Vol. 79, No. 1 January
Your volunteerism is impressive and essential to the State Bar's
success in serving its members and the public. Thank you for your
by D. Michael Guerin
"Service is the rent that you pay for room on this earth." -
As your president, I am proud to work with George Brown and the
entire State Bar of Wisconsin staff. They are hard-working, competent,
and dedicated to advancing the image of the profession and finding ways
to make your practice and professional lives more meaningful.
That said, the State Bar could not exist if it relied only on its
paid staff. The volunteerism of Wisconsin lawyers is essential to the
organization. While many lawyers serve on multiple Bar committees and
sections, there's always room for more individuals to participate.
Whenever I, as president, have called on someone to serve on a board,
committee, section, or special project, I have received overwhelming
support. I thank you for that.
As lawyers, you are bombarded with requests for service from paying
and nonpaying clients (should you be short of the latter, please feel
free to give me a call), friends and acquaintances, church groups and
schools, and community organizations, boards, and committees. You have
The spirit of volunteerism that I have observed in Wisconsin's
lawyers makes me question the need for mandated service. When I listen
to the discussions around Ethics 2000 and the various proposed
amendments to the rules of professional conduct for attorneys, including
the American Bar Association's recommendation for mandatory pro bono
service, I tend to shout out that mandating performance or reporting of
pro bono service may be a solution looking for a problem.
Nonetheless, I feel it is appropriate to point out that the State Bar
and the Wisconsin Supreme Court have available more service
opportunities for those of you who feel you have more to give. Consider,
for example, participating in the State Bar's Lawyer-to-Lawyer Directory
or the Lawyer Referral and Information Service, or on a supreme court
The Lawyer-to-Lawyer Directory lists 700-plus
lawyers who have agreed to be available to other lawyers - not the
public - for brief telephone consultations to share their knowledge in
particular areas of law. By their participation, these lawyers create a
network among attorneys that leads to greater competence within the
profession and better delivery of legal services to the public.
The Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS)
is a nonprofit project that provides valuable service to members and the
public. LRIS panel attorneys are eligible for prescreened referrals in
geographic and practice areas that they specify through the registration
process. Panel attorneys agree to charge no more than $20 for the first
half-hour consultation. If the referral produces a fee of more than
$200, LRIS receives 10 percent of the amount earned and collected.
Of 25,000 phone calls to LRIS and 2,530 contacts through the
Internet, in 2005 LRIS legal assistants referred 11,456 pre-screened
clients to panel attorneys and gave information or referred remaining
callers to community agencies or other legal resources. In addition to
the referral panel, LRIS Hotline volunteers statewide provide answers to
callers' basic legal questions that can be answered in just a few
I have participated as a LRIS panel attorney for several years.
Although the merits of the cases referred have varied, many referrals
involved significant matters for which my firm received substantial
fees. Although participation in LRIS is fairly unobtrusive and can help
panel attorneys build their client base, too few Wisconsin lawyers
participate in the program. As a result, each year more than 1,000
potential clients are unable to obtain a referral. I urge you to
consider becoming a LRIS panel attorney this year.
Have you wondered how lawyers and public members get appointed to the
Wisconsin Supreme Court's various boards? The simple
answer is that people submit their resumés and indicate their
willingness to be considered for these appointments. The court's
Appointment Selection Committee helps to find people to serve on various
appointed boards and committees, including the Board of Bar Examiners;
the Office of Lawyer Regulation's (OLR) Board of Administrative
Oversight, District Investigative Committees, and Preliminary Review
Committee; and the State Bar Board of Governors. Currently, the most
vital need is participation in the OLR's 16 district committees, which
assist in the investigation of complaints against attorneys. For many of
us, investigating our colleagues would not be any easy task; still, I
encourage you to consider volunteering for this vital service.
Finally, it is my considered opinion that the payback you receive
from volunteerism might be on this Earth - in the form of clients and
referrals - rather than the usual promise for payback on good deeds.
Either way, you'll be able to pay the rent.