Vol. 78, No. 12, December
State Bar of Wisconsin Annual Report
Fiscal 2005: July 1, 2004 - June 30, 2005
The State Bar of Wisconsin's lofty mission generates great
expectations from its publics - members, Wisconsin citizens, the
judicial system. The Bar's mission to improve the administration of
justice and the delivery of legal services and to promote the
professional interests of its lawyer members also generates great
challenges - and great rewards.
Making decisions that move the Bar closer to achieving its mission is
critical to the success of this complex organization of 21,950 diverse
members, 49 elected and appointed volunteer leaders who govern and set
organizational policy and direction, and 63 committees, sections, and
divisions. This year, Bar leaders refined the association's strategic
plan, setting goals and measures to help the Bar become a more
productive, viable organization. The next significant step will engage
Bar committees, sections, and divisions in activity that supports one of
four strategic priorities:
- increase relevance of the Bar to its members • improve member
engagement in the Bar
- improve public access to the legal system
- increase public understanding of the legal system
As in past years, the Bar's FY 2005 activities are so numerous that
only a representative few can be included in this annual report to its
Increase the Bar's Relevance to and Engagement of its Members
An organization's relevance to its members goes hand-in-hand with
members' involvement in their organization. Relevance can take many
forms - it may be the new CLE book in your practice area or a seminar
delivered via the Internet so you don't have to incur travel expenses or
efforts to inform
Michelle Behnke, the State Bar's fourth woman
president, challenges members to meaningful debate on important issues;
visits 30-plus local/specialty bars to directly engage members.
"Wisconsin Lawyers Make a Difference" TV spots
continue statewide rotation, airing in south central Wisconsin June
through September. 30-second spots educate the public about the value
lawyers bring to their communities. TV spots rotate to western/central
Wisconsin, March through May, showcasing lawyers' public service
The State Bar recognizes state Reps. Mark Gundrum
and Terri McCormick and U.S. Rep. David
Obey for their work to remove barriers from and enhance access
to the justice system.
Board approves Appellate Practice Section's request
to file amicus brief regarding procedures the court of appeals must
employ before finding an appeal frivolous.
250-plus members attend free Career Development
connecting attendees with resources they need to get ahead.
CLE Seminars moves from VHS videotape technology to
DVD video, improving satellite site video quality and creating an
opportunity to develop more delivery mechanisms. 10,000-plus registrants
attend 643 seminars in FY05.
Board begins using a knowledge-based decision making
process to ensure good decisions on complicated issues such as WisTAF
and Ethics 2000.
CLE Books releases the new Drafter's Guide to
Wisconsin Condominium Documents, earning a national award of
50-plus WisLAP frontline responders receive in-depth
training to better help hotline callers cope with depression, drug and
alcohol abuse, and other threats to their lives.
Board opposes the WisTAF petition assessing an
annual $50 fee per attorney, supports a two-year $50 opt-out
contribution to WisTAF and to study access to civil legal services for
The Elder Law Section receives Board approval to
submit amicus brief supporting the commencement of protective placement
and guardianship in Wisconsin when a proposed ward is out of state.
Legal Assistance Committee launches "Just Take Two"
pro bono initiative to increase and support lawyers' commitment to
provide low-income residents access to legal services. State Bar offers
volunteers malpractice coverage, a free State Bar CLE seminar to
attorneys who take five SPD cases, and free online legal research.
30-second spots showcasing attorney public service
air statewide during U.W. men's Badger basketball games, reaching a
potential 2 million adult viewers.
Section leaders attend the first lobbying training
session to improve effectiveness of legislative efforts.
After months of study and debate, the Board votes on supreme court's
Ethics 2000 Commission proposed changes to the Rules of
Professional Conduct before presenting its report to the court.
CLE Books expands its library of practical resources
with two new titles on real estate and employment law, and updates and
supplements 48 other titles on insurance, appellate practice, criminal
defense, family law, and more.
Board approves the Elder Law Section recommendations
to reorganize and reform the guardianship law to
protect vulnerable individuals; opposes provisions in the governor's
budget bill to deny or revoke law licenses for tax
650-plus lawyers and judges volunteer for 22nd Mock Trial
Tournament - comprising 159 teams - helping 1,700-plus high
school students develop critical thinking and public speaking skills as
part of the profession's most visible public service project.
Redesigned WisBar Web site launches, meeting member
needs with improved navigation and enhanced content, including resources
for practice management.
Access to Justice Study Committee forms to study the
unmet legal needs of low-income people in response to supreme court
order approving mandatory WisTAF assessment.
Criminal Law Section provides funding and
legislative drafting help to Criminal Justice Task Force, focusing on
reforms to prevent incarceration of innocent people.
State Bar hosts more than 55 leaders of 35 local and specialty bar
associations at the Wisconsin Bar Leaders' Conference,
offering training to build and lead bar associations.
The fourth-ever joint Annual Judicial Conference and
2005 State Bar Annual Convention gives lawyers and
judges opportunities to discuss major issues that confront them in
administering justice and practicing law. Convention garners near-record
attendance of more than 1,100 members and 145 judges registering for
The Building for Success Seminar, giving attendees
tools to build a successful practice, precedes the convention.
The Volunteer Lawyers Recognition Celebration, held
during convention, honors lawyers for service to their colleagues and
A nine-member Chinese delegation observes the 2005 "We the
People ... Project Citizen" in anticipation of starting a
similar program in China. The project promotes competent and responsible
participation in state and local government and teaches students how to
monitor and influence public policy.
State Bar completes a strategic plan, that focuses
on improving access to justice, increasing member engagement and public
understanding of the legal system, and building relevance to
During the year, 703 attorneys were admitted to the State
Bar, bringing total membership to 21,950.
lawmakers about a bill's effect on your clients or malpractice
insurance so you can do pro bono work. Involvement has its own rewards,
which also builds relevance - the satisfaction of developing policy,
products, and services that benefit your colleagues, the public, and
yourself, thereby broadening your network of professional contacts and
shaping the future of your profession.
Many of the State Bar's achievements in FY 2005 reflect both
relevance to and involvement of its members.
Products and Services
Some significant achievements - like upgrades in technology
infrastructure - occur behind the scenes, but they are critical to
improving services to members and to positioning the Bar for future
opportunities. Other work is more visible, resulting in a finite product
- redesigned WisBar improves site navigation and
searching, delivers new content including law practice management
resources; 100-plus members provide critical input to site
- new CLE seminar technologies improve video quality
to satellite locations, position CLE for future audio-only delivery
system. In FY 2005, 72 different seminar titles delivered live and by
video, telephone, and the Internet resulted in 643 presentations for
- CLE Books increases its library of practical
resources, including two new titles, updates and supplements of 48 other
titles; works on development of the online forms
library to launch in December 2005
- expanded ethics hotline helps members reduce
incidents of ethics violations; Professional Ethics Committee members
receive added training to address hotline inquiries
- combined Annual Judicial Conference and
2005 State Bar Annual Convention bring together more
than 1,100 lawyers and 145 judges registered for various events to
discuss major issues that confront them in administering justice and
- programs give attendees tools to build a successful practice and
career, including the international award-winning Building for
Success Seminar and the free Career Development
- in-depth sessions train WisLAP frontline responders
to better help hotline callers cope with depression, drug and alcohol
abuse, and other threats to their lives
- development of a new Law Office Management Assistance
Program to provide practical guidance on practice management
issues in advance of launching in early 2006
- training and networking events for various groups,
including lobbying training for section leaders, the Wisconsin Bar
Leaders' Conference for local and specialty bar leaders, Lawyer Dispute
Resolution presentations to local bars, programs for local bars and
court personnel explaining the Bar's Fee Arbitration Program, receptions
welcoming new lawyers into the Bar, and outreach activities to law
students, among others
Issues and Policy Decisions
Work on issues affecting the practice of law often generates in-depth
study and passionate discussion by leaders and members that results in
Board of Governors actions:
- Amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct by
the supreme court's Ethics 2000 Commission generated a year's worth of
study and discussion by the Board, members, and law-related entities.
The Board voted on more than 10 proposed changes. The Board opposed the
amendments' mandatory requirements of pro bono reporting and written fee
agreements, the two most controversial issues.
- Issues surrounding the unauthorized practice of law
(UPL) occupied much of the Board's attention. The Wisconsin Supreme
Court denied the Bar's revised petition to define and regulate UPL,
asking the Bar to collect members' UPL experiences as evidence.
- The supreme court ultimately approved a Wisconsin Trust
Account Foundation (WisTAF) petition seeking a mandatory $50
assessment on all active-licensed Wisconsin lawyers, payable to WisTAF
to fund civil legal services for low-income people (effective July 1,
2005). During the year, using a knowledge-based decision
making process to ensure good decisions on complicated issues,
the Board conducted several debates and solicited member feedback before
opposing the petition and supporting instead a two-year $50 opt-out
contribution to WisTAF and a study of civil legal needs of poor
residents. In anticipation of the court's order, the Bar planned for the
creation of the Access to Justice Study Committee to
study and recommend long-term solutions where necessary.
- The Board approved amicus filings by the Appellate
Practice Section (court of appeals procedures before finding an appeal
frivolous) and the Elder Law Section (protective placement and
guardianships when ward is out of state).
- The Board approved actions or other activities that
influence law or policy undertaken by the Elder Law Section
(reform guardianship law to protect vulnerable people); State Bar
(oppose budget bill provisions regarding lawyer tax delinquency);
Criminal Law Section (provide research and drafting assistance to the
task force for criminal justice reform); Bankruptcy, Insolvency &
Creditors' Rights Section (oppose three provisions in the Bankruptcy
Abuse Prevention & Consumer Protection Act of 2005); Construction
& Public Contract Law Section (recommend changes to statutes on
contractors' lien rights); and Real Property, Probate & Trust Law
Section (support adopting state version of the Uniform Principal &
Improve Public Understanding of and Access to the Legal System
The Bar, with vital volunteer assistance from lawyers, judges, and
the public, improves public access to the legal system through pro bono
and public service projects; educates the public about the value lawyers
bring to their clients and communities by using a unified message that
mirrors three key qualities that the public values most about lawyers -
expert advice, problem solving, and community service; and informs
citizens about their role in society through law-related education
Fiscal 2005 was notable for kicking off the Wisconsin Pro
Bono Initiative, a major State Bar initiative coordinating
resources statewide to improve public access to the legal system and
increase the availability of pro bono resources for low-income
residents. In FY 2005, the program:
- welcomed 75 lawyers to the Just Take Two program,
increasing the availability of pro bono lawyers for low-income
- obtained free professional liability insurance for
pro bono volunteers
- motivated 87 lawyers to accept 435 State Public
Defender client appointments and provided free CLE
vouchers worth $16,000 to lawyers who completed five SPD
- funded five local bar pro bono projects, including
training for pro bono volunteers
- established a pro bono e-list for the exchange of
ideas and opportunities for providing pro bono service
In FY 2005, the Local Bar Grant program awarded a
combined $6,000 to the Douglas, Racine, and Washington county bar
associations for public service projects on domestic violence, divorce,
and jury bailiff training.
Of 25,000 phone calls to LRIS staff and 2,530 contacts through
LegalExplorer, the Bar's consumer Web site, Lawyer Referral and
Information Service legal assistants referred 11,456
prescreened clients to panel attorneys and gave information or referred
remaining callers to community agencies or other legal resources. LRIS
Lawyer Hotline volunteers statewide provided 500-plus
consumers with answers to simple legal questions. LRIS offers a valued,
visible public service and a way for attorneys to build their client
The Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection
(formerly the Clients' Security Fund), through an annual assessment to
Wisconsin attorneys of up to $25, reimburses people who lose money due
to dishonest acts by Wisconsin attorneys. This year, the fund's
administering committee paid $187,776.86 on 35 claims against 24
attorneys and set the FY 2006 assessment at $10. The legal profession
stands alone in providing voluntary reimbursements for client
The Volunteer Lawyers Recognition Celebration, held
annually during the Annual Convention, recognizes lawyers' pro bono and
community service work. This is the "feel good" celebration of the year,
honoring volunteers who lead by example.
This year, the Bar continued statewide rotation of its
"Wisconsin Lawyers Make a Difference" TV spots,
eventually airing 30-second spots in each major TV market in the state.
In FY 2005, spots showcasing lawyers' public service work rotated to
south central and western/central Wisconsin, reaching an average of 78
percent of adults at least four times in the viewing areas; the series
was supplemented with spots that aired statewide during U.W. men's
Badger basketball games. A partnership with the La Crosse County Bar
also resulted in a spot focusing on that bar's local community service
The State Bar promotes programs and curricula to give school-age
youth and other community members an understanding and appreciation of
the law, the legal system, and their rights and responsibilities as
citizens through the use of practical and experiential learning. A
sampling of this year's programs includes:
- The 22nd Mock Trial Tournament, involving more than
650 attorneys and judges, 120 teachers, 29 regional coordinators, and
159 teams, helped 1,700-plus high school students develop critical
thinking and public speaking skills.
- 24 teachers gained a deeper understanding of the court system to
enhance their civics curricula during the Judicial Teaching
Institute, taking part in a sentencing exercise and moot court
activity with assistance from supreme court justices, judges, attorneys,
and university professors.
- "We the People" programs promoted civic competence
and responsibility among students in state schools, including the
"Project Citizen" competition, generating 15 public
policy portfolios from 14 middle schools and a 4-H group, and which was
observed by a Chinese delegation in anticipation of starting a similar
program; and the weeklong "Summer Institute," during
which 16 teachers gained a deeper understanding of the U.S.
- Court with Class, in partnership with the supreme
court, involved 76 Wisconsin middle and high schools and 2,305
participating students to learn about our court system.
- Life Planning Week (Nov. 8-12) activities reminded
Wisconsin families about the importance of preparing for future health
needs; attorneys participated in radio interviews and the Bar
distributed free copies of A Gift to Your Family: Planning Ahead for
Future Health Needs. Since 1999 more than 158,000 print copies have
been distributed to the public; since 2003 more than 30,100 copies have
been downloaded from LegalExplorer.
Knowing Where You're Going
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the
"I don't much care where ...," said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
Lewis Carroll's famous exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat
exemplifies why we need to plan before we act. The exchange also shows
the consequences of acting without planning:
"... so long as I get somewhere," added Alice as an
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if only you walk long
Success in today's association environment requires that
organizational leaders create a vision of the association's future and a
plan to achieve that vision. Your State Bar leaders and volunteers have
been working on strategic planning this year.
Strategic planning has many benefits for an organization as complex
as the State Bar. Strategic planning charts the course for the
organization and identifies measures of success so that everyone can see
if the association is progressing toward achieving the identified goals.
The process of planning also improves communication across the
In some organizations with a relatively simple purpose and structure,
the planning process may mean that the president and a few officers
gather for a brief time to develop a plan. In one as complex as the
State Bar, it takes far longer to create the plan.
This past year, committee and division leaders began the bottom-up
process of planning for their entities in a manner that ties their work
into the State Bar strategic plan approved by the Board. (Sections will
begin the process in Fiscal 2007.) Though this top-down and bottom-up
approach takes much longer than if the Board simply dictated to the
committees, divisions, and sections how to achieve the goals the Board
sets, the opportunities for ownership, creativity, and success are far
greater in the long run.
When the strategic planning process is fully implemented, the State
Bar will have a stronger direction. Unlike Alice, it will know where it
is going. It will know whether it is making progress toward its vision
of excellence in legal services in an accessible, valued justice system
by fulfilling its mission of improving the administration of justice and
the delivery of legal services and promoting the professional interests
of Wisconsin lawyers.
George C. Brown, State Bar executive director
Letting Our Voices Be Heard
I expect great things of the Bar and of its members, including
two-way communication and candid discussion on important
Communication with members took center stage this year. Important
issues demanded our time and attention and provided a great opportunity
to share information and seek your input.
During the year I made it my top priority to personally visit with
many members attending local bar meetings and other lawyer gatherings
and events. Often, these were the first visits by a Bar president in
anyone's recent recollections. Fortunately, I had the support of past
Bar presidents George Burnett and Pat Ballman, president-elect Mike
Guerin, and State Bar staff as we took on this outreach effort, managing
to reach more than 38 local and specialty bar gatherings and dozens of
State Bar events.
In our quest to engage members in issues facing our profession, we
employed the newly redesigned WisBar Web site as a tool to collect your
thoughts on the WisTAF and Ethics 2000 petitions. Hundreds of you took
time to share your opinions, which played a key role in shaping the
With more than 21,000 members, we expect a variety of views and
opinions, but I hope that over the past year members gained a new
appreciation for the importance of speaking out. I am confident that the
Bar's leadership will continue to facilitate the gathering of those
ideas and opinions. So let your voices be heard.
Michelle A. Behnke, president, State Bar of Wisconsin
July 1, 2004 - June 30, 2005
Member Involvement is State Bar's
As in most organizations, a core group of State Bar members performs
the lion's share of the work. In FY 2005, for example, volunteers filled
more than 465 committee, 325 section, and 55 division board positions.
Specialized sections and divisions draw on their members' expertise to
perform important work that benefits their members, the Bar, and the
public. To remain vibrant the Bar needs your participation - whether in
association governance, legislative grassroots efforts, or involvement
in committees, sections, or divisions. Many opportunities to help shape
your organization and profession exist to fit your interests and
- write for CLE Books or Wisconsin Lawyer
- lecture for CLE Seminars
- participate in the pro bono initiative
- provide input on issues facing the profession
- engage in grassroots legislative activities
- train for the Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program
- join a section or division
- seek appointment to a committee
- respond to member surveys
- mentor a law student or new lawyer
- enroll in the Lawyer Referral & Information Service
- list in the Lawyer-to-Lawyer Directory
Visit WisBar at www.wisbar.org/bar for other ways to participate in
your State Bar.
The State Bar's strong foundation supports continuing its
tradition of advocacy, information sharing, networking, and programs and
In FY 2005, under the capable leadership of President Michelle Behnke
and an excellent Board of Governors, the State Bar continued to refine
and develop programs and services to assist members. The Bar also
committed to implementing a strategic planning program to ensure that
Bar entities and staff are operating on the same page.
Truly, a strong foundation exists to further the growth of service to
members and the public and to respond to the changes we face in the
future. My mission is to see that this important work continues. The Bar
and the Board of Governors is prepared to respond to issues facing
today's lawyers and society.
I hope to focus my attention on issues that serve members' needs,
such as expanding the WisLAP program and educating the public about the
value of lawyers. As lawyers, we are problem solvers and expert advisers
heavily invested in our communities. To earn the public's positive
perception, we must educate the public that we perform a valuable,
although often unrecognized, service. We also must acknowlege that some
criticisms of individual lawyers are justified, and that inappropriate
conduct by any one of us is a mark on our entire profession.
We must continue to engage in initiatives that protect the public and
our clients. For that reason, I believe the Unauthorized Practice of Law
Committee's work is essential to defining our role in the business
As president, I will work hard to continue the State Bar's tradition
of advocacy, information sharing, networking, and providing programs and
services for all members.
D. Michael Guerin, president-elect, State Bar of Wisconsin
July 1, 2004 - June 30, 2005