Wisconsin Lawyer: Your State Bar Form Filling: A Carrot and a Stick:

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    Form Filling: A Carrot and a Stick

    Filling in all the blanks in the State Bar dues and Wisconsin Supreme Court assessments form will protect your license and help the profession. 

    George C. Brown

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    My wife hates to fill out forms. It doesn’t matter what they are for, how filling out the form will benefit her, or whether the form is extremely user friendly. She just hates the process. I’m guessing she is not alone. I’m guessing more than one person reading this column feels the same way.

    George C. Brownorg gbrown wisbar George C. Brown is the executive director for the State Bar of Wisconsin.

    However, no matter how you feel about it, there’s at least one form you must complete every year: your State Bar dues and Wisconsin Supreme Court assessments form. Here are some things you should know about completing that form this year.

    First, you will find a neon orange slip of paper when you open the envelope containing your State Bar dues and Wisconsin Supreme Court assessments this month. Please take a few minutes to read it and respond to the request. The State Bar Diversity Task Force wants to collect demographic information about Wisconsin’s lawyers to “ensure we have the necessary information to identify members of diverse groups so we can share information about programs of interest, help members connect with each other, and track our progress in improving diversity.”

    The information you provide will not become part of your public profile on the State Bar website. The State Bar does not disseminate this type of information about members. If you wish to provide the information requested without filling in the dues and assessments form, you can do so by going to the website, and completing the demographics section of your member profile.

    Second, you should complete the form in full. Of particular note, make sure to sign the trust account statement. Some members don’t sign it because they do not have a trust account. However, the Supreme Court rules require that every attorney sign the statement, so please do so. Otherwise, the State Baris required to suspend your ability to practice law.

    Whether the carrot of helping the Diversity Task Force or the stick of losing your permanent notary commission works for you, please read and complete the dues and assessment form.

    There is a relatively new consequence of suspension (in addition to the professional embarrassment and the hassle of getting reinstated). You will also lose your permanent notary public commission. A few years ago, the state legislature moved the responsibility for this long-existing provision to the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), which is actually enforcing the law. It took the DFI a while to clean up the files, but now they are up to date and the DFI is suspending the permanent notary commissions of suspended attorneys. That means when you are reinstated you have to reapply for a four-year notary public commission and will continue to be reappointed in four-year increments. The State Bar can do nothing about this, even if you have been suspended for only one day. That decision is solely at the DFI’s discretion.

    So, whether the carrot of helping the Diversity Task Force or the stick of losing your permanent notary commission works for you, please read the form and complete it. Either way, like my wife, you’ll be glad when you’re done. And, as with my wife, so will I.




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