Wisconsin Lawyer: President's Message: Auld Lang Syne:

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    President's Message: Auld Lang Syne

    The effort to make the bar voluntary began a long time ago with a small group of senior lawyers who treated this then-new lawyer not as a “kid” but as an equal and a colleague. The effort continues today. 

    Douglas W. Kammer

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 83, No. 1, January 2010

    President's Message

    Auld Lang Syne

    The effort to make the bar voluntary began a long time ago with a small group of senior lawyers who treated this then-new lawyer not as a “kid” but as an equal and a colleague. The effort continues today. 

    Douglas W. Kammerby Douglas W. Kammer

    Back in 1977, when I was 27 years old, I threw in my lot with five senior lawyers in an attempt to make the bar voluntary. I have been remiss in not extending my heartfelt thanks to them, though I realize it is posthumous.

    The first meeting I remember was at Treyton Lathrop’s office. He had a huge wooden desk and paneled walls, and his office looked like something out of a British movie. Jim Herrick was there. I knew Jim a little bit because I had watched him try a four-day jury trial the year before. John Armstrong was part of the group, too, as was Dave August – they were government lawyers, as I recall. The real spark plug was John Jenswold – the John Jenswold, who struck fear into the heart of many a plaintiff’s lawyer. (I sat in the corner and kept my mouth shut for fear of appearing foolish and ignorant. My fear was realistic.)

    We came up with a scheme of surveying the members on the subject. The perception was that a democratic effort would demonstrate to the Wisconsin Supreme Court that the majority of lawyers did not want to be compelled to join the State Bar, or any other organization for that matter. We perceived that the court would value the wishes of the lawyers over the wish of the Bar. (We ultimately got a referendum done, but it took a lot of doing. We had to sue the State Bar for the mailing list. If you want details, you can read of our efforts at 86 Wis. 2d 746 and 93 Wis. 2d 385.)

    From the perspective of a State Bar president and as a senior lawyer looking back deep into history, I realize what a tremendous debt I owe these gentlemen. They took me into the group and never looked down on me as a “kid.” At one point we had to pony up some huge sum of money – $1,200 if memory serves me – to buy the mailing list of members and to pay postage. My share was on the order of $200, and I didn’t have the money. I had to borrow it from John Jenswold. He let me pay him back in installments as I could. I don’t think he ever told the others that I was so broke.

    As I write this, I just finished three days of hearings with the Strategic Planning Committee and know that the struggle may at last have a successful ending. It’s not done, to be sure, but victory is at least a palpable possibility.

    In any event, today I am thinking about John Armstrong, John Jenswold, Treyton Lathrop, and Dave August and their including me in their little group. We were later joined by Art DeBardeleben of Park Falls, at that time a U.W. regent (or perhaps even head of the U.W. Regents). They all treated me as an equal and as a colleague, and for that I will be forever grateful. Perhaps they are somewhere now looking down on our present struggle to become a voluntary association and hopefully rooting for a successful end to what they so selflessly and courageously began.




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