Wisconsin Lawyer: Annual Report:

State Bar of Wisconsin

Sign In
    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer

News & Pubs Search

Advanced

    Annual Report

    Share This:

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 77, No. 12, December 2004

    MISSION POSSIBLE

    FY04 Annual Report, July 1, 2003 - June 30, 2004

    Sidebars:

    "Your mission, should you choose to accept it," a disembodied voice intones ..., and so begins another episode of the popular 1960s-70s TV series, "Mission: Impossible."

    Just as actor Peter Graves led a talented and diverse team to achieve whatever "impossible" mission it accepted, the State Bar accepts its mission to improve the administration of justice and the delivery of legal services in Wisconsin and to promote the professional interests of Wisconsin lawyers.

    A Sampling of Key Achievements During FY04

    offering CLE Seminars via webcast technology, allowing registrants to "attend" from any location, saving time and money

    launching Marketplace on WisBar, providing users a secure, efficient online registration and product ordering system

    partnering with Loislaw to offer State Bar CLE books online, providing direct access to primary law to increase users' online research efficiency

    hosting the first "Building for Success Institute," offering guidance on developing a successful law practice

    conducting a Bench-Bar survey to gather opinions on various issues of importance to judges and lawyers

    publishing the national award-winning Critical Terms in Criminal Proceedings in Spanish and English, helping attorneys to better guide their Spanish-speaking clients through the criminal justice system

    airing the pilot project "Wisconsin Lawyers Make a Difference" TV spots, continuing the Bar's long-term effort to educate the public about the value lawyers bring to their communities

    forming the Agricultural Law Section to bring together State Bar members who have a special interest in agriculture and related businesses

    developing new programs that will debut in FY05, including the statewide pro bono initiative to encourage lawyers' pro bono efforts through training, insurance for volunteer attorneys, and other program support; the Law Office Management Assistance Program to help lawyers meet business planning, personnel, facilities, and operations management; and the expansion of the WisLAP and ethics hotline programs

    working with the Family Law Section to revise Wisconsin's child support guidelines, among other significant legislative efforts and issues affecting the practice of law in Wisconsin

    The State Bar meets this challenge by engaging the expertise and problem-solving skills of its diverse membership and professional staff. One only need skim the achievements outlined in this annual report to the membership to understand what is possible through the hard work and dedicated service of lawyers in partnership with their association.

    PROVIDE
    Relevant and Useful Services to Members

    The State Bar regularly seeks member input to assess the climate in which members work and to effectively anticipate members' evolving needs. Through this research, the State Bar is better positioned to focus its efforts in delivering the products and services its members want.

    In FY04, attorneys and judges responded to the Bench-Bar Survey, sharing their opinions on various issues of importance to the bench and the bar, such as the impact of mandatory CLE on professional competence; whether arbitration is a fair, efficient, and inexpensive method to provide justice; standardizing local rules of civil procedure; abuses in the civil discovery process, and more. An article providing a snapshot of the survey appeared in the November 2003 Wisconsin Lawyer.

    Continuing Legal Education continues to be rated by members as one of the top values of State Bar membership. In FY04, CLE Seminars collaborated with sections, committees, and professional organizations to produce 70 different titles, resulting in 62 live seminars and 583 video presentations serving more than 11,000 registrants. With an emphasis on providing current, relevant, and practical legal information in a convenient and timely manner, an average of 70 to 80 programs are offered annually.

    Using new technologies, the State Bar saves members time and money by offering CLE seminars via phone, the Internet, and video. In September 2003, the Bar offered the first webcast of a CLE Seminar, delivering seven webcast titles in FY04. Webcast registrants can "attend" from home, the office, or even on the road when they receive a live video stream via a link accessed through their computers. To meet the "right-now" demands of the legal profession, CLE Seminars also is investigating technology to allow for portable audio playback at the member's convenience.

    CLE Books released Critical Terms in Criminal Proceedings in Spanish and English, which won a 2004 Award of Outstanding Achievement in Public Interest Activities from the Association of Continuing Legal Education Administrators. The Bar also formed a partnership with Loislaw to offer most CLE Books online,making electronic research easier and faster. The online books include links, through the Loislaw global database, to all cases, statutes, and regulations cited in State Bar CLE books.

    CLE Books worked with more than 300 volunteer authors who contributed their expertise in producing:

    • 36 supplements or new editions, including supplements to Probate System, Criminal & Traffic Benchbook, Organizing a Wisconsin Business Corporation, and Appellate Practice and Procedure; and new editions of the Probate, Family, Employment, Criminal & Traffic, Real Estate, Civil Litigation, Traffic Law, Public Utilities, and Children's & Juvenile codebooks
    • Six new titles, including Public Records & Open Meetings handbook, and OWI Pocket, Business Law, and Guardianship codebooks
    • Eight revisions, including Guardianship & Protective Placement, Easements, Real Estate Transactions System, Marital Property, Traffic Law & Practice, Hiring & Firing, and Employment Discrimination

    Nearly 1,000 members gathered in Madison for the 2004 Annual Convention at the Monona Terrace Convention Center to share expert advice and to network. Registrants earned up to 16.5 CLE credits at programs sponsored by sections, divisions, and committees. Julian Bond, chair of the NAACP, provided the keynote speech as he reflected on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

    WisBar, the State Bar's member-focused Internet site, averaged nearly 1 million page views per month in FY04, providing electronic access to legal resources and information. In addition, nearly 6,400 members subscribe to the popular CaseLaw Express, receiving free weekly case law updates by email. According to a June 2004 survey, 55 percent of respondents visit WisBar at least once a month, while 36 percent visit several times a month.

    WisBar's new Marketplace provides secure online transactions using up-to-date encryption features and allows members to efficiently purchase products and register for seminars online. In 2005, the State Bar will launch a redesigned WisBar, including an improved search engine and navigation and the ability to track CLE credits.

    According to a readership survey conducted this year, the nationally recognized Wisconsin Lawyer magazine and Wisconsin Lawyer Directory continue to provide reliable, timely information. The monthly, peer-written and -reviewed Wisconsin Lawyer provides practical guidance on issues the profession faces. State Bar members receive a free copy in January of the Wisconsin Lawyer Directory, which facilitates communication within the profession. The readership survey showed that 48 percent of respondents use the Wisconsin Lawyer Directory at least once per week, making this the directory of choice for Wisconsin's legal profession.

    As part of its support of local bar efforts, the State Bar hosted the annual Wisconsin Bar Leaders Conference for more than 80 leaders representing 39 local and specialty bar associations. Programs centered on helping to build membership and program involvement, designing programs for public service, and enhancing leadership and communication skills to help leaders keep in touch with their members.

    IMPROVE
    Public Access to the Legal System

    A recent State Bar member survey revealed that the estimated annual value of time donated to public service/pro bono activities by Wisconsin lawyers actively practicing law is more than $86 million. Lawyers help their communities in myriad ways and the Bar supports lawyers' efforts with programs to assist lawyers in delivering pro bono and public service. Highlights in FY04 include:

    • developing the Wisconsin Pro Bono Initiative, a coordinated statewide program to support and increase the volunteer legal efforts of Wisconsin attorneys. The Initiative, in collaboration with the judiciary, legal services providers, and local bar organizations, works to improve public access to the legal system and increase the availability of pro bono resources for low-income Wisconsin residents.
    • developing a CLE Pro Bono program to offer a free CLE seminar certificate to attorneys who sign up for State Public Defender (SPD) appointments and take five cases. The program assists the SPD to meet the increasing need for additional private appointment attorneys.
    • supporting the Appellate Law Section's effort to provide pro bono assistance for civil and criminal appeals; the Business Law Section's efforts to provide low or no-cost advice through its Nonprofit Business Assistance and Business Assistance programs on nonprofit law issues and to emerging businesses, respectively; the Young Lawyers Division One Child, One Lawyer project to assist those affected by FEMA-declared disasters; the Environmental Law Section's project to provide legal assistance to citizens who face problems with environmental issues; and the Elder Law Section's WisPACT (Wisconsin Pooled and Community Trust) initiative to provide Wisconsin's first pooled supplemental needs trust and advisory services for the elderly and disabled.

    The State Bar continued to award Local Bar Grants to local and specialty bar associations that develop public service projects that serve as models for other local bar service projects. In FY04, $8,000 was awarded for grant projects, including:

    • Douglas County Bar for a script for a videotape and handouts on "Going to Court: Tips and Advice for Representing Yourself in the Legal System"
    • LaCrosse County Bar for an educational videotape on child custody evaluation
    • Marathon County Bar for a brochure, "Transitions: An Immigration Legal Resource Guide 2005," in English, Spanish, and Hmong
    • Portage County Bar for "Justiceworks," a volunteer-driven, public service-oriented initiative that educates the public about the justice system using related community needs as a basis for understanding.

    In FY04 the public continued to benefit from attorneys registered with the State Bar's Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS). This year, of the 35,000 phone calls and 5,688 contacts through LegalExplorer, the Bar's consumer Web site, LRIS legal assistants referred 11,848 prescreened clients to panel attorneys; the remaining callers were given information or referred to a community agency or other legal resource.

    The State Bar also conducted 48 Lawyer Hotlines statewide, with 150 lawyer volunteers providing free information or advice on a variety of legal problems to nearly 500 callers. LegalExplorer, with an average of 35,000 page views per month, provides public access to State Bar programs like LRIS, and to legal and consumer information.

    Wisconsin attorneys subsidize the supreme court-created Clients' Security Fund through an annual assessment of up to $25, to reimburse people who lose money due to dishonest acts by Wisconsin attorneys. This year, the supreme court approved petitions to change the fund's name to the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, and to require that attorneys petitioning for law license reinstatement make restitution or settle all claims of persons injured or harmed by the attorney's misconduct and reimburse the fund for all payments made before a law license can be reinstated.

    In FY04 the committee acted on 37 claims against 18 attorneys. Of these, 22 claims were approved for reimbursement totaling $83,053. The FY05 assessment is set at $10.

    ASSIST
    In developing the law

    At its core, the State Bar's government relations program is a member and public service. The Board of Governors, section governing boards, and the government relations staff engage in a variety of legislative activities, from monitoring bills introduced in the Legislature, to coordinating research related to law reform, to working to protect individual rights. The program was successful in FY04 on several important issues, including:

    • restoring positions in the State Public Defender's Office
    • working to keep funding for federal and state civil legal services
    • modifying the cost statutes to more adequately provide for recovery of actual costs by successful litigants in a court action
    • working to defeat a bill to adopt the Daubert standard for admitting lay and expert witness testimony in civil cases and administrative hearings
    • working with the Family Law Section to revise Wisconsin's child support guidelines
    • working with the Real Property, Probate & Trust Law Section to revise estate tax law to avoid an economic drain to Wisconsin when the state death tax credit under federal law expires
    • working with the Real Property, Probate & Trust Law Section to enact the Uniform Prudent Investor Act in Wisconsin

    The Individual Rights & Responsibilities Section was especially active, by providing comments and positions on 35 pieces of legislation introduced during the 2003 legislative cycle to assist in developing and improving the law; for example, the section worked to defeat legislation regarding felon employment discrimination and voter photo identification.

    The Lawyers Legislative Action Network (LLAN) is a free legislative grassroots program that keeps Bar members informed on developing legislation. LLAN volunteers ensure that the state Legislature and U.S. Congress are aware of the impact of legislation on the courts, the profession, and the public.

    The State Bar also produces Capitol Update, an online service on WisBar that informs members about federal and state legislation that affects the legal profession and justice system. Capwiz, an online grassroots advocacy tool that will keep members apprised of hot issues brewing in the Legislature and link members to their lawmakers, will debut in FY05.

    In FY04, the Board of Governors acknowledged elected government representatives for their advocacy on issues important to the Bar and the public. The Board recognized Congressman David R. Obey's advocacy to fund the federal Legal Services Corporation and presented the first-ever Scales of Justice Awards to state Rep. Terri McCormick for authoring legislation to ensure indigent criminal defendants receive counsel and to state Rep. Mark Gundrum for his efforts to reform the criminal justice system and to prevent wrongful convictions.

    The Board of Governors studies, debates, and responds to issues that have an impact on the profession, the delivery of legal services, and the judicial system. State Bar sections provide key information about issues before the board. Among the many actions taken in FY04, the Board of Governors:

    • approved changes to the State Bar's rules and bylaws, to enable the Bar to be more responsive to the issues facing the association and profession
    • approved in principle the Multijurisdictional (MJP) Practice Group recommendations for use in drafting a petition to the supreme court to provide Wisconsin lawyers the ability to practice on a temporary basis in other states and lawyers from other states the right to practice on a temporary basis in Wisconsin
    • approved the Administrative & Local Government Law Section's request to file a section amicus brief in a case before the supreme court affecting the attorney-client privilege
    • approved a draft mission statement for a proposed supreme court-appointed commission that would define the practice of law and create an administrative body to help administer a rule protecting the public from the unauthorized practice of law (UPL)
    • supported a proposed rule to cap fees that health care providers can charge for reproducing patient health care records, regardless of whether a lawsuit has been commenced
    • studied the supreme court's Ethics 2000 Committee proposed amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys
    • petitioned the court to clarify the supreme court rules on trust accounts and to amend procedures of the Office of Lawyer Regulation
    • supported a petition requiring mandatory training for guardians ad litem for adults
    • opposed a petition regarding the written communication of fees
    • opposed legislation that attempted to amend the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act in Wisconsin

    ADVANCE
    The Ethical Values of the Legal Profession

    The State Bar works with the supreme court, the Office of Lawyer Regulation, the Board of Bar Examiners, the Clients' Security Fund, and the legal profession on ethical issues affecting Wisconsin lawyers and barriers to obtaining CLE credits, especially for nonresident members. CLE Seminars and section-sponsored programs often have an ethics component, helping members to satisfy mandatory ethics and professional responsibility credit (EPR) requirements.

    The Strategic Goals that Support the State Bar's Mission

    1. Provide services that are relevant and useful to members.

    2. Improve public access to the legal system.

    3. Assist in the development of the law.

    4. Advance the ethical values of the legal profession.

    5. Increase public understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizens under the law, and of the vital roles of courts, judges, jurors, and lawyers in the administration of justice.

    6. Increase diverse membership in the legal profession.

    7. Improve the operations of the Bar.

    8. Improve financial stability.

    The State Bar offers an Ethics Hotline to help lawyers quickly interpret and apply the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys to their practice situations. In FY04 the Ethics Hotline attorney handled 1,435 calls, while Professional Ethics Committee members fielded another 300 calls. In FY05, the hotline will expand its hours with a full-time ethics attorney. Professional Ethics Committee members also write articles for the Wisconsin Lawyer, another important source of ethics guidance. Throughout FY04, committee members participated on the supreme court's Wisconsin Ethics 2000 Committee to study and propose amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct in response to the ABA's Ethics 2000 Commission changes to the ABA Model Rules, on which Wisconsin's rules are based.

    In FY04 Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP) volunteers continued to provide confidential assistance to lawyers, judges, law students, and their families in coping with depression, alcoholism and other chemical addictions, acute and chronic anxiety, and other problems related to the stress of practicing law. WisLAP's trained volunteers can help callers avoid ethics and discipline violations.

    Also in FY04, the Lawyer-to-Lawyer Directory was updated to include 700 lawyers, listed in specific practice and geographic areas, who agree to assist other lawyers in free brief telephone consultations. This network of service to colleagues helps increase the profession's competence. The Lawyer-to-Lawyer Directory is published each January in the Wisconsin Lawyer Directory.

    INCREASE
    Citizens' Understanding of Their Rights and Responsivilities, and of the Professions' Role in Administering Justice

    To help prepare young people for their role in society, the Bar, with critical assistance from hundreds of volunteer lawyers, judges, and teachers, undertakes many law-related education (LRE) programs.

    In FY04, a new Lawyers for Learning program placed lawyers in schools to help students learn about the law and to showcase lawyers' contributions to communities. The curriculum focused on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education to discuss the importance of laws, how to challenge an unjust law in the court system, and the central role of Brown in the nation's race relations. Wisconsin first lady Jessica Doyle joined LRE Committee members in presenting the inaugural program.

    More than 600 attorneys and judges volunteered their time and expertise to, and more than 130 teachers and 27 regional coordinators helped organize, the 158th Mock Trial Tournament, made up of 181 high school teams. This year marked the first time a team from the Wisconsin School for the Deaf competed. The mock trial program is one of the Bar's most visible public education efforts.

    In February, 24 high school teachers participated in the fourth annual Wisconsin Justice Teaching Institute. Assisted by supreme court justices, judges, attorneys, and university professors, the teachers took part in a sentencing exercise and analyzed actual supreme court petitions, culminating with a moot court activity. The institute is a partnership between the State Bar's LRE Committee, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and the U.W. Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

    During FY04, the State Bar cosponsored the "We the People, Project Citizen" competition - a hands-on civics education program for middle school students to promote competent and responsible participation in state and local government. The competition generated public policy portfolios from nine middle schools.

    In the "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" program, five schools participated in a mock congressional hearing by testifying at the State Capitol before panels of teachers, lawyers, elected officials, and community leaders. Teams answered questions about the U.S. Constitution.

    The State Bar hosted the weeklong "We the People Summer Institute," in which 16 teachers from around the state gained a deeper understanding of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights with the goal of promoting civics competence and responsibility among elementary, middle, and secondary school students.

    The Bar works with the state supreme court to promote the awareness of our court system in Wisconsin schools. In Courts with Class, middle and high school students review the details of a real case and then observe the supreme court in session. Students later have an opportunity to discuss with justices the case and the court's ruling.

    State Bar delegates joined legislators, educational leaders, and state officials in Washington, D.C., for the First Annual Congressional Conference on Civic Education. The goal of the national forum is to reinvigorate civics education in public schools.

    In FY04 the Media Law Relations Committee hosted the fifth annual Courts & the Media Seminar, which engaged nearly 40 legal, judicial, and media professionals in a role reversal exercise and discussion to foster better understanding of each other's roles in our justice system.

    The State Bar also planned events statewide to remind Wisconsin families about the importance of planning for future health needs. Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager proclaimed Nov. 24-28 as "Life Planning Week." A Gift to Your Family: Planning Ahead for Future Health Needs booklets were distributed, and lawyer volunteers held free telephone hotlines statewide to answer citizens' questions.

    INCREASE
    Diverse Membership in the Legal Profession

    The State Bar recognizes diversity as an important issue for the practice of law and for the public. The Bar is working to include and build on diverse perspectives in its 30 committees, 26 sections, and four divisions, on the Board of Governors, and in other leadership positions, as well as working to increase diverse participation in Bar activities and programs.

    This summer, under the auspices of the Summer Clerkship Program, 24 first-year law students from the Marquette and U.W. law schools held clerking positions at law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies. The Committee to Encourage the Placement of Minority Lawyers oversees the program, which provides practical exposure to legal environments. Now in its 11th year, nearly 164 students have benefited from this program.

    James Potter, vice president, general counsel, and secretary of Del Monte Foods Company, was the keynote speaker at the annual Celebrating Diversity in the Legal Profession luncheon program that showcases diversity efforts in the legal profession. The event is a collaborative project of the State Bar Diversity Outreach Committee's Diversity Counsel Program and the Wisconsin chapter of the American Corporate Counsel Association.




To view or add comment, Login