight. With that admonition, the board set about learning and then applying the new model of decision-making. The board did not just listen to the theory. The case study was a live issue for the State Bar: how to respond to the Ethics 2000 Committee Report and Petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

    The board started by working on the four key questions for knowledge-based decision-making:

    • What do we know about our members - their needs, wants, and preferences - that is relevant to this decision?
    • What do we know about the current realities and evolving dynamics of our members, marketplace, industry, and profession that is relevant to this decision?
    • What do we know about the "capacity" and "strategic position" of our organization that is relevant to this decision?
    • What are the ethical implications of our choices?

    Questions in hand, the board took the proposed changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys and worked through the questions, trying to make sure that board members had good information on which to base a decision. The work is ongoing. The start made by each work group on each issue of the Ethics 2000 proposed rules will be available for all of the other work groups to review. By working in this manner, we can have greater confidence that all of the board members have the same knowledge base when it comes to actually making the decision and that they are focused on the responses to the four key questions.

    To really address the issues ahead, this association will need to gather solid information about its members' preferences, needs, and wants. We also will need to acknowledge current realities and evolving dynamics and apply this information to the issues at hand.

    So, does this association know what you, as a member, think? If not, I hope you'll take a moment to contact your Board of Governors representative, use the member feedback links on the WisBar Web site, or write a letter. Make sure we know what you're thinking and how we can address the mega issues facing the State Bar of Wisconsin.




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