The staff of WILMIC, from left. Standing: Frank Zillner, Joe McCarthy, Megan O'Brien, Brian Anderson, Stephanie Williams, Joyce Neumaier, Jane Harder, Matt Beier, Tom Watson. Seated: Patty Lehner, Katja Kunzke.
Oct. 17, 2018 – In the mid-1980s, the solo and small-firm lawyers of Wisconsin had a problem: they could no longer find affordable – or any, in some cases – liability insurance for their practice.
“National carriers decided insuring solo and small-firm practitioners wasn’t profitable,” said Katja Kunzke, president and CEO of Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company (WILMIC) in Madison. “There was a crisis all over the U.S.”
The solution: to create a company just for this purpose. The State Bar's Insurance for Members Committee put the legal paperwork into motion. A massive campaign swung into gear to raise the necessary money to capitalize WILMIC to the level required by the state's Insurance Department. Committee members traveled the state, asking for support from Wisconsin lawyers. It required an investment of $1,000 each – and faith in each other.
“They sold $3.5 million worth of bonds,” Kunzke said.
WILMIC's doors opened July 1, 1986. “We arose out of the crisis and the solution, as well as the faith that lawyers have in each other,” Kunzke said.
The organization first operated as a volunteer lawyer-run insurance agency, as part of the State Bar. In the late 1980s, the organization separated from the State Bar to become its own company.
“We are a child of the State Bar," Kunzke said.
John Lederer, the award’s namesake, saw it as his mission to help solo and small-firm lawyers master skills and technology to build their practices. Lederer was a visionary when it came to implementing technology into the practice of law.
“WILMIC and its staff reflect the leadership, dedication, and spirit of John Lederer in the organization’s faithful support for solo and small-firm practitioners,” says Nancy L. Trueblood of Wauwatosa, chair of the award committee. “WILMIC is also interested in helping Wisconsin lawyers enjoy their lives.”
The Lederer Service Award is presented annually to an individual, group, or organization exemplifying the late John Lederer’s leadership, spirit, and dedication. Nominees must show leadership in furthering the mission of the Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference: to educate and support solo and small-firm lawyers as they practice law, manage their businesses, and enjoy their lives.
Nominations are evaluated on showing continued, selfless service to projects, efforts, or organizations of benefit to solo and small-firm practitioners across Wisconsin.
Recipients of the 2018 Lederer Award
“There’s a whole village that makes this work and makes us succeed,” said WILMIC President and CEO Katja Kunzke. “Our board’s guidance is crucial. We’ve got a lot of help.”
WILMIC's staff and Board of Directors:
- Brian Anderson
- Matt Beier
- Jane Harder
- Katja Kunzke
- Patty Lehner
- Joe McCarthy
- Joyce Neumaier
- Megan O'Brien
- Tom Watson
- Stephanie Williams
- Frank Zillner
WILMIC Board of Directors:
- George Brown
- John Bubolz
- John Danner
- Linda de la Mora
- Katja Kunzke
- John Miller
- Rich Orton
- Kevin Palmersheim
- Noreen Parrett
- Anne Ross
- Tom Schumacher
- Tom Sleik
- Marna Tess-Mattner
- Kasey Grams (YLD liaison)
“WILMIC is being honored for its overall devotion to the concerns of solo and small-firm attorneys across Wisconsin,” said Trueblood. It is the first organization honored with the Lederer Service Award.
WILMIC will receive the award Friday, Oct. 26, at the Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference in Wisconsin Dells. Tom Schumacher of Bakke Norman, New Richmond, and chair of the organization's Board of Directors will accept the award on behalf of the company The award is sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin Solo/Small Firm & General Practice Section.
“One aspect of the award criteria is advancement and leadership of the conference,” added Kate Knowlton of Wauwatosa, a committee member and vice chairperson of the section. “And WILMIC has been stellar and consistent in that for as long as I can remember.”
Trueblood added, “Whether the section and conference have needed conference speakers, panel moderators or even financial support, WILMIC has been there for us.”
Past Recipients of the John F. Lederer Service Award
- Wm. Pharis Horton (2017)
- Terry Dunst (2016)
- William "Byll" Hess (2015)
- Nerino J. Petro (2014)
- Nancy L. Trueblood (2013)
- Paul Angel (2012)
- Roberta A. Heckes (2011)
- Lowell Sweet (2010)
- Ross Kodner (2009)
Focusing on Solo and Small-firm Lawyers
From its start, WILMIC’s focus is on assisting Wisconsin lawyers working solo and in small firms.
“Our success is because Wisconsin lawyers are great lawyers. When they make mistakes, they step up and they help us resolve it, and get the clients back to where they should be,” Kunzke said. “Our policyholders and our community in Wisconsin are just stellar – and that is a huge piece of why WILMIC has been successful.”
Register Today for the Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference – Oct. 25-27
Discover the secrets of successful practice, get trusted advice for your toughest legal snarls, and find tips for achieving work-life balance at the 2018 Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells.