June 2, 2021 – You’ve achieved your dream: You’re a lawyer – congratulations!
Three years isn’t enough to teach you everything you need to know about the law, let alone the practical aspects of legal practice. And now that you’re admitted to the State Bar of Wisconsin, you may no longer have access to your law school library.
How much does it cost to file a lawsuit? How do you do electronic filing? Where can you find good materials that not only explain the law but have forms you can use? Is there someone who would be willing to mentor a new lawyer?
Where do you go to answer these questions? Here are some resources to get you started.
#1: State Bar of Wisconsin Has Many Resources for You
Keep this website in mind: WisBar.org. The State Bar has numerous resources to help with the practical aspects of legal practice, including CLE programs for new lawyers, PINNACLE® books via WisBar.org’s Marketplace, online forms, and law office practice management videos. There are legal research materials including a free subscription to Fastcase.
Be sure to check out the “For Members” area of WisBar.org, which lists your membership and benefits, legal research resources (including Fastcase and Caselaw Express™), as well as:
- Practice411™ for law office management assistance;
- The Ethics program (including an Ethics hotline);
- access to section and division information;
- pro bono work;
- the lawyer referral program; and
- the Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP), and much more.
#2: Wisconsin State Law Library Is a Great Place to Start Your Research
The Wisconsin State Law Library serves the entire state of Wisconsin, and provides free library cards to attorneys. Sign up for a card as soon as you’re licensed to gain access to a practice-oriented print and digital collection. Check out books directly from the Madison or Milwaukee locations, or borrow books through the mail. With a library card, you can access ebooks and current journals from anywhere.
Barbara Fritschel is the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals branch librarian in Milwaukee. She is a member of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin.
Carol Hassler is a law librarian at the Wisconsin State Law Library. She is a member of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin (LLAW). LLAW's Public Relations Committee coordinates regular contributions by its members to InsideTrack.
The State Law Library also provides experienced research assistance, which can be especially valuable when researching unusual topics or working with few resources. Contact reference librarians by phone or email for quick and friendly help. Add these contacts to your address book for an easy reminder: State Law Library Reference desk: (608) 267-9696 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
#3: Where to Find Court Rules and Procedures
Many courts have their own local rules that supplement the general rules of procedure. Links to each court are listed on WisBar.org. Consult these regularly, as they will govern your case.
The Eastern District and Western District of Wisconsin websites have much to offer the new attorney, including local procedures (including ones during COVID-19), forms, fee schedules, and information on electronic filing. Some of these procedures vary by judge, so be sure to review them before you first appear before a judge, and continue to review frequently during the case.
Wisconsin Court System websites have several vital resources for attorneys. On wicourts.gov, start with Services for Attorneys for an overview of essential resources and e-filing help. The Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website (WCCA, often referred to as the “CCAP database”) provides docket, judgment, and lien information for circuit court cases throughout Wisconsin. Don’t miss the site help and frequently asked questions for answers to questions your clients may have, or tips for crafting better searches.
#4: Where to Find Wisconsin Jury Instructions
It’s a good idea to start looking at jury instructions at the beginning of a case. They provide the elements you need to prove, as well as commentary with relevant case law to start your research. State and federal pattern jury instructions are online.
There are over 1,500 civil, criminal, and juvenile Wisconsin Jury Instructions available to researchers. Current jury instructions are available for free browsing and download from the Wisconsin State Law Library website.
As mentioned above, Fastcase is free to all Wisconsin-licensed attorneys through their State Bar memberships. Fastcase provides keyword searchable access to the Wisconsin Jury Instructions from 2015-20. Older, superseded jury instructions can also be requested from the State Law Library reference service.
#5: Information on Local Bar Associations to Connect With Colleagues Nearby
A great place to get to know your local legal community is to join a local bar association. You can find listings on the State Bar’s website, WisBar.org.
Many cities and counties have their own local bar association, and there are bars for both the Eastern and Western U.S. Districts of Wisconsin. A local bar association is a great place to network and attend programs on local legal issues. Some offer events such as Grow Your Practice Institutes, pro bono opportunities, and mentorship programs.
Bonus #1: Where to Find the Requirements for Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
To maintain your license and improve your practice, you must meet annual continuing legal education (CLE) reporting requirements. CLE requirements can be met through a number of different programs, via the State Bar of Wisconsin (through CLE seminars and conferences, like its Annual Meeting & Conference each June) and other providers.
The Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners’ CLE reporting page includes a helpful overview of CLE reporting requirements, plus a browseable list of approved credit classes. Free CLE classes are offered by some providers, or during special events like Law Day celebrations or via pro bono work. The Wisconsin State Law Library also offers free CLE classes and webinars and advertises these on their classes page and in their monthly newsletter.
Bonus #2: Your New Colleagues Are a Resource
You’re not alone as you embark on this next chapter. Mentorships and professional connections are invaluable for any attorney just starting out. Reach out to the State Bar’s mentorship program, join a State Bar section and/or division, and explore your local bar associations.
If you are beginning a new job with a law firm, check what research services are available to help you navigate the firm and the complex web of legal information you may need to access in your practice. From treatises to case law to sample forms and contracts, using library services can help save you time and your clients’ money.
Start Your Research Here
Start your research with practice guides, codebooks, and treatises from State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE®. Packed with clear explanations, in-depth procedural strategies, relevant citations, checklists, sample letters, forms, and other key insights, our print books and Books UnBound® can save you hundreds of hours of legal research. Keep current in your practice area and join the thousands of attorneys who rely on our resources for the latest legal developments in Wisconsin.
To start, visit marketplace.wisbar.org