Wisconsin Lawyer: FY 2008 State Bar Annual Report: Continuing the Quest: Dedicated to serving members, the public, and the justice system:

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    FY 2008 State Bar Annual Report: Continuing the Quest: Dedicated to serving members, the public, and the justice system

    The State Bar of Wisconsin’s overriding goal remains the same: to keep getting better. Although the work is never finished, this report details some of the Bar’s efforts in four key areas in FY 2008: building relevance of the Bar to members, getting more members engaged in the Bar, and improving public access to and understanding of the justice system.

    Dianne Molvig

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 11, November 2008

    Continuing the Quest:
    Dedicated to serving members, the public and the justice system

    State Bar of Wisconsin Annual Report
    Fiscal 2008: July 1, 2007 – June 30, 2008

    Sidebars:

    Year at a Glance

    July

    Thomas J. Basting Sr., the State Bar’s 52nd president, pledges to work to close the justice gap in Wisconsin, protect consumers from unqualified legal representation, and reform judicial election campaigns.

    August

    State Bar CLE OnDemandTM expands to 90 seminar titles covering more than 20 practice areas. OnDemand seminars allow members to earn CLE credit for qualified programs viewed over the Internet, 24/7.

    September

    The Young Lawyers Division partners with the Minnesota State Bar and the ABA in a disaster legal services hotline to provide free legal assistance to August flood victims in southwestern and south central Wisconsin.

    TV spots continue statewide rotation, with residents in western Wisconsin viewing 30-second reminders that lawyers make a difference in their communities. The spots highlight the La Crosse County Bar’s monthly free legal clinic and financial support for Jim’s Grocery Bag, which funds area food pantries, and a free legal clinic for homeless veterans on the Veterans Administration Hospital grounds in Tomah.

    The Board of Governors adopts public policy positions to oppose consolidating state attorney positions into one department and to support restoring federal funding for the nation’s child support program; and supports creating a limited license for in-house counsel and the concept of conditional bar admission.

    October

    State Bar CLE Books and the Business Law Section release Employment Law and General Business Issues, volumes eight and nine of the 10-volume Wisconsin Business Advisor Series.

    November

    Practice411TM, the State Bar law office management assistance program, and the Milwaukee Bar cosponsor the second Wisconsin Solo, Small Firm & Technology Conference. More than 200 people attend the two-day conference in Milwaukee.

    New online Leadership Opportunities Directory connects members to State Bar leadership opportunities.

    December

    During the 2007-08 legislative session, the State Bar and lobbying sections successfully lobbied the legislature for $1 million for civil legal services to indigent people, increased SPD funding, recreation of the Judicial Council as an independent agency, six new circuit court branches, consumer protection from “notarios,” and more.

    January

    State Bar forms Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee to educate voters about judges’ unique role and monitor campaign-related activities.

    Supreme court adopts a State Bar petition requesting a pure comity rule, making it easier for nonresident members to meet Wisconsin CLE requirements, effective for the CLE reporting period ending Dec. 31, 2008.

    February

    Milwaukee-area residents see 30-second TV spots highlighting the contributions attorneys make every day by volunteering their expertise in their communities and by working for the best interest of clients. The ads, which are cosponsored by the Milwaukee Bar Association, are part of the State Bar Public Image Committee’s effort to educate the public how Wisconsin lawyers make a difference.

    March

    More than 100 people attend a Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate debate at the State Bar Center between Justice Louis Butler and the Hon. Michael Gableman. The State Bar, along with other media, cosponsor the debate, which is simultaneously viewed statewide via webcast and available on WisBar.org.

    456 lawyers, judges, and supreme court justices volunteer for the 25th regional Mock Trial Tournament – helping 1,500 high school students, in 111 teams, develop critical thinking and public-speaking skills. In its 25 years, the program has educated 30,000-plus youth about Wisconsin’s legal system.

    The State Bar Law-related Education Committee honors Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson with the Heffernan Award for her 25 years of service to the Wisconsin Mock Trial Program.

    April

    Practice411TM expands Advice Alert, an online repository of blogs by practice management advisors nationwide.

    State Bar CLE Books updates the three-volume Wisconsin Employment Law, a comprehensive and practical guide widely used by Wisconsin attorneys and human resources professionals.

    May

    The 2008 State Bar Annual Convention provides 27 CLE programs by 150-plus presenters to almost 1,000 attendees. 26 attorneys admitted to practice in 1958 are recognized for 50 years’ service.

    The Volunteer Lawyers Recognition Celebration honors lawyers for service to their colleagues and communities.

    For Law Day, more than 1,000 school children in a dozen-plus Wisconsin counties receive a visit from attorneys who help educate them about the legal system. This is the third year the Young Lawyers Division organized this event.

    CaseLaw Express, serving more than 6,000 subscribers, now includes the first paragraph of each case to help readers quickly determine the issues and, in most cases, the holding.

    June

    The Diversity Outreach Committee, with the Association of Corporate Counsel, Wisconsin Chapter, presents the 2008 Annual Diversity Counsel Program, in Milwaukee, focusing on recruiting, retaining, and mentoring lawyers from diverse backgrounds. The expanded full-day program attracts 140 attendees. The committee sponsors the Diversity Clerkship Program, in which 22 legal employers provide summer employment to minority first-year Marquette and U.W. law school students.

    During the year 817 attorneys are admitted to the State Bar, bringing total membership to 22,988.

    The State Bar offers disaster assistance resources to members and state residents affected by June floods.

    The Board of Governors unanimously supports a petition to create a Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission to improve access to legal services for the poor. President Basting and President-elect Diane Diel sign the Access to Justice petition.

    Times change and people come and go, but the State Bar of Wisconsin’s overriding goal remains the same. It can be encapsulated in four words: to keep getting better. The pursuit of this goal is unending; the work is never finished.

    The Bar focuses its efforts in four key areas:

    Building relevance of the Bar to members – The Bar strives to provide members the up-to-date information they need in their day-to-day practice of law. Equally important is delivering this information so that it’s convenient, easily accessible, and available through multiple channels to suit a diverse membership.

    Getting more members engaged in the Bar – It’s a simple equation: The more members who become actively involved in the Bar, the more the organization can accomplish. Bar members have a stronger voice and more clout together than any one person has alone.

    Improving public access to the legal system – Through pro bono services and advocacy for public policy changes, Bar members help ensure that the concept of “justice for all” moves closer to reality.

    Increasing public understanding of the justice system – In a variety of ways, Bar members help Wisconsin adults and young people to gain a better grasp of what it means to live in a society governed by the rule of law.

    This report details some of the Bar’s efforts in these four areas in FY 2008.

    Build the Bar’s Relevance to and Engagement of Members

    Members are the Bar’s clients, leaders, volunteers, planners, supporters, critics … all rolled into one. Through formal surveys and informal communications, the Bar strives to stay in touch with what members want and need and to assist them in meeting the challenges they face every day.

    Information, Products, and Services

    The State Bar’s products and services provide an array of tools and information to help members succeed in their law practices. WisBar.org, the members’ portal to easily access these and other State Bar products and services on the Web, receives content and infrastructure upgrades to provide more robust service.

    • The Bar’s Practice411TM law office management assistance program helps solo and small-firm attorneys to improve efficiency in delivering legal services and to implement systems and controls that reduce risk and improve client relations. This year Advice Alert, a blog that links Bar members to practice management advice, expands to include practice management bloggers nationwide. Practice411 assists the public and solo and small-firm attorneys faced with post-flooding problems, and the Bar creates a bulletin board on WisBar to connect lawyers needing or able to give assistance in the aftermath of the spring 2008 floods.

    The annual Solo & Small Firm Conference, cosponsored with Practice411 and the Milwaukee Bar Association, brings together lawyers and practice advisors to learn and share ideas. Breakfast and Business seminars and one-on-one consultations deliver management advice to members throughout the state. Members can access additional online resources through the Bar’s partnerships with national and local legal administrators. During the year, Practice411 worked to develop a partnership with Fastcase to deliver free legal research services to members, which rolls out in fall 2008.

    • The Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP) is available 24/7 to offer confidential help to judges, lawyers, law students, and their families as they cope with professional and life challenges that can impair work performance. A new WisLAP support group for law students, created with the U.W. Law School, meets monthly on campus.

    • Changes to CaseLaw Express, a free weekly email service with more than 6,000 subscribers, make it even more convenient for users to stay current on developments in the law. The service now includes the first paragraph of each state supreme court and court of appeals decision for the prior week, so readers can determine quickly if they wish to read the decision.

    State Bar CLE begins several initiatives to better provide the latest information and developments in Wisconsin law through the most accessible and user-friendly seminars, books, and other resources focused on helping lawyers perform better. More initiatives are underway for next year, including the Ultimate Pass, which is a one-year subscription for unlimited access to any State Bar CLE-produced seminar.

    In FY 2008, State Bar CLE Seminars holds 152 seminar events and 43 webcasts, offering 57 distinct seminar titles. These provide members with current, practical information, while allowing them to fulfill their state-mandated CLE requirements.

    State Bar CLE OnDemand now includes more than 90 seminars on a wide range of topics, with new titles continually being added. Members can access replays of seminars over the Internet at their convenience, anywhere and anytime, for a limited number of CLE credits, saving members travel time and money.

    My CLE Tracker, which automatically tracks CLE credits earned through State Bar programs, now includes on-demand and webcast seminars. Users also can manually add credits earned from other providers. My CLE Tracker makes it easier for members to compile the information needed to file their required biennial CLE Form 1 with the Board of Bar Examiners. And it eliminates guesswork by noting whether credits have been approved or are awaiting credit approval.

    State Bar CLE Books releases two new titles, 14 revisions, 14 new annual editions, and 28 supplements in FY 2008. The new titles are Employment Law and General Business Issues, the two latest volumes in the Wisconsin Business Advisor series. Among the revisions of existing books are the third edition of Wisconsin Probate System and the second edition of the Wisconsin Civil Litigation Forms Manual. More than 300 volunteer authors help to create these resources.

    • Nearly 1,000 Bar members gather at the 2008 State Bar Annual Convention to network, participate in 27 CLE programs featuring more than 150 speakers, and recognize colleagues for their contributions to their communities and the legal profession. Receiving special recognition are 26 attorneys with 50 years in law practice. The Volunteer Lawyers Recognition Celebration held during the convention honors representatives of the legal community who have made outstanding public service-related contributions.

    • The Diversity Outreach Committee seeks to foster a racially and ethnically diverse State Bar and a consciousness of the value of differences within the profession. In June 2008, more than 140 people attend its annual Diversity Counsel Program, expanded this year to a full day, with keynote speaker Juan Williams, senior NPR correspondent and Fox News political analyst. The committee’s Diversity Clerkship Program places 25 first-year law students of diverse backgrounds in summer clerkships in 22 Wisconsin law firms, corporate law departments, and government agencies.

    • The new online Leadership Opportunities Directory makes it easy to find out how to become a Bar volunteer. Available on WisBar, the directory provides information about the Bar’s committees, sections, divisions, and Board of Governors. Members can find out about estimated time commitments, meeting locations, prerequisites, and other important details to help them decide how to get involved.

    • The annual Wisconsin Bar Leaders Conference brings together 62 representatives from 39 local and specialty bars statewide to share ideas and techniques for better serving their members and communities.

    Issues and Policy Decisions

    Bar members work together with professional public affairs staff on a wide variety of issues and policy decisions important to the legal profession, the general public, and the justice system.

    • The Wisconsin Supreme Court holds several administrative conferences in FY 2008 regarding the State Bar’s petition, originally filed in November 2006, requesting a multijurisdictional practice rule. The rule accommodates and regulates lawyers whose employers conduct business in more than one state. Ultimately, the court orders the rule to go into effect Jan. 1, 2009. The new rule creates a simple registration process for corporation, association, or other nongovernmental in-house counsel who occasionally practice law in Wisconsin but who are not licensed to practice here.

    • The Board of Governors, the Nonresident Lawyers Division, and the Board of Bar Examiners Review Committee succeed in their petition to the supreme court to adopt a pure comity rule for CLE requirements for nonresident members. This rule allows nonresident members to apply other states’ CLE credits to their Wisconsin CLE requirements, saving time and money.

    • The State Bar advocates for a law to curtail the predatory practices of notarios who falsely present themselves as being trained attorneys. They mostly prey on Hispanic or Latino immigrants who know little English and are unfamiliar with the U.S. legal system. Gov. Doyle signs the bill into law in March 2008.

    • Several State Bar-supported legislative bills pass in FY 2008, including increased State Public Defender funding, recreation of the Judicial Council as an independent agency, increased funding for counties to pay court interpreters, and creation of six new circuit court branches, based on a weighted-caseload study conducted by the National Center for State Courts.

    • Various State Bar sections also are successful in advocating for legislation in FY 2008. A few examples: The State Bar’s Children and the Law Section secures the governor’s veto of AB 676, which would have eliminated the requirement that a juvenile court, municipal court, court of criminal jurisdiction, prosecutor, or law enforcement agency must gain court permission to access juvenile court records. The Elder Law Section gains enactment of guardianship law “clean-up” provisions. The Business Law Section wins passage of the Wisconsin Uniform Securities Law. The Public Interest Law Section successfully lobbies for a law to require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. The Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section wins its fight against legislation that would have permitted employer discrimination against convicted felons. The Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section helps pass new “final rights” legislation to specify who may make decisions about a deceased person’s funeral and disposition of remains.

    • At the urging of the Government Lawyers Division, the Board of Governors adopts a policy position that is successful in opposing efforts by the governor and the state legislature to consolidate state attorney positions from various departments into one centralized legal services entity within the Department of Administration. Such a consolidation would diminish government employees’ easy access to legal advice, in opponents’ view.

    • In October 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court approves the Bar’s petition to increase the number of Nonresident Lawyers Division representatives on the Board of Governors from three to five to better represent the division’s 7,000-plus members.

    • The Board of Governors adopts a resolution at its December 2007 meeting in support of lawyers and judges in Pakistan, calling for then-President Musharraf to rescind his actions that breached the rule of law.

    Increasing Public Understanding of and Access to the Legal System 

    The State Bar endeavors to improve access to justice for all people in Wisconsin and to foster public understanding of the justice system. The Bar also strives to demonstrate the value of lawyers’ expertise and the many ways attorneys contribute to their communities.

    • On June 27, 2008, the Board of Governors votes unanimously to support the State Bar’s petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to create a Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission. Establishing this commission was one of the key recommendations of last year’s Access to Justice Study Committee’s report, Bridging the Justice Gap. Other recommendations in the report also move forward in FY 2008. The state’s biennial budget bill appropriates $1 million annually to provide civil legal services to indigent persons, beginning in FY 2008-09. Also, the Bar announces a new Modest Means Program to assist people whose income is too high for free legal services but who need alternative payment options to afford legal help.

    • President Tom Basting announces the creation of the Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee, a bipartisan group that educates voters about the role of judges in our system and monitors campaign-related activities of candidates and their supporters in the spring 2008 Wisconsin Supreme Court election.

    • The “Wisconsin Lawyers Make a Difference” series continues to educate the public about the value of lawyers. Three television spots highlighting lawyers’ involvement in their communities air for three months in fall 2007 on La Crosse and Eau Claire stations. These ads spotlight three programs: a free legal clinic operated by the La Crosse County Bar Association (LCBA); a free legal clinic for homeless veterans, located on the Veterans Administration Hospital grounds in Tomah; and the LCBA’s financial support for Jim’s Grocery Bag, which funds food pantries in the La Crosse School District.

    In the Milwaukee television market, three television spots air during February and March 2008. One portrays the Hon. Derek Mosley’s work with local at-risk youth. The second spot focuses on a Tomah legal clinic for homeless veterans. And the third depicts a collage of community service projects that lawyers support in Milwaukee and across the state. The Milwaukee Bar Association cosponsors the ads with the State Bar.

    • The State Bar Legal Assistance Committee awards $14,850 in Pro Bono Initiative Grants to three programs that aid immigrant domestic abuse victims, help fund nonprofit organizations that provide legal services to low-income people, and help people having difficulties with health-care coverage denials and medical debts. Awards of more than $10,000 in State Bar CLE gift certificates go to 72 Wisconsin attorneys in recognition of their pro bono contributions. The State Bar’s 2007 Pro Bono Survey finds that responding lawyers contributed 142,372 hours of pro bono service in 2007. Of these total hours, 71,809 were for free legal services, representing a value of at least $11,848,485.

    • The Public Interest Law Section and ABC for Health present a conference, “Medical Debt: Strategies and Tips for Assisting Clients,” for lawyers who provide or commit to provide pro bono service to low-income clients. The conference is free to attorneys promising to serve at least one low-income client pro bono.

    • The Lawyer Referral and Information Service takes 34,375 calls and makes 5,758 Web referrals to help people in Wisconsin find legal help.

    • The Wisconsin Lawyers Fund for Client Protection, financed entirely by Wisconsin-licensed attorneys, compensates people who suffer financial losses because of dishonest acts by lawyers. In FY 2008, the fund disburses $202,830 for 29 claims involving 17 attorneys.

    • The State Bar hosts a March 2008 debate between Louis Butler and Michael Gableman, candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, at the State Bar Center. More than 100 attend the debate, moderated by Wisconsin Public Radio personalities and sponsored by the State Bar, WisPolitics.com, the Wisconsin State Journal, the Wisconsin Radio Network, and the Wisconsin Law Journal. It is simultaneously viewed statewide via webcast and remains available via streaming video on WisBar.org.

    • The Law-related Education Committee undertakes efforts to enhance young people’s understanding of the justice system. The Mock Trial Tournament marks its 25th year, with 456 lawyers and judges volunteering as team coaches, presiding judges at trials, and judges of team competitions. Some 1,500 high-school students participate in 111 teams from across the state.

    For the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution state contest, part of a national program, 26 attorneys volunteer to judge four high-school teams participating in mock Congressional hearings. We the People … Project Citizen, a national civic education effort, has 18 middle-school teams presenting portfolios and oral presentations to a judge panel made up of volunteer lawyers, educators, and community leaders. In the Courts with Class program, students from 73 schools observe oral arguments before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and discuss legal issues with one of the justices. Twenty-eight secondary school teachers across the state complete From the Courtroom to the Classroom training to learn more about the court system.

    • After devastating late-summer floods in 2007, the Young Lawyers Division recruits Bar volunteers to answer legal questions for flood victims in southwestern and south-central Wisconsin. Severe flooding strikes again across southern Wisconsin in June 2008, and again many Bar members volunteer to provide needed legal help. A toll-free legal aid line is available for people affected by flooding. This is part of the post-flooding response organized by the State Bar, Wisconsin Emergency Management, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    • On Law Day, May 1, nearly 100 attorneys volunteer to visit classrooms in more than one dozen counties to teach young people about the legal profession. This event, organized by the Young Lawyers Division, is in its third year.

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    Executive Message

    Always Striving to Improve 

    Elsewhere in this report you will find comments from President Basting about his experiences talking with Bar leaders from across the country about the State Bar of Wisconsin and you will read President-elect Diel’s comments about what the Bar offers her personally and as a lawyer. The Bar’s positive reputation and the accomplishments from which this reputation derives are the fruits of the hard work of the more than 1,300 lawyers who this year volunteered their time, energy, expertise, and creativity to carry out the work of the Bar.

    Nothing happens without competent leadership throughout the organization. Leadership starts at the top with a strong, committed president and officers. It runs through the Board of Governors, which is the State Bar’s principal policy-making body. And it continues on through the sections, divisions, and committees, and the professional staff who support the organization’s work.

    Every year after the April election of Bar officers and governors and before the first Board of Governors meeting for the new fiscal year, I meet with the newly elected leaders in their home offices, wherever in Wisconsin they may be. Bar leaders come from all walks of professional life, from the sole practitioner in Dunn County to the corporation counsel in Milwaukee, from the large-firm lawyer in Madison to the in-house counsel in Shawano. Their offices and their experiences are all unique and that richness adds value to the debate and brings clarity to the decisions made by the Board. I meet with these new leaders to acquaint them with the process of Board meetings, brief them on some larger issues they may be facing, and generally familiarize them with the workings of the State Bar. As a result, new leaders can more quickly engage in the Board’s debate and decision-making.

    When our meetings wind down, I ask these leaders to do two things. The first is to ask hard questions. Hard questions clarify thought and result in better decisions. The second is to tell me what does not work, because if we don’t know what doesn’t work, we can’t improve. That push to always improve, to be more efficient, to have greater focus, is what drives the leadership of the State Bar, whether member or employee.

    You can see the results of this effort to improve in this report: more and better service to you, more and better products for you and your clients, and more and better opportunities for you to serve the public and the administration of justice.

    - George C. Brown, State Bar executive director

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    President’s Message 

    From Both Sides Now

    As Bar members, we get a view of the State Bar from the inside looking out. One of the benefits of being Bar president is that you also get a chance to see the Bar from the outside looking in.

    This past year, when I attended conferences and met with bar leaders from other states, I saw first-hand how highly regarded the State Bar of Wisconsin is on the national scene. At one time or another, you may have read or heard the comment that our Bar is considered to be one of the best in the country. I can tell you, that’s no empty claim.

    We have every right to be proud of the Bar’s national reputation for excellence. We also can be proud of what we accomplished together in FY 2008. Time and again, we showed what we’re made of, as evidenced in this annual report.

    For instance, Bar members provided legal help to neighbors and other types of assistance to colleagues who were recovering from two rounds of severe flooding in communities in southern Wisconsin.

    Working together, we made significant progress in making justice more accessible to some half-million Wisconsin residents. We advocated for and won, for the first time ever, state funding for civil legal services for low-income families. As I write this, our petition to create an Access to Justice Commission is before the state supreme court.

    We won passage of a bill to stop notarios from taking advantage of consumers by passing themselves off as attorneys when in fact they have no legal training. Our petition to ensure greater protection for legal services consumers is before the state supreme court.

    We also created mechanisms that aim to bring back respectability in state supreme court elections. Sadly, Wisconsin’s reputation in that area has continued to deteriorate.

    That brings me to one of the bittersweet parts of being a Bar president: You look back on your term and wish you could have accomplished more.

    There is, after all, always much more to do to improve the legal profession and the justice system – and to increase the public’s appreciation for both. Please look though this report to find something you’d like to do to help.

    – Tom Basting, president, State Bar of Wisconsin
    July 1, 2007 – June 30, 2008

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    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 2008, about half the total amount collected for full dues-paying members ($447) comprises State Bar membership dues ($224). The remaining amounts are imposed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to fund the Office of Lawyer Regulation ($144), 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 ($16).

    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 $246, compared to $224 for the State Bar of Wisconsin, and the average dues and mandatory fees for state bars nationwide is $380, compared to $447 for Wisconsin.

    In a comparison of six Midwest states, Wisconsin’s dues-only amount is $224 compared to the regional average of $231. When dues and other fees are combined, the regional average is $417, with Wisconsin at $447.

    Where does your money go?

    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 $447. That compares to annual fees that range from $1,733 for medical doctors, $1,398 for dentists, $589 for registered nurses, to $255 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.

    For full dues-paying members

    State Bar dues -- $224

    Office of Lawyer Regulation -- $144

    WisTAF -- $50

    Board of Bar Examiners -- $13

    Client Protection Fund -- $16

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    President Elect’s Message

    The Search for Answers 

    Lawyers love raising questions and exploring answers. It seems to be in our blood.

    This past year, Bar members helped to devise answers to a long-standing dilemma in our society, and our state: how to ensure everyone, no matter his or her personal financial situation, has access to justice.

    Bar members can be proud of the key part they played in generating tangible progress in this area. We’re seeing real solutions to a major problem beginning to take shape, and we’re hoping to move forward in the coming year. You can read more about these efforts elsewhere in this annual report.

    In the year ahead, members will explore another old issue, but a more internally focused one: Should membership in the State Bar be voluntary or mandatory?

    One thing I’ve discovered in my years as an attorney and Bar volunteer is that there are a lot of good hearts and minds out there in my chosen profession. I’m confident we can find our way to agreement on this question and do so through congenial, respectful discussion.

    The answer we ultimately arrive at will hinge, of course, not just on what’s good for lawyers, but, more importantly, what’s best for the public good and the justice system. Still, the personal side of this issue inevitably rises to the surface, and sometimes even predominates, even though it shouldn’t. It’s this personal side that sparks another question: What does the Bar do for me?

    I have no difficulty coming up with my list of answers to that one. For me, the Bar is a community where I learn and grow, where I focus on bigger ideas and issues than those I handle in my daily life helping my clients. We all know it’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day. It’s my involvement in the Bar that keeps me in touch with a broader vision of what I do – to see being a lawyer as much more than just a job or a way to make a living.

    So what does the Bar do for you? I invite you to read through this report. I think you might find at least a few answers.

    – Diane Diel, president-elect, State Bar of Wisconsin
    July 1, 2007 – June 30, 2008

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