Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson administers the oath of office to incoming State Bar President Patrick Fiedler. Fiedler takes office as the 58th president on July 1, succeeding Kevin Klein of Phillips.
June 13, 2013 – Patrick J. Fiedler has come a long way since his first jury trial 33 years ago, and he has no intention of stopping now. Last night, the litigator and former judge took the oath to serve as the 58th president of the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Patrick Fiedler poses with his daughter Erin and father James P. Fiedler. His father served as an Iowa County judge for 24 years.
"It is a privilege to have the opportunity to serve as the president of the State Bar of Wisconsin," Fiedler told a packed room in Madison. "To me, there's no greater privilege than to be a lawyer. Those who are satisfied with the profession they've chosen are those who have pride in their profession. And I'm very proud to be a lawyer."
A 1980 graduate of Marquette Law School, Fiedler took the oath administered by Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and accepted the torch from outgoing president Kevin Klein. Fiedler's one-year term begins on July 1.
Now a civil litigator and partner at Axley Brynelson in Madison, Fiedler spent 18 years as a Dane County Circuit Court judge and was voted "Judge of the Year" in 2007 by the American Board of Trial Advocates. He has received numerous other awards.
But amidst a night of praise, Axley partner and former State Bar President John Walsh introduced Fiedler by razzing him for his old-school style, noting Fiedler's inclination to use file cabinets over iPads. However, Walsh added kind words about his new partner.
From left, State Bar Executive Director George Brown, Chair of the Board Kelli Thompson, Incoming President-elect Robert Gagan, current President Kevin Klein, and former President John Walsh share a laugh during Patrick Fiedler's acceptance speech.
"On the bench, he was respected and feared, but always treated everyone fairly," Walsh said. "He's become a good friend, colleague, and a very important part of our firm. I'm very proud to introduce him as the next president of the State Bar of Wisconsin."
Ready to Lead
Like many lawyers, Fiedler's success is rooted in humble beginnings. He started his career as a district attorney in Waukesha County. His first trial went before a jury just a month after admission to the bar and a week after the birth of his daughter, Erin.
Forty-nine jury trials and almost five years later, Fiedler moved into private practice in Dodgeville. He did criminal and insurance defense before President Ronald Reagan appointed him to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin in 1987.
A few years later, Fiedler served as Wisconsin's Secretary of Corrections under then-Gov. Tommy Thompson before his appointment to the bench in 1993. He hopes to use this multi-faceted work experience to help Wisconsin lawyers help Wisconsin citizens.
"The State Bar is committed to initiatives relating to leadership, diversity, education and community involvement," Fiedler said. "Our involvement in these areas betters our profession and strengthens our pride in being lawyers. This professional pride works to the benefit of the clients we serve and the communities we live in."
One of Fiedler's main objectives is access to justice. "It is absolutely essential that people get their day in court," Fiedler said. "If you give people the opportunity to tell their side of the story, give them the opportunity to be heard, they respect the system."
As a former judge, Fiedler knows first-hand how funding impacts the court system, noting that Wisconsin's judicial branch will take an $11 million cut for 2013-15. He said the State Bar, under his leadership, will continue efforts to push adequate funding.
In addition, Fiedler wants to build on previous efforts to build strong relationships with State Bar sections and divisions, local and specialty bars, and young lawyers. He noted that the State Bar recently held its first annual leadership development conference.
Fiedler says young lawyers should not be afraid to approach their State Bar leaders and get involved in leadership opportunities, noting that new and young lawyers bring forth perspectives that are crucial to a successful bar and the future of the profession.
"All the bar's initiatives are for the betterment of the profession," he said. "No matter what you choose to participate in, it will add to your professional satisfaction."
Fiedler's father, James P. Fiedler – a judge in Iowa County for 24 years – was present for his son's oath last night, 33 years after moving his son's admission to the bar. After three decades, Fiedler is ready for the next challenge, and then some. "I've had a very satisfying career, and from my standpoint, I still have a long way to go," he said.
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