It didn't take long for Wisconsin lawyers - especially those who practice in criminal or family law - to discover how difficult it was to comply with the Wisconsin Supreme Court rules affecting trust accounts, which took effect on July 1, 2004. In October then president Michelle Behnke appointed the State Bar Trust Account Working Group to propose revisions to the rules.
Vol. 80, No. 6, June 2007
On April 12, 2007, the supreme court approved State Bar petition 06-04 to modify the rules governing lawyers' trust accounts, based on the recommendations of the working group. The new rules take effect on July 1, 2007.
“I am grateful for all the time and energy that this working group put into this project,” says Behnke. “As I visited local bars around the state, I often heard that the trust account rule approved in 2004 was unworkable and even the most ethical lawyer would be likely to make a mistake in violation of the rule. I knew we had to do something to address the problems while protecting the public interest. The working group could have taken an easy approach by tweaking a few words, but they really took a hard look at the rule. They got input from lawyers and the public, and they made real substantive revisions. I really appreciate their efforts and commitment to the task.”
On May 9, 2007, during the State Bar Annual Convention in Milwaukee, president Steve Levine presented a 2007 President Award to the Trust Account Working Group. The awards are given to State Bar members who have been instrumental in furthering the goals of the State Bar and the president. “These Bar members stepped forward to volunteer their time and effort when they were needed to do a difficult job,” says Levine. “They were dedicated to the task, performed admirably, and the Bar and the state are all the better for their efforts.”
Trust Account Working Group members: Michael Olds, chair, Madison; Barry Cohen, Elkhart Lake; Diane Diel, Milwaukee; Dean Dietrich, Wausau; Len Leverson, Milwaukee; Gerry Mowris, Madison; Sheila Romell, Milwaukee; Dan Schneidman, Milwaukee; Keith Sellen, Madison; Ms. Mary Hoeft Smith, Madison; and Tim Pierce, Madison.