Candidate for State Bar President-elect
Kevin J. Palmersheim
Haley Palmersheim SC, Madison
Email: com palmersheim hplawoffice hplawoffice palmersheim com
I have been a Wisconsin business lawyer in a small firm for over 20 years. I plan to continue practicing for 20+ years – although my legal assistant has threatened mutiny unless I let her work remotely from warmer winter climates by then. The economics of practicing law has changed greatly in 20 years. These changes have impacted lawyers, particularly newer lawyers, and also the business and finances of the State Bar. Those are the primary issues I plan to address if elected.
I understand what it takes to move the Bar forward. In addition to chairing several State Bar committees over the years, I recently served four years on the Board of Governors, and was elected by that body to the Executive Committee, which closely monitors finances and management. I recognize that Presidents lead best by working closely with other elected bar leaders and by building consensus.
Supporting Newer Lawyers
My legal experience includes managing my 4-lawyer firm. It was a tight legal market when I graduated. I saved numerous rejection letters for a while until I realized these “keepsakes” had less value than the old baseball cards my younger brothers pilfered for dart practice.
New lawyers today have far more obstacles and the November 2013 State Bar report, Challenges Facing New Lawyers, confirms the bleak statistics. Ninety percent of recent graduates have law school loans, still owing on average $90,000. Meanwhile, with jobs scarce a significant number of new graduates are practicing as solos with initial annual income averaging $25,000. Furthermore, 84% of newer attorneys have not received formal mentorship. Yet, these new lawyers face typical CLE and other practice expenses.
The State Bar offers an “Ultimate Pass” allowing one year of access to all CLE programs. Over the last four years the cost has increased from $400 to $1,200, a price unaffordable for new solos making $25,000, who also happen to have the greatest need for practical legal education. No discount is provided for new lawyers, and that must change. The discount should be significant, with Bar revenue minimally impacted since new lawyers are not buying those services now.
We also need a Statewide mentorship program. For an organization tracking 25,000 members, it should not be insurmountable to match experienced lawyers with new lawyers; schedule occasional regional luncheons; and provide new lawyers with a sounding board for practice questions. Furthermore, participation as a mentor is positive and beneficial, something I have experienced first-hand.
Developing a Proactive Business/Financial Plan
The Bar’s current financial concerns result from the economy. The fix is to develop a proactive business/financial plan in cooperation with the Board, and my background can benefit the Bar. In addition to providing practical business and legal advice to other businesses, law firms and non-profit associations, I have experience running a business.
An April 2013 Business Direction Strategic Plan for the State Bar outlines many financial issues, revealing that dues now make up 40% of revenues (with books, CLE and other services accounting for the remainder). We have the opportunity to increase non-dues revenue to 80% by utilizing current capacity and resources to market to other state bar associations. We can do that by implementing a proactive business plan to pursue those revenue sources.
We should not react to diminishing reserves solely by voting to increase dues. As part of a comprehensive financial/business plan, we should control expenses and implement a dues policy, linking future dues to the non-dues revenue increases we anticipate.
Serving All of Our Members
The tough economics of practice is not limited to new lawyers, and the State Bar has to strive for better service to all. Experienced lawyers could benefit from business skills programs from the Bar that provide financial education beyond our usual billing thought-process. We should strongly advocate for fair compensation for government attorneys and our members who take on public defender appointments. And we need to be open to all members’ concerns, whether they are in private or government practice, or are valued nonresident members.
I have the business and practice experience ideal for addressing the Bar’s current needs, and look forward to continuing my efforts in the future. I simply have to keep my legal assistant’s sunshine and warm weather revolt at bay while I work as a Wisconsin lawyer for a few decades more. I would be honored to serve as President of our Bar Association, which I believe can become an even better resource for lawyers. I’m asking for your vote so I can help make that happen.
Practice: Managing shareholder of Haley Palmersheim, S.C., a four-person law firm concentrating its practice in business and business litigation; over 20 years of practice
State Bar of Wisconsin Service:
- Wisconsin State Bar Board of Governors, 2006-2010
- Elected by Governors to Executive Committee for Board
- Past Chair of Communications Committee
- Past Chair of Public Education Committee
- Member on various other committees
Dane County Bar Association:
- Past President (2001-02); Member of Board of Directors since 1997
Western District Bar Association:
- Member of Board of Directors since 1998
Awards and Recognitions:
- Wisconsin Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters, named as one of the best business litigators in Wisconsin
- Milwaukee Magazine, best business lawyers in Wisconsin
- Madison Magazine, one of the top business lawyers in Dane County
- 2010 Leader In the Law Award, by the Wisconsin Law Journal, recognizing outstanding contributions to the state’s legal profession and to the development of the law
- University of Wisconsin, Madison, Law School 1992.
- University of Wisconsin School of Business, Master’s Degree, 1992.
- University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Major in political science and business, 1989
Pro Bono Service:
- Board member and legal counsel for Canopy Center, an agency that Provides treatment for those affected by child and sexual abuse
- Legal counsel and past board member for Work Opportunities in Rural Communities, an agency that provides job coaching and placement for adults with developmental disabilities
Kevin’s first law job was in Stevens Point and he currently works in the Madison area, but his business and litigation practice covers much of the state. He handles cases from Janesville up to Wausau, east to Milwaukee and covering several county circuit courts in between. Kevin grew up in La Crosse, and finished high school at Ellsworth High School in northwestern Wisconsin. While attending UW-River Falls, he worked in a cheese factory to pay for college and law school (can’t be more Wisconsin than that). In addition to his legal work, Kevin enjoys traveling and writing.