Vol. 80, No. 11, November 2007
State Bar of Wisconsin Annual Report - Fiscal Year 2007: July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2007
Year at a glance
Steve Levine, the State Bar's 51st president, urges debate and member involvement.
This year State Bar CLE Books introduces, with the Business Law Section, five volumes of the nine-volume The Wisconsin Business Advisor Series.
For their efforts to support State Bar legislative positions, the Legislative Oversight Committee presents awards to Sens. Mark Miller and Luther Olsen for working with the Elder Law Section to change guardianship laws; to Rep. Jennifer Shilling for working with the Children in the Law Section to protect foster children; and to Sen. Theodore Kanavas for working with the Business Law Section to revise Wisconsin's corporation statutes.
• State Bar CLE Books adds forms to the Online Fillable Forms Bank - 16 real estate enhanced forms and 234 family law practice forms and other documents.
State Bar CLE Books wins national Outstanding Achievement in Use of Technology award from the Association for CLE for its Online Fillable Forms Bank.
• Law Office Management Section joins the Association of Legal Administrators to offer members access to resources on law office administration, marketing, and human resource management.
• State Bar redesigns CaseLaw Express, a free weekly email service that alerts members to recent court decisions, saving 5,300+ subscribers valuable time.
• 130+ people attend attorney general candidates debate between Kathleen Falk and J.B. Van Hollen at the State Bar Center; the debate is immediately available on WisBar.
The State Bar and the Milwaukee Bar cosponsor the first Wisconsin Solo, Small Firm & Technology Conference. More than 220 people attend the 1.5-day conference.
• The Practice 411™ law practice management program and Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program visit the La Crosse Bar Association in the first in a series of visits to lawyers in out-state areas.
In September and December the State Bar airs two 30-second radio spots in Dane County to educate the public about the Lawyer Referral and Information Service, which matches lawyers with clients who need legal help. Billboards appear in mid-September in Madison.
The Board of Governors approves the UPL Policy Committee proposal to define and regulate the unauthorized practice of law; and approves in concept a BBE Review Committee proposal to request a comity rule for CLE reporting by nonresident members.
"Wisconsin Lawyers Make a Difference" TV spots continue statewide rotation, airing through March in the Green Bay/Fox Valley area. The 30-second spots educate the public about the value lawyers bring to their communities.
• The Dane County Bar, with the State Bar, produces a TV spot featuring its Family Law Assistance Center, airing for four months in nearly 30 counties.
• State Bar offers the first of several seminars to help members understand the new Rules of Professional Conduct, which take effect July 1, 2007.
450 lawyers and judges and supreme court justices volunteer for the 24th regional Mock Trial Tournament - helping 1,100 high school students, in 130 teams, develop critical thinking and public-speaking skills.
The Access to Justice Study Committee, in Wisconsin's first comprehensive civil legal needs study of low-income residents, finds 500,000 residents face serious civil legal problems without legal assistance. More than 200 lawyers and judges attend the first Wisconsin Equal Justice Conference to discuss how to improve access to justice for low-income residents.
• Supreme court candidates Linda M. Clifford and Annette K. Ziegler meet in a post-primary debate at the State Bar Center.
• 65 leaders of 39 local and specialty bars gather at the Wisconsin Bar Leaders' Conference for training on building and leading bar associations. Ten associations receive Local Bar Grant Competition Awards for 12 public service projects.
• The supreme court approves trust account rule changes based on recommendations by the Trust Account Working Group, effective July 1, 2007.
The first State Bar CLE OnDemand seminars debut, allowing members to earn CLE credit for qualified programs viewed over the Internet, 24/7.
The 2007 State Bar Annual Convention provides more than 25 CLE programs to almost 1,000 attendees. 98 attorneys admitted to practice in 1957 are recognized for 50 years' service. The Volunteer Lawyers Recognition Celebration honors lawyers for service to their colleagues and communities.
• For Law Day, the Young Lawyers Division creates a newspaper insert explaining the separation of powers, reaching 250,000 households. 70 members make one-hour presentations at local schools.
• During the year 834 attorneys are admitted to the State Bar, bringing total membership to 22,671.
• The Diversity Outreach Committee sponsors the Minority Clerkship Program in which 21 legal employers provide summer employment to 23 minority first-year law students. The committee, with the Association of Corporate Counsel, Wisconsin Chapter, presents 2007 Annual Diversity Counsel Program in Milwaukee, focusing on recruiting and retaining lawyers from diverse backgrounds.
The State Bar of Wisconsin is a hub where members can share or discover useful information, give or receive help, and teach or learn. The Bar brings attorneys together to debate differing perspectives on key issues, to discuss problems they have in common, and to devise solutions to those problems.
Not only does the Bar connect members with each other, but it also links the legal profession as a whole with the two key entities the profession serves: the public and the justice system.
As is true for any interconnected organization, to succeed in its endeavors the Bar relies on the work of all its components: the 22,661 members; the nearly 100 elected and volunteer leaders; the thousands of members active in 26 sections, 4 divisions, and 27 committees; and the Bar staff.
Faced with members' diverse, complex needs, the Bar must choose how best to use its limited resources. The Bar's strategic planning process is ongoing. In recent years, the process gradually has expanded to involve a wider range of Bar leaders. For FY 2007, those involved in the process included members from the Board of Governors, committees, divisions, and (for the first time) sections. They apportioned resources to ensure that the Bar's activities remain on track toward achieving four top priorities, which are to:
- improve public access to the legal system;
- improve members' engagement in the Bar;
- increase public understanding of the legal system; and
- build relevance of the Bar to members.
This annual report describes only a sampling of the many Bar activities undertaken in FY 2007.
Build the Bar's Relevance to and Engagement of Members
Members are the Bar's clients, in that they use the Bar's products and services, and they are the Bar's workers, in that they roll up their sleeves to help the Bar accomplish its goals. Members also are the Bar's dreamers and reality-checkers, its supporters and critics.
For the Bar to serve its members effectively, members must speak up about the products and services they need from the Bar and how they want those products and services delivered. Every year, the Bar conducts several surveys to elicit that kind of information from members.
From there, the Bar does its best to respond to members' needs and wants. Perhaps it's a CLE book or seminar that pulls together information, all in one place, that helps you stay up to date in your practice area. Maybe it's one-on-one assistance to help your firm solve a practice management dilemma. Or perhaps it's the chance to participate in an e-list as an antidote to the isolation of solo practice.
Products and Services
The Bar's products and services aim to provide an assortment of tools and information to help members enjoy and succeed in their law practices.
• State Bar CLE Seminars and the Professional Ethics Committee present several CLE seminars in FY 2007 to educate members about the impact of the changes in the Rules of Professional Conduct, which take effect July 1, 2007. Several articles in Wisconsin Lawyer also provide information, and the Bar's Ethics Hotline is on hand to answer attorneys' questions about the new rules. The Bar also educates lawyers about the new trust account rules, effective July 1, 2007.
• CaseLaw Expressä gets a facelift to allow easier scanning for users. The free weekly email service keeps 5,300-plus subscribers informed of the prior week's state supreme court and court of appeals decisions.
• The first Wisconsin Solo, Small Firm, and Technology Conference, held in November 2006, offers presentations by national, regional, and local experts covering diverse topics: efficient business practices, practice management, making law practice more enjoyable, and more. The State Bar and the Milwaukee Bar Association cosponsor the conference.
• In its second year, the Bar's Practice 411ä law practice management assistance program reaches out to Bar members across the state - through conference presentations, seminars, local bar meetings, and one-on-one consultations - to offer assistance with law practice management issues. The program also has an e-list to enable members to communicate with peers and management experts. The Bar's Law Office Management Section coordinates with the national Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) and ALA's Wisconsin chapter to give Bar members access to these organizations' extensive practice management resources, at no or low cost.
• The Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP) institutes mandatory training for its volunteers. Training sessions repeated at seven sites around the state provide education and camaraderie to lawyers who provide confidential help 24/7 to colleagues dealing with substance abuse, depression, work-life imbalance, anxiety, and other difficulties. WisLAP collaborates with the Board of Bar Examiners and Bar President Steven Levine to create a conditional Bar admission rule - providing an alternative to the yes/no system of admission for lawyers with challenging issues.
• In FY 2007, State Bar CLE Seminars offers programs on 78 topics, ranging from administrative law to worker's compensation. Webcasting of seminars dramatically increases, such that nearly all live CLE seminars now are simultaneously webcast.
• State Bar CLE OnDemand becomes available in April 2007, making it possible for members to earn up to 10 CLE credits anytime and anywhere they choose, by viewing qualified State Bar CLE seminars over the Internet.
• State Bar CLE Books publishes 51 titles, including three new books, 13 new editions, 11 revisions, and 24 supplements. Among these are five volumes in the Wisconsin Business Advisor Series that was introduced last year (Commercial and Consumer Transactions, Collections and Bankruptcy, Intellectual Property Law, Business Litigation, and Business Organizations) and revisions of Wisconsin Civil Litigation Forms Manual (Part I) and Advising Older Clients and Their Families, Vol. II. More than 300 volunteer members work with Bar staff to create CLE publications.
• The State Bar Online Fillable Forms Bank expands with the addition of 234 family law forms and 16 new real estate forms, bringing the total bank to more than 600 practice forms and sample language documents, letters, and checklists related to family, real estate, criminal, and elder law. Subscribers easily can access up-to-date forms and tailor them to individual clients. In August 2006, the forms bank wins the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Use of Technology from the national Association for Continuing Legal Education.
• The Bar launches its Online Research Panel of volunteers who agree to respond regularly with their opinions on a variety of issues related to member benefits, new product and service ideas, current topics in the profession, and practice management topics. The panel provides another vehicle for gaining members' input to help shape Bar products and services.
• The 2007 State Bar Annual Convention offers nearly 1,000 attendees more than 25 CLE programs plus two CLE spotlight programs: "Death Penalty Debate" and "Guantanamo - Still a Legal Black Hole?" Receiving special recognition are 98 attorneys with 50 years of law practice. The Volunteer Lawyers Recognition Celebration during the convention honors attorneys, judges, law firms, law-related organizations, and law students for outstanding contributions to their communities or colleagues.
• The Wisconsin Bar Leaders' Conference brings together 65 representatives from 39 local and specialty bars statewide to share ideas and techniques for better serving their members and communities.
Issues and Policy Decisions
Various entities within the State Bar work on a wide range of issues and policy decisions that affect the legal profession, the justice system, and the public.
• In October 2006, the State Bar releases its final report, "Identification of Competitive Challenges," outlining the top 10 competitive challenges facing the legal profession. These challenges include economic pressures on law practices, the battle for legal talent, technology challenges, changing demographics within the Bar and in the general public, work-life balance issues, and others. The report will help the Bar provide solutions to help members meet these challenges.
• Expanding diversity in the law profession, to mirror increasing diversity in the population lawyers serve, is the goal of the Minority Clerkship Program, sponsored by the Bar's Diversity Outreach Committee. The clerkship program encourages law students of color to stay in Wisconsin after graduation by giving them a taste of what it's like to practice law here. In the summer of 2007, 21 law firms, corporate law departments, and government agencies provide clerkships for 23 first-year law students from Marquette and the U.W. The committee, with the Association of Corporate Counsel, Wisconsin Chapter, presents its annual diversity counsel seminar in June.
• Shortly before the end of FY 2007, the State Bar petitions the Wisconsin Supreme Court to adopt the Legal Services Consumer Protection Act. The petition asks the court to define the "practice of law" in civil legal matters for consumer protection purposes. It also asks the court to create an administrative system to enforce the new rule by empowering the Office of Lawyer Regulation to investigate consumer complaints related to the unauthorized practice of law and, if necessary, to bring a civil action.
• The Board of Governors adopts a public policy position, at the request of the Children and the Law Section, to support legislation raising from 17 to 18 the age at which persons are subject to adult court. The board adopts the Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section's position in support of habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees. Also, the board approves the Appellate Practice Section's request to file an amicus brief in a case concerning what constitutes a final order of appeal.
• The Board of Governors approves recommendations from various Bar entities, among them: the Board of Bar Examiners Review Committee's proposal to request a comity rule for CLE requirements for nonresident members; the Nonresident Lawyers Division's request to petition the supreme court to increase nonresident lawyers' representation on the Board of Governors; the Unauthorized Practice of Law Policy Committee's proposed changes to SCR Chapter 23 to define and regulate the practice of law by nonlawyers; the Multijurisdictional Practice (MJP) Working Group's petition to amend SCR Chapter 20 regarding the temporary practice of law; the Ethics 2000 Review Committee's recommendation to accept the supreme court's draft revisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct; and the Trust Account Rule Working Group's proposed changes to the rules affecting lawyers' trust accounts.
• The Government Relations program successfully coordinates State Bar activity before the supreme court, helping to secure approval of several major rule-making petitions, including the new trust account and professional responsibility rules. The Bar also advocates successfully against a Department of Revenue petition to create a process to revoke the law licenses of tax-delinquent attorneys.
Increasing Public Understanding of and Access to the Legal System
Bar volunteers and staff work together, and with the public, to improve access to justice for all; to bolster public understanding of the justice system; to inform citizens of their role in society; and to educate citizens about the value lawyers bring to their clients and communities.
• In March 2007, the Access to Justice Study Committee releases its report, Bridging the Justice Gap: Wisconsin's Unmet Legal Needs, noting that a half-million Wisconsinites must proceed alone when they confront civil legal problems because they can't afford legal help. In May, the Board of Governors approves the report, which cites several recommendations for action. The report emphasizes that lawyers can't solve the problem alone. The business community, the legislature, and other parties must help to close the justice gap. Also in March, the Legal Assistance Committee organizes the first Wisconsin Equal Justice Conference to bring law professionals and others together to discuss the problem, plan strategies to improve access to justice, and begin to build a coalition to take action.
• The Wisconsin Pro Bono Initiative aims to bolster attorneys' pro bono efforts. This year 79 attorneys receive nearly $10,000 in CLE gift certificates to reward their outstanding pro bono work. The Legal Assistance Committee also issues $27,500 in Pro Bono Initiative Grants to help fund new or expanded pro bono projects around the state.
• The Bar's Law-related Education Committee promotes law-related and citizenship education for Wisconsin's young people and community members through interactive experiences. This year marks the 24th Mock Trial Tournament, with 1,100 high school students participating in 130 teams. All state supreme court justices and 450 lawyers and judges volunteer their time for the program. In the "We the People … Project Citizen" civic education competition, 14 middle schools submit portfolios and oral presentations on public policy issues to panels of judges made up of lawyers, educators, and community leaders.
• To honor Law Day, the Young Lawyers Division creates a 16-page newspaper insert explaining the separation of powers and the importance of the judicial branch. This is included in newspapers sent to 250,000 households, mostly in central and northern Wisconsin. Also, 70 young lawyers make presentations at schools in central Wisconsin school districts.
• The Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Committee disburses a total of $228,688 for 43 claims in FY 2007. The fund, supported entirely by attorneys, is the profession's good-will gesture to compensate consumers' losses due to dishonest lawyers. To enhance consumers' protection, the committee succeeds in petitioning the supreme court to allow public disclosure of attorneys who have had claims approved against them. These attorneys now are identified on the lawyer search function of WisBar.
• The Local Bar Relations Committee awards Local Bar Grants to six local and specialty bar associations. The committee also issues achievement awards to 10 local bar associations for successful completion of 12 public service projects in 2005-2007. Projects include opening free legal clinics, creating publications and DVDs on various law topics, providing jury bailiff training, strengthening community relationships to reduce domestic violence, increasing public awareness about the workings of the justice system, establishing a safe center for child-placement exchanges for parents in abusive relationships, and producing legal resource materials in Spanish and Hmong.
• The Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) fields 32,536 telephone calls from people seeking legal help, resulting in 7,215 referrals to panel attorneys. An additional 5,758 referrals result from inquiries on LegalExplorer?, the Bar's consumer Web site. LRIS Lawyer Hotline volunteers across the state also provide free answers to callers' simple legal questions. As a pilot project, the State Bar produces radio spots and billboards to build public awareness of LRIS in Dane County.
• The Dane County Bar Association partners with the State Bar Public Image Committee to produce a 30-second television spot featuring the association's Family Law Assistance Center, where volunteer attorneys and paralegals provide legal help to unrepresented family law litigants. The spot reaches nearly 30 counties in southern Wisconsin.
• The State Bar Public Image Committee creates two additional television spots featuring six Green Bay/Fox Valley attorneys who contribute to their communities. These spots reach nearly 75 percent of the target audience in the Green Bay/Fox Valley media market. Other statewide "Wisconsin Lawyers Make a Difference" television spots also air, primarily during U.W. men's basketball games.
• The State Bar Center is site of two debates to educate the public about candidates for offices critical to the state justice system. In October, more than 130 people attend a debate between attorney general candidates Kathleen Falk and J.B. Van Hollen. In March, the center hosts a post-primary debate between supreme court candidates Linda Clifford and Annette Ziegler.
Executive Director's Message
In Others' Words:"I tried it; I liked it."
In my seven years as the State Bar's executive director, I've written dozens of monthly columns for Wisconsin Lawyer and several previous "executive messages" in Bar annual reports. Many times I've expressed my thoughts on what the Bar strives to be for its members and what it means to the Bar when members take an active part.
This year, I want to relinquish my allocated space in this report to some of your fellow Bar members. After all, who better to inject comments into your organization's annual report. Recently we surveyed members who volunteer for various Bar entities and asked them to tell us, confidentially and anonymously, what most motivates them to get involved. Here's a sampling of what they had to say:
• "As a solo practitioner, I derive a great deal of satisfaction and professional growth through my volunteer efforts with the State Bar. As my wife says, `Service to the Bar puts a bounce in your step.'"
• "Although my time is limited, like everyone else's, I wanted to contribute and be a part of the solution to making the practice of law better for lawyers."
• "I believe the work of the committee can and does have a significant positive influence on the lives of ordinary citizens, which I find to be personally satisfying."
• "I have been involved in this program since the early `90s … It provides great opportunity to share with other lawyers the daily challenges we all face in the practice of our profession."
• "Being involved in what I characterize as `extracurricular legal activities' helps me maintain a fresh approach to my job. Meeting with and exchanging ideas with others involved in the family law area builds a sense of camaraderie and a feeling of pride in what we do. It inspires me to try to do my job better."
• "I was initially motivated by curiosity and the opportunity to meet attorneys from other parts of the state. I tried it; I liked it."
To these and all the other members who volunteer to make the Bar better, I say a heartfelt "thank you" for all you do. And to those not yet involved, I extend an invitation: Try it. You just might like it.
- George C. Brown, State Bar executive director
"I'd Sign Up in a Heartbeat"
My mission as Bar president this year was to make it a time of vigorous, healthy discussion. And that it was.
Several hot issues returned to the debate arena: voluntary versus mandatory Bar membership, diploma privilege or bar exam, fairness questions for nonresident Bar members, lawyers' problems with Board of Bar Examiners' (BBE) policies, and more.
We saw progress in some of these areas. For example, the Board of Governors approved the Nonresident Lawyers Division's request to the supreme court to increase nonresident lawyers' representation on the board from three to five (still not enough). A proposal also is before the supreme court for a new comity rule that would make it easier for nonresident lawyers to get credit in Wisconsin for CLE they complete in their own states. And the BBE has created a conditional Bar admission rule - an alternative to the current yes-or-no admission decision - that would give lawyers with past personal problems a chance to prove themselves.
As for the voluntary Bar and diploma privilege questions, the needle moved little - not surprising given how big and controversial these issues are. I don't see the lack of progress as failure. Not trying would have been failure. And those who know me know I'll keep trying to urge study and debate on these issues.
Overall, I think this year gave all of us an excellent opportunity to see how vibrant our State Bar is. It is, in fact, widely recognized as one of the best state bar associations in the country. I think sometimes my colleagues misread my stance opposing mandatory Bar membership as meaning that I oppose the Bar itself. Not true. If the Bar converted to a voluntary organization tomorrow, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.
Some critics would ask, "What does the Bar do for me anyway?" In my view, you can find plenty of answers to that query right in the pages of this annual report.
- Steve Levine, president, State Bar of Wisconsin
July 1, 2006 - June 30, 2007
Where does your money go?
Many State Bar members share a misperception that all of the fees shown on their annual dues and court assessments statement constitute their State Bar dues. That's not the case.
The accompanying chart shows that for Fiscal year 2007, slightly more than half the total amount collected for full dues-paying members ($441) comprises State Bar membership dues ($224). The remaining amounts are imposed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to fund the Office of Lawyer Regulation ($129), the Board of Bar Examiners ($13), the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation to fund civil legal services for low-income people ($50), and the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection ($25).
How do the State Bar of Wisconsin's annual membership dues and court assessments stack up to other bar associations at the national and regional levels?
As of January 2007, the average dues-only amount for state bar associations nationwide is $252, compared to $224 for the State Bar of Wisconsin, and the average dues and mandatory fees for state bars nationwide is $430, compared to $441 for Wisconsin.
In a comparison of six Midwest states, Wisconsin's dues-only amount is $224 compared to the regional average of $237. When dues and other fees are combined, the regional average is $420, with Wisconsin at $441.
How do the State Bar of Wisconsin dues and court assessments compare to other annual professional/trade association dues and applicable mandatory fees (such as licensing)? Wisconsin lawyers' annual total dues and court assessments is $441. That compares to annual fees that range from $1,733 for medical doctors, $900 for dentists, $404 for psychologists, and $244 for accountants. While it is difficult to compare the products and services each association provides its members, this annual report represents a sampling of how the State Bar of Wisconsin puts your dues dollars to work serving you, the public, and the legal system.
The Bar Needs Your Involvement
At State Bar headquarters, every year is the Year of the Member. The Bar staff works hard to meet members' needs for products, services, and programs - and to deliver those when, where, and how you want them. Those efforts continue in FY 2008.
Think of this year also as being the Year of the Consumer. That's nothing new, either, as the Bar long has strived toward making the legal system more available and comprehensible to the state's citizens. The consumer is especially in the spotlight this year, however, as the Bar pursues three key initiatives.
First, we will move forward to translate the Access to Justice Study Committee's recommendations into real-world action. It's a huge task: to make civil legal services available to the 500,000 Wisconsinites - many of them working, tax-paying citizens - who can't afford to hire a lawyer and can't get help from legal services agencies.
Second, the Bar will continue to urge the Wisconsin Supreme Court to adopt the Legal Services Consumer Protection Act. This measure will counter a growing trend in our state: Various sorts of scam artists are portraying themselves as legal experts when they are nothing of the sort. People get hurt as a result.
Third, the Bar must be a strong voice calling for judicial campaign reform. At stake are the integrity and impartiality of our judiciary - and hence the stature of the entire justice system in the public's eye.
Of course, none of these efforts can succeed without you, the Bar's members. The more talent and energy feeding into our projects, the more we get done and the better we do it.
It's an old refrain you've heard before, but also a simple truth: The Bar needs you. As you look through this report's descriptions of diverse activities, I'll bet you'll find at least one that makes you think, "I'd like to be part of that."
- Tom Basting, president-elect, State Bar of Wisconsin
July 1, 2006 - June 30, 2007