From Bowling Alone (2000), in which Robert Putnam argues that Americans are increasingly disconnected from one another, including belonging to fewer organizations that conduct meetings, to Arthur Brooks’ more recent research suggesting that Americans are joining such organizations but at a later time in their lives, to the now-ubiquitous technology that both separates us and brings us together without ever meeting, evidence is building to make one wonder where tomorrow’s bar association leaders will emerge and what leadership tools they will possess.
org gbrown wisbar George C. Brown is the executive director for the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin answered those questions in late March, when more than 150 young lawyers came together for a day of leadership training by the State Bar. For the fourth year in a row, the State Bar’s Young Lawyers Division (YLD) held an afternoon-long Leadership Conference and Annual Meeting with attendees from across the state. Three circuit court judges, Rebecca Dallet (Milwaukee County), William Hue (Jefferson County), and Rebecca St. John (Dane County), talked about how leadership can impress a judge. In a session led by Sandra Yamate, CEO of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession, attendees learned the business case for diversity and the challenges facing attorneys of untraditional backgrounds from panelists federal Judge Charles Clevert; Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne; Ed Fallone, Marquette Law School; and Robin Dalton, RISE Law Center, Madison. Linda Albert, State Bar WisLAP coordinator, spoke about the challenge of compassion fatigue among lawyers and provided methods and resources to prevent the onset of this condition.
The remarks of former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, who spoke about leadership challenges and opportunities and personal experiences that influenced his approach to leadership, served as a bridge from the morning’s Leadership Development Summit to the afternoon Leadership Conference. Developed by the State Bar Leadership Development Committee and led by several attorneys who helped develop the first YLD Leadership Conference, the summit was designed as an advance course in leadership and was limited to a diverse group of 26 young attorneys nominated by more experienced attorneys.
All of this gives great hope that tomorrow’s leaders are many, are enthusiastic about serving their profession and their communities, and now are well-trained to begin their journey.
The 26 attendees met in small groups for discussions led by experienced bar association volunteers on topics including what a leader does and looks like, whether one should wait one’s turn to become a leader, whether there is a prescribed leadership path to follow, and balancing practice and volunteer involvement. Presenters included Kevin Klein and Patrick Fiedler, State Bar president and president-elect, respectively; John Walsh, a State Bar past president; Jill Kastner, Board of Governors member, a YLD former president, and chair of the summit; and other State Bar board, division, and committee leaders and chairs of specialty bars.
The purpose of each program was to give the attendees the tools necessary to begin their leadership journey, whether within the State Bar or other associations. Feedback from attendees indicates that purpose was achieved, and so we will be hosting similar programs next year. All of this gives great hope that tomorrow’s leaders are many, are enthusiastic about serving their profession and their communities, and now are well-trained to begin their journey.