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  • May
    26
    2020

    ‘Paycheck Protection’ Loans: SBA Advises on How to Ask for Forgiveness

    The new Paycheck Protection Program loans are meant to encourage small businesses to keep their workers employed through the COVID-19 crisis. Here’s some new guidance on loan forgiveness.
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    The new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) makes available low-interest and potentially forgivable loans typically to businesses that employ fewer than 500 people. Borrowers and their advisers have struggled to understand the forgiveness aspect of the PPP since the program was enacted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

    Patrick J. Maxwell, Melissa McCord, Liz E. Peebles address two new interim final rules on loan forgiveness issued by the SBA on May 22, 2020.

    See the article ‘Paycheck Protection’ Loans: SBA Advises on How to Ask for Forgivenessin Quarles & Brady’s business law blog.

    Maxwell, McCord, and Peebles are with Quarles & Brady, Milwaukee.

    See more articles and notices on the table of contents page for the Coronavirus & the Law Blog from the State Bar of Wisconsin. To be notified of updates to this blog, subscribe to the Coronavirus & the Law Blog's RSS feed via this link at feeds.feedburner.com.




  • May
    22
    2020

    Supreme Court Issues Orders on Court Operations, Jury Trials, Remote Hearings, and Court Reopenings

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  • May
    22
    2020

    Protecting Yourself from Pandemic Fraudsters

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    The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides some credit protections for consumers, according to a recent blog post from Ray Dall’Osto and Chris Hayden of GRGB Law in Milwaukee.

    In addition, amidst an uptick in fraud and scams, the authors note that “the Federal Trade Commission announced in May 2020 that an agreement has been reached with the nationwide credit reporting companies to allow for free, weekly credit reports, not just one free report per year.”

    Read the full blog post.

    See more articles and notices on the table of contents page for the Coronavirus & the Law Blog from the State Bar of Wisconsin. To be notified of updates to this blog, subscribe to the Coronavirus & the Law Blog's RSS feed via this link at feeds.feedburner.com.




  • May
    20
    2020

    What About Evictions After the Supreme Court’s Decision to Block Safer at Home?

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    It’s a question attorneys and their landlord clients have been asking, recently. Jennifer Hayden of Petrie + Petrie S.C. in Milwaukee provides an answer in a recent blog post.

    Short answer: The Wisconsin Supreme Court decision to block a statewide safer at home extension was “narrowly tailored” to that specific order and did not lift enforceability of an emergency order that blocked evictions until May 27.

    Read the full blog post.

    See more articles and notices on the table of contents page for the Coronavirus & the Law Blog from the State Bar of Wisconsin. To be notified of updates to this blog, subscribe to the Coronavirus & the Law Blog's RSS feed via this link at feeds.feedburner.com.




  • May
    26
    2020

    5 Key Differences in Wisconsin and Federal Laws Employers Should Know

    As the state opens up from stay-at-home orders, Wisconsin employers prepare for an increase in claims from pandemic job losses. Keith Kopplin and Christina Wabiszewski highlight five key differences in Wisconsin and federal employment laws that employers should know to reduce liability.

    Keith E. Kopplin & Christina L. Wabiszewski

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    As the coronavirus pandemic continues to run its course, Wisconsin employers should be prepared for an increase in claims arising from job losses caused by pandemic shutdowns and related employment decisions.

    While much attention is rightfully given to federal employment laws, it is important to note that state laws can – and often do – vary considerably from federal laws. Importantly, when two or more laws apply to an employee, the employee generally receives the benefit of the most favorable provision. That said, understanding nuances between state and federal law can reduce legal liability.

    This article highlights what employers should know when it comes to five key differences between Wisconsin and federal employment laws.

    Family and Medical Leave

    While paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will continue through the end of 2020, the FFCRA only applies to coronavirus-related illnesses and leave scenarios.

    Keith Kopplin com keith.kopplin ogletree Keith Kopplin, Marquette 2005, is a shareholder with Ogletree Deakins Milwaukee, where he focuses his practice on employment litigation and employment law matters.

    Christina Wabiszewski com christina.wabiszewski ogletree Christina Wabiszewski, Marquette 2014, is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Milwaukee, where she focuses on labor, employment, and immigration issues at the state and federal levels.

    That said, unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) has been and will continue to be in effect for qualifying events and illnesses. So, too, with respect to unpaid leave under Wisconsin’s mini-FMLA law at Wis. Stat. sections 103.10 – 103.11 and Wis. Admin. Code Chapter DWD 225 (WFMLA). These laws are similar in concept, but different in a number of significant ways.

    To be eligible for federal FMLA, an employee must have been employed for 12 months, worked for at least 1,250 hours in the preceding 12-month period, and work at a jobsite that is within 75 miles of 50 or more employees.

    Wisconsin’s eligibility rules are more generous to employees in a number of ways. First, workers only need 1,000 hours in the prior 12-month period.1 Second, Wisconsin measures eligibility based on hours paid, not hours worked.2 Third and perhaps most significantly, the WFMLA is available to any Wisconsin-based employee of an employer with at least 50 employees, regardless of where the other employees live and work. That said, employers headquartered in other states can be required to provide WFMLA leave to even just a single Wisconsin-based employee.

    Notwithstanding the more generous eligibility standards, WFMLA provides shorter leave entitlements, directly tied to the condition at issue. More specifically, employees are entitled only to six weeks of unpaid leave for the birth and bonding of their natural child, two weeks of unpaid leave for their own serious health condition, two weeks of unpaid leave for the serious health condition of a covered family member, and six weeks of unpaid leave for bone marrow or organ donation. Federal FMLA, by contrast, provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for most conditions, and up to 26 weeks for military caregiver leave.

    The WFMLA is also more generous as to intermittent leave. The federal FMLA requires intermittent leave only when it comes to an employee’s own or a family member’s serious health condition. Intermittent leave for birth or adoption of a healthy child is left to the employer’s discretion. Not so under Wisconsin law, which requires employers to permit intermittent leave following the birth or adoption of a child, provided the last increment of leave begins within 16 weeks of the child’s arrival.

    Finally, employers in Wisconsin need to keep in mind that the WFLMA permits employees to elect to substitute paid or unpaid leave under their employer’s specific policies for unpaid leave. Employers cannot require that employee’s substitute paid for unpaid leave.3 In this regard, the WFMLA is more generous than the federal FMLA, which allows employers to require substitution of paid leave for unpaid FMLA.4

    Anti-Discrimination Laws

    Much like the federal anti-discrimination framework under Title VII, the ADA, and the ADEA, the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, disability, sex, national origin, and ancestry.5

    Wisconsin law provides additional protection to employees by prohibiting discrimination on a number of other bases, including:

    • arrest and conviction record;

    • marital status;

    • use or nonuse of lawful products (such as cigarettes or alcohol) off the employer's premises during nonworking hours; and

    • declining to attend a meeting or to participate in any communication about religious matters or political matters.6

    These additional employee protections, however, come with some qualifications. For example, protection for those with arrest and conviction records does not outright prohibit employers from making adverse employment decisions based on those records, provided the arrests and convictions are “substantially related” to the employee’s underlying job duties.

    Similarly, marital status protection does not prohibit discrimination based on the identity of one’s spouse, but rather merely the status of being married.7

    Use of lawful products off duty and off premises can be regulated if it substantially impairs the employee’s ability to complete their job-related responsibilities.8

    And prohibiting employers from requiring employees’ attendance at political or religious meetings or requiring their participation in communications does not apply to religious and political organizations,9 nor does it ban voluntary meetings and communications.10

    Finally, the procedural requirements for processing discrimination complaints filed under WFEA are different from those for charges filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under federal law. Most significantly, evidentiary hearings take place at the agency level before the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division (ERD). Once the parties have had the opportunity to state their position in writing to the ERD, the assigned investigator will issue an initial determination of either no probable cause – which the complainant can appeal – or probable cause.

    Upon a determination of probable cause, or an appeal by the complainant of a no probable cause determination, the ERD will schedule a hearing and permit the parties to undertake written discovery and depositions in order to prepare. If the hearing is on the issue of probable cause, it triggers a second hearing on the merits if the complainant succeeds. Final decisions and orders are also subject to review by the Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC), and LIRC decisions can be appealed to the Wisconsin circuit court.

    Claims that exist under both state and federal law are generally cross-filed with the ERD and the EEOC. If the ERD investigates first, the EEOC will generally adopt its findings. If the EEOC investigates first, however, the ERD will generally offer the complainant an independent investigation with the right to a hearing as outlined above.

    Wage and Hour Laws

    Although modeled after the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and its implementing regulations, Wisconsin’s wage and hour laws differ in a few respects, some of which may significantly affect liability.

    When it comes to exempt status, Wisconsin law generally tracks the job duties associated with the FLSA’s white collar exemptions, but indicates that certain exemptions require that workers not spend more than 20% of their hours of work (40% for retail or service establishments) on activities that are not directly and closely related to the job duties associated with the exemption.11 The FLSA, by contrast, requires most exempt employees to have exempt work as their “primary duty,”12 which is defined to mean their principal, main, major, or most important duty.13

    One notable exception to Wisconsin’s percentage-based test is the outside sales exemption, which was amended in 2018 to mirror the FLSA.14 It is also important to note that Wis. Admin. Code § DWD 274.04 provides that “these exemptions shall be interpreted in such a manner as to be consistent with the [FLSA].”

    Likely the most notable difference between Wisconsin wage and hour law and the FLSA is their respective treatment of what constitutes “work” for nonexempt employees. Although not required for employees over the age of 18, meal periods, for example, are compensable, unless the employee is completely relieved of duty for 30 consecutive minutes during which they are free to leave the premises. Captive meals are not compensable under federal law.15

    Wisconsin’s rules regarding travel away from the home community also differ from federal law. More specifically, Wis. Admin. Code § DWD 272.12(2)(g) provides that certain time spent in travel may constitute compensable work, including “travel time away from the home community for business purposes that occurs for the benefit of the employer.” Under the FLSA, travel from the home community is compensable to the extent it occurs during the employee’s normal work day.16

    Wisconsin law is also different from the FLSA when it comes to preliminary and postliminary donning and doffing of clothing and equipment. While the FLSA expressly permits employers and unions to bargain over the compensability of such activities,17 Wisconsin law does not.18

    Wisconsin’s Mini-WARN Act

    There are a number of differences between the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 (WARN Act) and Wisconsin’s mini-WARN Act.

    Generally speaking, Wisconsin’s mini-WARN Act has lower thresholds for reduction-in-force events to trigger obligations under the statutes. That said, Wis. Admin. Code § DWD 279.002 provides interpretive guidance where ambiguity exists between the two acts:

    “Whenever possible, this chapter will be interpreted in a manner consistent with [federal WARN], the federal regulations and court decisions interpreting that Act to the extent that the provisions of federal and state law are the same.”

    Wisconsin’s mini-WARN Act has some stark differences from its federal counterpart. To start, it provides a lower threshold requirement to be considered a covered employer. While the federal law provides that employers with 100 or more employees are covered, Wisconsin instead requires half that – 50 employees qualifies an employer to be covered under the Wisconsin law.19

    Further, Wisconsin law defines a plant closing differently than the federal law. Federal WARN defines a plant closing as a permanent or temporary shutdown of a single site of employment, or one or more facilities or operating units within a single site of employment, if the shutdown results in an employment loss at the single site of employment during any 30-day period for 50 or more employees, excluding part-time employees. In Wisconsin, such an event is termed a “business closing.” However, this term applies to a permanent or temporary shutdown of an employment site or one or more facilities or operating units at an employment site or within a single municipality that affects 25 or more employees, excluding new or low-hour employees. Wis. Stat. § 109.07(1)(b). Thus, a “business closing” can be aggregated under Wisconsin law where the business’ otherwise independent operations in a single municipality are considered one under the Act.

    Further, Wisconsin law provides a lower threshold than the federal law for a reduction in force to be considered a “mass layoff” and thus trigger notice under the statutes. Federal WARN defines a mass layoff as a non-plant closing in which there are either:

    • employment losses greater than or equal to 33% of employees and greater than or equal to 50 affected employees at a single site or

    • greater than or equal to 500 affected employees at a single site.

    By contrast, a reduction in force is considered a mass layoff for purposes of the Wisconsin mini-WARN Act where, at an employment site or within a single municipality:

    • at least 25 percent of the employee’s workforce or 25 employees are laid off, whichever is greater; or

    • at least 500 employees.20

    Miscellaneous Differences

    To round off the roundup, we close the discussion to note some of Wisconsin’s unique employment law features that are lacking in the federal law.

    • Employers that maintain personnel records must permit employees (defined to include former employees) to inspect their personnel records at least twice a year, upon written request.21

    • Employers are generally prohibited from deducting from an employee’s earned wages for faulty workmanship, loss, theft, or damage to property unless they secure a written authorization after the loss and before the deduction.22

    • Wisconsin requires employers to pay for medical exams the employer requires as a condition of employment.23

    • Wisconsin law requires employers to provide employees in factory or retail establishments with one day off per calendar week, unless an exception applies.24

    Conclusion: Know the Laws

    Understanding whether, and to what extent, Wisconsin law compels employers to treat employees and applicants differently from federal law will help to reduce liability. These differences cover many areas, including anti-discrimination mandates, leave entitlements, and wage and hour requirements.

    In a post-pandemic world that presents financial challenges for businesses, recognizing and following state law nuances can mean substantial savings and even business continuity for some employers.

    Endnotes

    1 Wis. Stat. § 103.10(2)(c).

    2 Wis. Admin. Code § DWD 225.01(4).

    3 Wis. Admin. Code § DWD 225.03.

    4 29 CFR § 825.207.

    5 Wis. Stat. §§ 111.32 - 111.395, Wis. Admin Code. § DWD 218.

    6 Wis. Stat. § 111.321.

    7 See Bammert v. LIRC, 2000 WI App 28, 232 Wis. 2d 365, 606 N.W.2d 620, 99-1271 (upholding LIRC’s interpretation that the statute prohibition regarding marital status discrimination protects the status of being married in general rather than the status of being married to a particular person).

    8 Dable v. Petersen Health Care, ERD Case No. 9400777 (LIRC, July 30, 1997) (concluding that it was not employment discrimination to terminate an employee who used alcohol and refused to undergo an alcohol assessment, because her use of lawful products negatively affected her ability to perform her job and the employer, therefore, had a legitimate interest in determining whether or not she was capable of discharging her duties).

    9 Wis. Stat. § 111.365(2)(a).

    10 Wis. Stat. § 111.365(2)(c).

    11 See, e.g., Wis. Admin. Code § DWD 274.04(1)(a)(5) (executive exemption).

    12 29 C.F.R. § 541.100(2).

    13 29 C.F.R. § 541.700.

    14 See Wis. Admin. Code. § DWD 274.04(2)(b).

    15 29 C.F.R. § 785.19(b).

    16 29 C.F.R. § 785.39.

    17 29 U.S.C. § 203(o).

    18 See Piper et al., v. Jones Dairy Farm, 2020 WI 28, __ Wis. 2d __, __ N.W.2d __.

    19 Wis. Stat. § 109.07(1)(d).

    20 Wis. Stat. § 109.07(1)(f).

    21 Wis. Stat. § 103.13(2).

    22 Wis. Stat. § 103.455.

    23 Wis. Stat. § 103.37(2m).

    24 Wis. Stat. § 103.85.




  • May
    20
    2020

    Final Order 19-22: Judicial Education Requirements

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    On Nov. 8, 2019, the Chief Judges’ Subcommittee on Judicial Education filed a rule petition asking the court to amend several rules pertaining to continuing education for the Wisconsin judiciary and circuit court commissioners. The court accepted the petition in part and denied the petition in part.

    ORDER ISSUED: May 18, 2020

    DISPOSITION: Effective July 1, 2020, the petition is granted in part and denied in part, subject to a temporary administrative order issued on April 3, 2020, that modifies certain judicial education requirements and deadlines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Quick Reference for Official Notices

    Visit the Official Notices page for a quick reference for locating recent official notices of Wisconsin Supreme Court orders adopting, amending, or repealing rules, statutes, or policies related to Supreme Court rules and State Bar of Wisconsin rules and bylaws. SCR 10.12 allows the State Bar to provide these notices to members through print or electronic media, including the Wisconsin Lawyer magazine, WisBar InsideTrack, or WisBar.org.

    For a comprehensive collection of all official notices, including pending rule petitions, court orders, and other material such as audio of public hearings, visit the Wisconsin Court System’s website or use the quick links on this page. Refer to the Publication Plan for more information on how the State Bar delivers notices to its members.

    Quick Links to Wisconsin Court System




  • May
    20
    2020

    Turbocharging Change: Who are Wisconsin's Legal Innovators?

    Who is embracing current challenges, looking for opportunities to do it better? Tell us about the people and ideas that are changing Wisconsin's legal landscape.
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    May 20, 2020 – Within a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has turbocharged the legal industry’s transformation, say legal experts. It has propelled the legal profession to move to remote work and distance learning. And, it will change forever how the legal system serves the public.

    The profession has taken a quantum leap in aggressively adopting and leveraging technology to provide legal services amidst this crisis,” says CLIO cloud-based technology founder Jack Newton in a recent InsideTrack interview.

    “We are seeing 5 or 10 years of technology adoption and change happening in the legal space compressed into five or 10 weeks.”

    This is no longer just a matter of getting more efficient or getting a little better at delivering a client experience,” says Newton. “This is about surviving an entirely new world.”

    Who are Wisconsin’s Legal Innovators?

    Who is embracing current challenges, looking for opportunities to do it better? Tell us about the people and ideas that are changing Wisconsin’s legal landscape.

    Through the “That’s a Fine Idea: Legal Innovation Wisconsin” initiative, the State Bar of Wisconsin is asking the legal community to help it tell the story of legal innovation. The Wisconsin Lawyer will feature the people behind the best examples of legal innovation in the November 2020 issue.

    Innovation can come in many forms. It could mean:

    • New ways to use technology to improve client service or serve a new market

    • New ways to support virtual workforces to improve job satisfaction, increase productivity, and increase internal operating efficiency

    • Best practices for promoting workplace diversity

    • New marketing/business development strategies

    • New ways of providing pro bono or reduced-cost services

    Learn more or find the nomination form at ThatsaFineIdea.com. The deadline for nominations is June 30, 2020.




  • May
    20
    2020

    Gregory Grau: The 'Gold Standard of Judges'

    Gregory Grau, retired Marathon County Circuit Court judge, is the 2020 recipient of the State Bar of Wisconsin's Lifetime Jurist Award. He, along with his son William, are among those honored this year. William Grau is the Outstanding Public Interest U.W. Law Student for 2020.

    Shannon Green

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    Judge Gregory Grau poses for a photo on May 20, 2016, his last day before retiring after 21 years on the bench in Branch 4 of the Marathon County Circuit Court. Judge Grau is the 2020 recipient of the State Bar of Wisconsin Bench and Bar Committee Lifetime Jurist Award. Photo: © Wausau Daily Herald – USA TODAY NETWORK

    May 20, 2020 – People light up, happy to see him, when Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Grau enters the courthouse – even four years after his retirement, as he returns occasionally as a reserve judge.

    His colleagues – including fellow judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and court staff – agree that Judge Grau handles hearings with an “even temperament, patience, and respectfulness to all people appearing before him,” according to Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Jill Falstad.

    Judge Grau is the 2020 recipient of the State Bar of Wisconsin Bench and Bar Committee Lifetime Jurist Award. Due to COVID-19 and concerns for the safety of State Bar members, the date for the award ceremony is yet to be determined. The award recognizes jurists who, during their tenure on the bench, are fair and impartial, demonstrate high ideals and personal character, and demonstrate outstanding, long-term judicial service.

    Judge Falstad says Judge Grau, “is the gold standard of judges. Over the 21 years he served as a judge, he was consistently thoughtful, hard-working, insightful, and fair.”

    Judge Grau “is a great communicator and a great listener,” Judge Falstad said. He establishes rapport easily with those before him – from teens appearing for truancy hearings, to pro se litigants, to seasoned trial attorneys. He continues to be the “go to” person for those who have questions, “if he has a minute. And he always does.”

    Stepping Up

    Judge Grau reacted to news of the award with good humor. “I want it to be known that I dissent from this decision, because I unequivocally believe there are judges much more deserving of this than I am,” he said. “I just want the record to be clear on that.”

    org sgreen wisbar Shannon Green is communications writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. She can be reached by org sgreen wisbar email or by phone at (608) 250-6135.

    Judge Grau is a native of Racine, moving to Madison for his undergraduate degree and law school. In the summer before his 3L year, he interned in the Wausau District Attorney’s Office via the prosecutor’s program at U.W. Law School. That experience, which included supervised time in courtrooms, was extremely valuable, he said, and prompted his interest in trial work.

    When he graduated from law school in 1984, an ADA position was open in Marathon County. “They made the mistake of hiring me, having known me the previous summer,” he joked.

    Judge Grau, working early on as assistant district attorney and later as district attorney, became interested in running for a judicial seat. “You’re in the courtroom a lot as a D.A.,” Judge Grau said. “You see how judges impact the outcome of cases and the impact they have on the people who must come to court. I wanted to step up and try to make a difference.”

    Judge Grau began his first judicial term in 1995, ultimately serving three and a half terms before retiring May 20, 2016.

    Along the way, he served as chief judge of the ninth judicial district, 2008-12. That position allows you to “see the many different ways of handling a courtroom. You see some interesting things that you never would have thought of yourself,” Judge Grau said.

    The View from the Bench

    The view from the bench – literally higher than everyone – is substantially different from the “myopic view” at the prosecutor’s or defense table, Judge Grau said.

    “As a new judge, I was struck by the little things you pick up on when you can see everything at once … it helps you figure out the whole story.”

    “You’re not just making a record for the court of appeals,” says Judge Grau. “You’re trying to change lives, so that defendants can make good decisions and not wind up back in court.”

    “You see how judges impact the outcome of cases and the impact they have on the people who must come to court. I wanted to step up and try to make a difference.”

    Judge Grau gained a view from the bench earlier than many, thanks to his wife Kim, who was his girlfriend while in law school in the 1980s. Kim was a court reporter in Madison, for federal judges John Shabaz and Barbara Crabb. She paid him 5 cents a page to proofread her transcripts prior to submitting them to the court.

    Apart from the job providing “good money” at the time, “I read thousands of pages of the work of these two outstanding judges,” while in law school, Judge Grau said. “It really brought law to life for me and taught me so much.”

    Connecting Prison with Truancy

    Shortly after coming to the bench, Judge Grau implemented a new truancy court in Marathon County in 1996. It is still going strong – proof, he says, of its efficacy.

    After seeing many criminal cases where defendants had truancy issues as high school students, Judge Grau saw a direct correlation between high school dropouts and those going to prison. Truancy is often a herald of existing problems in a student’s life – whether mental health issues, addiction, child abuse, or other trauma. “Truancy court is a very early intervention,” he said. “In getting kids to graduate and get their degree, we hope there’s a more positive destination in their lives.”

    Since his retirement, Judge Grau is participating in a truancy prevention pilot program at a local school, “meeting with the kids up close and personal” to prevent them from having to go to court in the first place. The program connects the students with counseling and other services that help bolster their lives and participation in school.

    From ‘Muddling’ to Mentoring

    Judge Grau has high praise for the Wisconsin Judicial College that educates new judges. Yet, he vividly recalls those early years on the bench. “Judges received little formal mentoring after completing the college.” His first day on the bench “I muddled through the hearings,” he admits. Since then, the process has improved greatly, and he is now a dedicated judicial mentor. “It’s good that new judges sit with experienced ones for a period of time.”

    After a point, you’re on your own. That’s when a new judge needs someone to turn to for the myriad questions that come up. “I always tried to fill that role if they wanted it. I thought that was really important and worth the time,” he said.

    You Never Know What You’ll Encounter

    One of the great things about the job is the people you see when you walk into the courtroom, he says. “You never know what you’re going to encounter. It’s always interesting.”

    Like the day a plaintiff at trial entered the courtroom with a brown paper shopping bag of manure. “Turned out the dispositive issue of the case was whether the manure was from a cow or a horse,” Judge Grau said. “My ultimate ruling was that the case was … horse manure.”

    “I cherished my time on the bench. So many of the people that helped me along the way – a lot of people in my career helped me tremendously. And I appreciate all of them,” he said.

    Learn who else is an award recipient this year.

    In the Footsteps: William Grau, Outstanding Public Interest Law Student

    The Grau family

    William Grau, center, with his parents, Kim Grau, a court reporter, and retired Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Grau, following William’s admissions ceremony in May 2019.

    Judge Grau takes special pride in his son’s recognition this year, too.

    William is the recipient of the Outstanding Public Interest U.W. Law Student award for 2020. Through its Public Interest Law Student awards, the State Bar Public Interest Law Section honors law students who demonstrate commitment to public interest, to volunteer work or activism in their community, and to helping others in their communities.

    William, a 2019 grad, is honored for his pro bono work, having completed 277 hours, including as a manager of the law school's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, with the Ready to Rent program for Dane County, and at the Community Immigration Law Clinic in Madison.

    William Grau

    “He helps his community because he believes in the importance of pro bono work,” says Megan Heneke, director of the law school’s Office of Career and Professional Development, who nominated Grau. “He is a dedicated leader and a responsive and effective communicator who has earned the respect of faculty, administration, and his peers at the law school.”

    William recently completed the seven-month Officer Basic School for the U.S. Marine Corps in Virginia, and will soon attend the Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island, to become a judge advocate. After, he will likely serve in Okinawa, Japan, according to his father.

    “He has a passion for justice and service,” Judge Grau said. “He has a desire to make sure people are not denied their dignity, and he has the will, perseverance, and talent to do something about those beliefs. I’m sure he’s going to do the profession proud someday,” Judge Grau said.

    ​​​​​



  • May
    20
    2020

    Chief Justice's Wisconsin Court COVID-19 Task Force Issues Report

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    Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack announced that the Wisconsin Courts COVID-19 Task Force has issued its final report, including a framework to guide counties and circuit courts as they work together to reopen facilities, return to in-person proceedings, and begin to normalize operations.

    Click here to read more.




  • May
    20
    2020

    Final Order: Waiving In-person Attendance Requirement for State Bar Board of Governors Meetings and Annual Meeting

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    Wisconsin Supreme Court Notice

    On May 12, 2020, the State Bar president and chair of the Board of Governors asked the court to authorize the temporary waiver of SCR 10.07 (meetings of the association) and sections of State Bar Bylaws Article III relating to the annual meeting of the members, meetings associated with the annual meeting, and in-person requirements for regular meetings of the Board of Governors.

    The State Bar has determined that the annual conference scheduled for June 2020 should be cancelled due to safety and health concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual meeting and final general meeting of the Board of Governors, which are held concurrent with the annual conference, also should be cancelled.

    The State Bar will hold its final regular meeting of the board in June 2020 via remote technology. In order to conduct business, the State Bar asks the in-person voting requirement also be temporarily waived.

    ORDER ISSUED: May 15, 2020

    DISPOSITION: Request granted. Meeting and in-person voting requirements waived for the remaining fiscal year to end on June 30, 2020.

    Quick Reference for Official Notices

    Visit the Official Notices page for a quick reference for locating recent official notices of Wisconsin Supreme Court orders adopting, amending, or repealing rules, statutes, or policies related to Supreme Court rules and State Bar of Wisconsin rules and bylaws. SCR 10.12 allows the State Bar to provide these notices to members through print or electronic media, including the Wisconsin Lawyer magazine, WisBar InsideTrack, or WisBar.org.

    For a comprehensive collection of all official notices, including pending rule petitions, court orders, and other material such as audio of public hearings, visit the Wisconsin Court System’s website or use the quick links on this page. Refer to the Publication Plan for more information on how the State Bar delivers notices to its members.

    Quick Links to Wisconsin Court System




  • May
    20
    2020

    West's Jury Verdicts, Bench Decisions, Settlements, and Arbitration Awards

    A selection of recent Wisconsin case verdicts are shared below.
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    May 20, 2020 – A selection of recent Wisconsin case verdicts are shared below. The information is provided as a service to State Bar of Wisconsin members in cooperation with Westlaw's® West's Jury Verdicts – Wisconsin Reports, a Thomson Reuters business.

    This Edition’s Featured Cases

    Davis v. Allstate (Wis. Cir. Ct. - Milwaukee County)

    Vehicle Negligence - Verdict: $12,775
    Icy Road Causes MVA

    Garcia v. Auto-Owners Insurance (Wis. Cir. Ct. - Milwaukee County)

    Premises Liability - Settlement: $187,000
    Icy Parking Lot Fall Settles for $187K

    Bradley v. LeBlanc (Wis. Cir. Ct. - Milwaukee County)

    Vehicle Negligence - Settlement: $175,000
    Silver Spring Rd. MVA Settle for $175K

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  • May
    20
    2020

    Ethical Dilemma: Can Credit Card Fees Be Deducted from Payments into Operating Accounts?

    Lawyers who accept credit card payments into their operating accounts are not directly prohibited by the disciplinary rules from holding a client responsible for those costs.

    Timothy J. Pierce

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    May 20, 2020 – Can a lawyer pass along credit card fees to a client when the funds are deposited as advanced fee payments directly into an operating account?

    Question

    Our firm bills most matters on a flat fee basis, and we usually ask for the fee to be paid in advance.

    We use the “alternative protection for advanced fees,” as set forth in SCR 20:1.5(g), and deposit the advanced fees in our business account. We do permit clients to pay both advanced and earned fees by credit card.

    Recently our office manager noted that our firm is paying a fair amount in credit card fees and asked whether we should pass those costs on to clients.

    Can we pass on credit card fees deducted from payments to our operating account when using the alternative protection for advanced fees?

    Need Ethics Advice?

    As a State Bar member, you have access to informal guidance and help in resolving questions regarding Wisconsin’s Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys.

    Ethics Hotline: To informally discuss an ethics question, contact State Bar ethics counselors org tpierce wisbar Timothy Pierce or org akaiser wisbar Aviva Kaiser. They can be reached at (608) 229-2017 or (800) 254-9154, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m to 4 p.m.

    Answer

    Since 2007, Wisconsin lawyers have been permitted to accept credit card (or other forms of electronic payments) for earned and advanced fees.

    It was previously not possible to accept advanced fee payments by credit card, because such payments were required to be deposited into a trust account and no electronic transactions were permitted into or out of trust accounts.

    The 2007 changes loosened the restrictions in two different ways. The first was to permit lawyers to establish a “credit card trust account,” and the second was to establish a method to permit lawyers to deposit advanced fee payments directly into an operating, rather than trust, account. This article addresses the second option.

    Tim Pierceorg tpierce wisbar Tim Pierce is ethics counsel with the State Bar of Wisconsin. Reach him by org tpierce wisbar email or through the Ethics Hotline at (608) 229-2017 or (800) 254-9154.

    The current SCR 20:1.5(g) permits a lawyer to deposit advanced fees – but not advanced costs – into an operating account, provided that the lawyer makes certain written disclosures to the client at the beginning and end of the representation, and agrees to participate in fee arbitration if the client makes a timely objection to the lawyer’s fees at the end of the representation.

    The details of SCR 20:1.5(g) are beyond the scope of this article, but it is noteworthy that neither the rule nor its comment say anything about credit card fees.

    SCR 20:1.5(g) was originally in SCR 20:1.15, the trust account rule, and the Wisconsin Comment to that rule did discuss credit card fees. That language survives in the Wisconsin Comment to the current version of the trust account rule:

    Financial institutions, as credit card issuers, routinely impose charges on vendors when a customer pays for goods or services with a credit card. That charge is deducted directly from the customer's payment. Vendors who accept credit cards routinely credit the customer with the full amount of the payment and absorb the charges. Before holding a client responsible for these charges, a lawyer needs to disclose this practice to the client in advance, and assure that the client understands and consents to the charges. In addition, the lawyer needs to investigate the following concerns before accepting payments by credit card:

    1. Does the credit card issuer prohibit a lawyer/vendor from requiring the customer to pay the charge? If a lawyer intends to credit the client for anything less than the full amount of the credit card payment, the lawyer needs to assure that this practice is not prohibited by the credit card issuer's regulations and/or by the agreement between the lawyer and the credit card issuer. Entering into an agreement with a credit card issuer with the intent to violate this type of requirement may constitute conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, or deceit, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c).

    2. Does the credit card issuer require services to be rendered before a credit card payment for legal fees is accepted? If a lawyer intends to accept fee advances by credit card, the lawyer needs to assure that fee advances are not prohibited by the credit card issuer's regulations and/or by the agreement between the lawyer and the credit card issuer. Entering into an agreement with a credit card issuer with the intent to violate this type of requirement may constitute conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, or deceit, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(c).

    3. By requiring clients to pay the credit card charges, is the lawyer required to make certain specific disclosures to such clients and offer cash discounts to all clients? If a lawyer intends to require clients to pay credit card charges, the lawyer needs to assure that the lawyer complies with all state and federal laws relating to such transactions, including, but not limited to, Regulation Z of the Truth in Lending Act, 12 C.F.R. § 206.

    The comments thus point to concerns outside the rules that a lawyer needs to address before holding a client responsible for credit card fees.

    Thus, lawyers who accept credit card payments into their operating accounts are not directly prohibited by the disciplinary rules from holding a client responsible for those costs. But the lawyer who wishes to do so must contact the issuer to ensure that doing so does not violate the terms of service agreement.

    The lawyer must also “disclose this practice to the client in advance, and assure that the client understands and consents to the charges” and ensure that the practice complies with any relevant state and federal laws and regulations.

    Note that a lawyer who accepts credit card payments for advanced fees using an e-banking trust account is governed by different rules, which are discussed in Can You Add Credit Card Fees to Clients' Bills? in the March 18, 2020, issue of InsideTrack.

    In Case You Missed It: Read Past Ethical Dilemmas

    Ethical Dilemmas appears monthly in InsideTrack. Check out these topics from recent issues:




  • May
    20
    2020

    What Employers Should Know When Bringing Workers Back

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    May 20, 2020 – COVID-19 is not going away just because people are coming back to work, says Lori Dorn, director of administration for Stafford Rosenbaum LLP and past president of the Wisconsin Association for Legal Administrators (WALA).

    In this video, Dorn, who is also the chair of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Law Office Management Assistance Program (Practice 411™), provides tips for law firms and other employers to consider when bringing employees and clients back to the office, including guidance the employers should follow to keep employees and visitors safe and minimize liability issues.

    For instance, all employers should follow guidelines and recommendations for safe workplaces, including appropriate policies regarding the following:

    • physical distancing and protective equipment;

    • temperature checks and symptom screening;

    • testing, isolating, and contact tracing;

    • sanitation;

    • use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas;

    • business travel; and

    • other best practices.

    Also in this issue of InsideTrack, a comprehensive look at “Returning to Work: How to Create a Safe Workplace for Employees and Clients.”

    Webcast: Getting Back to Work When Safer at Home Orders Relax 2020

    This one-hour State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® webcast will help employers prepare for the next phase of life in a pandemic. Attorneys Jonathan Eiden and James R. Macy of von Briesen & Roper S.C. in Milwaukee will discuss legal considerations for emerging issues like:

    • restarting/recalling employees who have been laid off versus furloughed;
    • responding when employees have been exposed to confirmed COVID-19 patients;
    • addressing employee apprehension about returning to a physical office; and
    • revisiting and revising remote work policies.

    Webcast dates: May 20, May 26, May 29, June 3, June 8, June 12, June 16 (all from noon to 1 p.m.). Register Now.




  • May
    20
    2020

    Returning to Work: Creating a Safe Workplace for Employees and Clients

    Confused about the myriad regulations and best practices guiding return-to-work policies? You're not alone. Learn about the guidelines and standards employers should follow to create a safe working environment for employees returning to work sites.

    Joe Forward

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    May 20, 2020 – As state and local stay-at-home orders begin to lift, law firms and other businesses and organizations that closed or minimized access to physical office locations in March may be devising plans to bring employees back to the office.

    Employers should follow recommended guidance to keep workers healthy and to minimize the risk of claims under statutes such as Wisconsin’s safe place statute, Wis. Stat. section 101.11, which requires employers to furnish a safe working environment.

    In a recent interview, Lori Dorn, director of administration for Stafford Rosenbaum LLP and past president of the Wisconsin Association for Legal Administrators (WALA), provided helpful tips for law firms to consider as they bring attorneys and staff back to the office.

    She noted that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has developed general and industry-specific guidelines and policies that employers should consult and implement as they ask employees to return to work.

    Dorn, who is also the chair of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Law Office Management Assistance Program (Practice 411™), noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 with recommendations and descriptions of mandatory and safety health standards.

    In addition, the Wisconsin Courts COVID-19 Task Force, convened by Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, recently released a final report that “includes a framework to guide counties and circuit courts as they work together to reopen facilities, return to in-person proceedings, and begin to normalize operations,” according to a news release.

    <iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Z3YWyOegdoM" width="525" height="295" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    COVID-19 is not going away just because people are coming back to work, says Lori Dorn, director of administration for Stafford Rosenbaum LLP. She shares tips for law firms and other employers to consider when reopening.

    Common Questions and Concerns

    WALA recently held a roundtable discussion with legal administrators to discuss common questions and concerns, and Dorn addresses many of those in the video above.

    Joe Forwardorg jforward wisbar Joe Forward, Saint Louis Univ. School of Law 2010, is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by org jforward wisbar email or by phone at (608) 250-6161.

    “They're primarily looking for guidance on how they can keep their clients and employees safe, and how they can comply with the ever-changing orders and regulations and COVID-19-related laws,” Dorn said.

    A recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision curtails the authority of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to issue statewide public health orders related to COVID-19 without legislative oversight, and any statewide approach to reopening the economy in phases appears futile.

    Thus, local jurisdictions have released plans with recommendations and guidance for employers. The binding effect of any locally extended safe-at-home order or economic bounce back plan is not clear.

    However, all employers should follow guidelines and recommendations for safe workplaces, including appropriate policies and procedures regarding the following:

    • physical distancing and protective equipment;

    • temperature checks and symptom screening;

    • testing, isolating, and contact tracing;

    • sanitation;

    • use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas;

    • business travel; and

    • other best practices.1

    Dorn reiterated that employers should consult resources provided by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, OSHA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help keep employees safe and minimize liability issues.

    “One thing that law firms can do is create a team or committee, or assign an individual within their firm to create a plan and monitor and modify the plan in response to evolving recommendations from the CDC and other health orders that come down from the federal government or state or local municipalities,” Dorn said.

    “People realize that this virus is not going away just because people are coming back to work and many firms are contemplating having employees come back on a staggered basis,” Dorn said.

    Other Guidance on Reopening Your Law Firm

    The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) and the Indiana State Bar Association (ISBA) have produced comprehensive guidance documents for reopening law firms that may provide other helpful tips and advice for law firms in Wisconsin.

    Guidance on Re-Opening Law Firms (NYSBA)

    Recommendations for Reopening Your Practice (ISBA)

    Managing Facilities

    Dorn notes specific action that employers should take, such as keeping a log of everyone who enters the office space, including employees, clients, and vendors in order to provide required notifications if a guest tests positive for COVID-19.

    Dorn also says law firms should evaluate facility operating systems, such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, to ensure air filters are in compliance with rules and regulations. Other tips that Dorn mentions in the video include:

    • Consider elevator usage and policies to ensure social distancing.

    • Talk to landlords about common areas, such as bathrooms shared by other tenants in the building. Consider implementing touchless soap dispensers or other features that allow you to use the facilities without having to touch items.

    • Make sure cleaning crews do a thorough cleaning, preferably every day, and have staff routinely cleaning their office spaces or any common areas, such as break and conference rooms.

    • Consider having one-way hallways to maintain social distance, and place chairs at least six feet apart in conference rooms.

    • Erect physical barriers where possible, such as plexiglass shield at the reception desk, and have a 30-day supply of hand sanitizers, soap, and other cleaning supplies needed to maintain a sanitary office environment

    Dorn says there are things law firms can do to make employees and clients more comfortable, but without government mandates, firms will have decisions to make.

    For instance, some people may feel more comfortable if they're in an environment with people wearing masks. Without a mandate, employers can strongly recommend that visitors and employees wear masks in an effort to protect everyone. “I think most people would respect that but it's something that firms should be thinking about,” Dorn said.

    What about handshakes? “We're so used to doing a handshake, and now we need to think about other ways to warmly greet people when you see them,” Dorn said.

    “If a client reaches out to shake your hand, you have a decision. Do you shake their hand and then use hand sanitizer discreetly afterwards? Those are the issues people should talk about.”

    What about employee and client screening? “The guidelines from OSHA and the CDC suggest that it's prudent to do so,” Dorn said. She said some firms have decided to do that type of screening. Others will ask people to self-monitor and stay home if experiencing what the CDC has identified as COVID-19-related symptoms.

    Finally, Dorn said educating employees on best practices and providing reminders is important, such as reminders on hand-washing and social distancing guidelines.

    Webcast: Getting Back to Work When Safer at Home Orders Relax 2020

    This one-hour State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® webcast will help employers prepare for the next phase of life in a pandemic. Attorneys Jonathan Eiden and James R. Macy of von Briesen & Roper S.C. in Milwaukee will discuss legal considerations for emerging issues like:

    • restarting/recalling employees who have been laid off versus furloughed;
    • responding when employees have been exposed to confirmed COVID-19 patients;
    • addressing employee apprehension about returning to a physical office
    • revisiting and revising remote work policies.

    Webcast dates: May 20, May 26, May 29, June 3, June 8, June 12, June 16 (all from noon to 1 p.m.). Reserve your spot.

    Endnotes

    1 These guidelines were outlined in a statewide plan to reopen the economy with restrictions, in phases. However, Gov. Tony Evers has reportedly abandoned the statewide plan in light of the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that blocked an extension of the statewide safer at home order.




  • May
    20
    2020

    COVID-19 and Legal Trends: Finding Opportunity Amidst Downturn

    A recent legal industry trends report found that new matter creation dropped by nearly 40 percent in April as individuals and business defer legal matters. But those matters aren't going away, and lawyers must find innovative ways to serve clients.

    Joe Forward

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    May 20, 2020 – Sarah Ruffi, a solo practitioner in Wausau, was off to a great start in 2020. Then in mid-March, when the safe-at-home order came down, it all changed.

    “It was kind of like entering the twilight zone,” said Ruffi, who practices mainly the areas of business, real estate, and estate planning. “The phones went silent.”

    She’s opening more real estate files now and advising clients on efforts to reopen their businesses. And she’s bolstering and retooling her own business practices.

    “I chose to look at it as a way to clean up things in my practice, make sure my systems and processes are working and updated,” Ruffi said. “I’m using this pause button as an opportunity rather than a death sentence. That’s the message I’m sending clients.”

    New Matters Down

    Ruffi’s experience is likely similar to other solo and small firm practitioners in Wisconsin. A recent report from Clio, a practice management software provider, highlights the trends that have occurred in the legal industry through a snapshot in April.

    Clio, a State Bar of Wisconsin affinity partner, surveyed COVID-19’s impact on law firms nationwide and held a webinar to discuss and analyze the findings in its recent report.

    Sarah Ruffi

    “I’m using this pause button as an opportunity rather than a death sentence,” says Sarah Ruffi, a solo practitioner in Wausau. “That’s the message I’m sending clients.”

    Using aggregated and anonymous law firm user data, as well as a survey of nearly 500 lawyers and more than 1,000 consumers in April, the report uncovers the reality: compared with February numbers, new weekly matters dropped by nearly 40 percent.

    “For us, this is a very clear early indicator that law firms are going to be in for a tough few months,” said CLIO founder Jack Newton.

    “One silver lining around all of this is that we do believe that this new matter creation is not necessarily new matter creation that has been cancelled, so to speak, but simply deferred. There is a backlog of new matters that are waiting to be created.”

    Navigating Uncertainty

    A stay-at-home and social distancing environment is not conducive to business dependent on face-to-face interaction. Many individuals have lost their jobs and many businesses are struggling, if not closing shop, and law firms are feeling the pain too.

    Even though law firms were deemed essential businesses when Wisconsin safe-at-home lockdown took effect in March, many consumers were likely not aware of that and many others likely deferred legal matters to save money during uncertain times. Stay-at-home orders are now lifting, including Wisconsin’s order, but uncertainty will persist.

    According to the Clio survey, almost 50 percent of consumers agreed they would defer a legal issue until after the coronavirus pandemic, largely because of costs.

    “So the default state for consumers of legal services and a COVID-19 landscape is to defer taking action on a legal issue,” Newton said. “As legal professionals, we need to think about how we counter this as the default state of behavior. But there is a gigantic opportunity for lawyers that respond in the right way to this crisis.”

    What’s clear is consumers still want legal help if there’s a way to get it. The report noted that 60 percent of consumers said they would prefer a lawyer’s assistance in dealing with a legal issue, and 75 percent of consumers deem lawyers as essential.

    alt text

    “There is a gigantic opportunity for lawyers that respond in the right way to this crisis,” says CLIO founder Jack Newton.

    Consumer Expectations

    One of the keys for lawyers and law firms, Newton says, is to understand consumer expectations for legal service delivery as this ongoing pandemic unfolds. Consumers cite cost and accessibility as major barriers in the delivery of legal services.

    “Perhaps surprising to some and not to others is that there’s actually a huge divide between consumer expectations and what lawyers expectations are,” Newton said.

    Consumers may seek alternative payment plans, for instance. As social distancing becomes the norm, almost 70 percent of consumers say they would prefer working with a lawyer who could share documents electronically through an online portal. 

    Consumers may also be fearful that dealing with a legal issue now, especially contested matters of litigation, will hurt their cases. In Wisconsin, like many states, in-person proceedings are still suspended and all hearings are being conducted remotely.

    According to the report, almost 40 percent of consumers believe a remote hearing – as opposed to an in-person hearing – would negatively impact the outcome of their case.

    “Much of marketing needs to tell a message that you should still be advancing your legal matters,” Newton said. “This comment is reinforced by a very surprising data point for me, which was that despite the fact that the majority of consumers thought that lawyers were an essential service, 22 percent of consumers believe that lawyers have stopped offering legal services over the course of this pandemic.”

    Newton said the legal industry will see an entirely new category of legal matters emerge as a result of COVID-19, and lawyers should be ready to deal with the backlog.

    Explore Technology, Stay Connected

    Accessibility to legal services during the pandemic is also a barrier for consumers, but Newton says lawyers have pivoted quickly to using technology tools.

    Joe Forwardorg jforward wisbar Joe Forward, Saint Louis Univ. School of Law 2010, is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by org jforward wisbar email or by phone at (608) 250-6161.

    “We are seeing very positive impacts in terms of technology accelerating in law firms,” Newton said. “We are seeing 5 or 10 years of technology adoption and change happening in the legal space compressed into five or 10 weeks.”

    “The profession has taken a quantum leap of how aggressively it is adopting technology and leveraging technology to provide legal services amidst this crisis. So we see 83 percent of lawyers now agree that cloud technology is fundamental to survival.”

    Newton said lawyers realize this is a matter of survival and no longer just a matter of getting more efficient or getting a little better at delivering a client experience.

    “This is about surviving an entirely new world. A large majority of lawyers agree there’s going to be a profound and lasting change as a result of this pandemic,” he said.

    Newton says state and local bars associations, and other legal communities, can help lawyers stay connected with one another and offer the resources they need.

    “One of the most important things that has gone away during the crisis is a sense of community and social interaction and connectedness,” Newton said. “Bar associations, more than ever, need to look at themselves as providers of that community … create at least a sense that everyone is in this together and navigating this crisis together.”

    Find the Need

    Ruffi, who practices in Wausau, agrees that staying connected is important. “This has given us an opportunity to rethink how we stay connected with people,” she said. “Just because we are separate doesn’t mean we have to stay separated. Our contacts are just different.”

    Ruffi also has a message for fellow solo and small firm lawyers. “Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” she said. “I have done a lot more Facebook Lives and webinars for estate planning. You still have to do client development, you still have to get out there.”

    She said lawyers must think about the practice areas that people need at the moment and explore how their law practices fit in with the current need. “Don’t give up,” she said.

    Turbocharging Change: Who are Wisconsin’s Legal Innovators?

    wisconsin legal innovator banner

    Within a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has turbocharged the legal industry’s transformation, say legal experts. It has propelled the legal profession to move to remote work and distance learning. And, it will change forever how the legal system serves the public.

    The profession has taken a quantum leap in aggressively adopting and leveraging technology to provide legal services amidst this crisis,” says CLIO cloud-based technology founder Jack Newton in a recent InsideTrack interview.

    “We are seeing 5 or 10 years of technology adoption and change happening in the legal space compressed into five or 10 weeks.”

    This is no longer just a matter of getting more efficient or getting a little better at delivering a client experience,” says Newton. “This is about surviving an entirely new world.”

    Who are Wisconsin’s Legal Innovators?

    Who is embracing current challenges, looking for opportunities to do it better? Tell us about the people and ideas that are changing Wisconsin’s legal landscape.

    Through the “That’s a Fine Idea: Legal Innovation Wisconsin” initiative, the State Bar of Wisconsin is asking the legal community to help it tell the story of legal innovation. The Wisconsin Lawyer will feature the people behind the best examples of legal innovation in the November 2020 issue.

    Innovation can come in many forms. It could mean:

    • New ways to use technology to improve client service or serve a new market

    • New ways to support virtual workforces to improve job satisfaction, increase productivity, and increase internal operating efficiency

    • Best practices for promoting workplace diversity

    • New marketing/business development strategies

    • New ways of providing pro bono or reduced-cost services

    Learn more or find the nomination form at ThatsaFineIdea.com. The deadline for nominations is June 30, 2020.




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