Wisconsin Lawyer: President's Message: A Giant Among Its Peers:

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    President's Message: A Giant Among Its Peers

    The State Bar of Wisconsin is recognized as one of the most productive and innovative bars in the nation, thanks to the many lawyers who selflessly serve their colleagues. Still, there's always room for improvement, and so informed feedback is vital to its continued success.

    Thomas J. Basting Sr.

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 3, March 2008

    President's Message

    A Giant Among Its Peers

    The State Bar of Wisconsin is recognized as one of the most productive and innovative bars in the nation, thanks to the many lawyers who selflessly serve their colleagues. Still, there's always room for improvement, and so informed feedback is vital to its continued success.

    Tom Bastingby Thomas J. Basting Sr.

    I've been a lawyer for a long time.

    In fact my grandson George was heard to say, "My grandpa is older than dirt." I was admitted to the practice of law in Wisconsin in 1962 and have been a State Bar of Wisconsin member ever since. If I was able to live my life over again, I wouldn't change a thing (well, maybe a few things). I still would have been a lawyer and maybe I would have been more active in the State Bar. Although I've been chair of the Litigation Section and of the Professional Ethics Committee, I was never involved in State Bar governance until I became president. By now you are probably asking, "So what's your point, Tom?" My point is this.

    During my term as president, I've been struck by how some members look for ways to build the State Bar and help set the stage to meet future challenges while others do little but criticize the organization, its leaders, and its mission. Every organization should welcome thoughtful, well-reasoned, and informed critiques of its operations and strategic goals; sadly, some critics offer little more than critical and bitter diatribes about how the Bar does nothing for its members or pursues goals that don't matter to them personally. (Apparently, such matters as access to our justice system for low-income residents and preserving the neutrality of the courts are trivial matters.)

    Those critics should ask their peers from other states what their bar associations have done for them lately. As president, I've had the opportunity to meet attorneys from across the nation, and I can confirm that the State Bar of Wisconsin has long been recognized throughout the legal profession as one of the most productive, innovative, and service-oriented bars in the nation. Why? Because Wisconsin lawyers have always been strong, service-oriented volunteers who care for this organization and the people it serves.

    I don't have adequate space here to list all of the services the State Bar provides to its members and to the public, so I'll name just a few.

    • Practice411 provides an array of law practice management resources to help lawyers, especially solo and small-firm practitioners, run their offices more efficiently and effectively.
    • The Ethics Hotline is available when members need to work through difficult legal ethics problems and to understand and implement the Rules of Professional Responsibility for Attorneys in their practices.
    • The Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program provides trained volunteers and confidential, 24-hour guidance to help lawyers resolve personal problems before they negatively affect their careers.
    • WisBarTM is a Web site rich in information about the Bar itself, including opportunities for leadership training and participation; it offers free online legal research capabilities and is a gateway to many other resources important to lawyers.
    • State Bar CLE provides high quality, Wisconsin-specific continuing legal education publications and seminars using a variety of technological formats.
    • CaseLaw ExpressTM, a free email subscription service, regularly informs lawyers about recent court decisions.
    • Public outreach programs like the High School Mock Trial competition give members an opportunity to invest in the next generation of Wisconsin citizens.

    Many members have told me how pleased they are that the State Bar has made protecting the public from the unauthorized practice of law a priority; nonresident members have applauded the Bar's success in gaining approval of pure comity for CLE credits; and still other members are pleased with the Bar's lobbying efforts to support legislation favorable to the profession and the public.

    I could go on, but I'll stop here, except to say this: If you hear one of your Wisconsin peers offer uninformed statements about the Bar doing nothing for its members or for the public, suggest that he or she find out the facts and offer constructive input:

    • If we're not paying enough attention to an emerging issue - tell us.
    • If we're overlooking a service that could help law offices operate more efficiently - show us.
    • If we've failed to do enough to build a more accurate image of the many ways attorneys serve Wisconsin - let's work together to do more.

    As I approach the end of my term as president, I am very encouraged by the strong leadership and dedication to professionalism I see within the State Bar of Wisconsin. I regret that I didn't spend more time serving on one of our committees, sections, or divisions or volunteering for other leadership opportunities. Uninformed criticism leads the profession and the Bar nowhere. Leadership and dedication to service to one's peers are needed to continue to make the State Bar of Wisconsin one of the nation's best bar associations.