Vol. 80, No. 11, November 2007
by George C. Brown, executive director
For two days last month, nearly 50 attorneys from across the state gathered in Madison to begin the annual process of strategic planning for the State Bar. These attorneys were committee chairs or section or division officers. They met to receive an overview of the changes to the State Bar's strategic plan as proposed by the Strategic Planning Committee and to learn more about the Access to Justice Report recently approved by the State Bar Board of Governors, the competitive challenges facing our members and gap analysis telling us what the State Bar currently is doing to address these issues, the report on electronic communications to members, and the report on public understanding of the legal system outlining the five learning objectives related to the strategic plan.
Following these reports, members learned about the goal planning process the Bar uses and then spent several hours developing strategic and measurable goals for groups they lead to help fulfill the State Bar's strategic plan. These goals will guide their work over the coming years.
This is the fourth year the State Bar is following this planning process. Although the State Bar has engaged in strategic planning off and on for nearly 30 years, the first plan to achieve real traction was developed about six years ago under the leadership of Strategic Planning Committee chair Cory Nettles. This process was then revised and recast under the leadership of president Michelle Behnke to become the top down, bottom up process we have today. By top down I mean that the State Bar Board of Governors, through the Strategic Planning Committee, sets the priorities and goals for the State Bar. By bottom up I mean that the committees, sections, and divisions develop their own priorities and goals to help accomplish the plan approved by the Board.
This planning process has resulted in significant accomplishments in the last four years. First, because the planning process sets the direction for the State Bar and because it is directly tied to the budgeting process, the State Bar's Finance Committee no longer sets the course for the Bar through the budget; instead, the Board sets the course for the Bar through the strategic plan and the Finance Committee determines how to fund the work to achieve the plan. Second, the work of the Bar is set on a determined course so that the Bar is moving in one direction. Like any enterprise, an association cannot do everything well. If it tries, it will fail. Strategic planning sets the course for the Bar so that it can achieve reasonable goals, define success, measure whether it was successful, and determine why it succeeded or failed. Finally, this form of planning increases communication across the organization and helps conserve resources and increase efficiency by eliminating duplication and resolving conflicting priorities.
The State Bar of Wisconsin is a complex organization with numerous programs, projects, and policies, but it cannot be all things to all people. The strategic plan allows the leaders to lead the State Bar into a successful future.