Vol. 83, No. 8, August 2010
It is a great honor and privilege to be the 55th president of the State Bar of Wisconsin. I firmly believe that to be a successful leader one must see beyond the present and chart a course for the future. Over the next year, that is what I will try to do. I also firmly believe that if new leaders see further in the future than did their predecessors it is because they stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. Before discussing my ideas for the future of the State Bar, I would like to thank my predecessors who have sacrificed so much and worked so hard for our organization and on whose shoulders I now stand.
In 1975, Charles de Gaulle authored The Edge of the Sword, a book that was, in effect, a manual for leadership. In it, de Gaulle defined two crucial qualities a successful leader must possess: intelligence and instincts. All of our past presidents have had these qualities. The past leaders of the State Bar have forged successful initiatives to serve our members, the public, and the profession, and some strengthened our organization by swimming against the tide.
General Douglas MacArthur concluded his famous 1951 speech to a joint session of Congress by stating, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” The purpose of this article is to thank my predecessors on behalf of all our members and to make sure that their ongoing contributions and hard work do not go unrecognized and “fade away.” In thanking my predecessors, I asked past presidents to share with you what they are doing today. As you can see, they live busy, fulfilling lives, with many spending their time improving our profession and communities.
Pat Ballman, Chicago (formerly of Milwaukee) (2002-03)
I became semi-retired on Oct. 1, 2009, and now do mediation and expert witness work (primarily in prenuptial agreements or family law in general). In April, I married Tom Polachek, a semi-retired partner in the Quarles & Brady Chicago office. Although I now reside in Chicago, my work is in Wisconsin. I am getting to know and love Chicago.
Pam Barker, Milwaukee (1993-94)
After 27 years practicing environmental law at Godfrey & Kahn, I took a major leap and joined one of my clients, Appleton Papers Inc., as assistant general counsel and executive director of environmental health and product safety. It is exciting to make business and management decisions. My son JJ (who was three years old when he joined me at State Bar events during my term as president) is now a wonderful young man who is enjoying college at Northwestern University. I am thrilled because he is within driving distance, and I can see him frequently.
Tom Basting, Madison (2007-08)
I’m involved with my mediation/arbitration practice with Midwest Mediation LLC and am doing a lot of volunteer work on various civic boards. The governor appointed me to the UW Hospital and Clinics Authority Board. I’m also on the Overture Development Corporation Board, the 201 State Foundation Board (Overture Center), the Friends of Wisconsin Public Television Board, and the Educational Communication Board. I’m enjoying golf, and in the summer my wife and I split our time between Madison and Boulder Junction. In September, we will head for Ireland for two weeks of bicycling. So, yes, there is life after a Bar presidency.
Michelle Behnke, Madison (2004-05)
Since my service to the Bar, I have continued my involvement in bar activities, including serving as chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Services and a member of the ABA Membership Committee. Recently, I was elected to the ABA Board of Governors. I enjoyed returning to practice and continue to practice business, commercial real estate, and estate planning law while teaching at the U.W. Law School and serving on a number of community boards, including the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, Madison Community Development Corporation, SSM Healthcare of Wisconsin, and Dean Health Plan Inc.
Hon. Thomas Curran, New Lisbon (1972-73)
Since my retirement from the bench, I have found there are many opportunities for those of us who have been blessed with a legal education. As President Reagan said at an event honoring his 83rd birthday, “I am not one for looking back. I figure there will be plenty of time for that when I get old.” I am of the opinion that past presidents are like children … they should be seen and not heard.
Prof. James Ghiardi, Milwaukee (1970-71)
I now serve as professor emeritus, Marquette University Law School.
Myron LaRowe, Reedsburg (1981-82)
On May 10, 2010, I celebrated 45 years of practice in Reedsburg. The firm now has 12 attorneys in five offices located in Madison, Sauk City, Reedsburg, Wonewoc, and Friendship. I am still enjoying the practice of law and working with the people at the firm. I am also serving on the Sauk County Revolving Loan Fund and spending more time with my wife, children, and grandchildren.
Steve Levine, Madison (2006-07)
I will retire from the Public Service Commission later this year. I hope to teach, write books (law and nonlaw), and discover the meaning of life.
Gerry Mowris, Madison (2001-02)
I am still practicing law and trying to get either the supreme court or the legislature to allow expungement of criminal records, especially for individuals whose charges are dismissed. In the winter, I try to spend as much time as I can with my wife, Leah, in Arizona.
Gerald O’Brien, Stevens Point (1987-88)
As senior partner of Anderson, O’Brien, Bertz, Skrenes & Golla, I continue to practice law, primarily in the area of litigation. I continue to actively serve on a number of State Bar committees. I’ve also served on the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility (now the Office of Lawyer Regulation) and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission. I served on the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board for nine years, three as chair.
Gary Sherman, Madison (formerly of Port Wing) (1994-95)
I began my new career as a judge on the District IV Wisconsin Court of Appeals on May 12.
Adrian Schoone, Racine (1983-84)
I still get to my office at 5 a.m. six out of seven days of the week for eight months of the year. For four months in the winter, I live in Alpharetta, Ga., but call the office multiple times daily. I’m golfing more and riding horses. Life is good for Sally and me.
Tom Sleik, La Crosse (1992-93)
I am actively involved in the day-to-day practice of law. Professionally, I serve on the WILMIC board, the Office of Lawyer Regulation Board of Administrative Oversight, and the Federal Nominating Commission. Personally, I am enjoying my grandchildren’s sporting events and playing with them. Whenever we can get away, I travel with my wife, Judy. I serve on various community boards, including the La Crosse Community Foundation, the Board of Trustees La Crosse Festivals (Oktoberfest), and the Franciscan Skemp Healthcare Board.
Richard Sommer, Rhinelander (1979-80)
I’m still in active practice with offices in Rhinelander, Antigo, and Crandon. I expect to leave the office for the last time when the hearse arrives at the door.
Steve Sorenson, Ripon (1997-98)
After leaving the Bar presidency, I returned to Ripon to rebuild my practice (that had gone from a partner and four associates to just one associate in three years). I since was elected president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, served on the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism, received the honor of ABA Solo Practitioner of the Year, restructured our local healthcare delivery organization, and begin a new career as a part-time professor of journalism and politics. Although I stay busy, I would go back to Bar president in a minute because I believe it is a great way to make a difference in a profession (not a business) I love.
John Walsh, Madison (1988-89)
I am teaching part time at the U.W.-Madison Business School. In addition, I just finished two special projects dear to my heart: I produced a 10-minute video on the history of Axley Brynelson for the firm’s 125th-anniversary celebration (see video at axley.com); and I chaired the fund raising for the Cross Plains American Legion Veterans Memorial, raising $140,000 in 12 months, and broke ground on Memorial Day. Oh yes, I am still practicing trial law full time.
G. Lane Ware, Wausau (1989-90)
I formed and served as first chair of the State Bar’s Leadership Development Committee because the future of the Bar rests with men and women who assume roles of leadership. I am still involved with the Wisconsin Law Foundation and Wisconsin Fellows. Currently, I chair the Development Counsel for Marathon County and practice law full time.