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  • September 15, 2021

    Experience the Benefits: Run for a State Bar Officer or Board Position

    "My volunteer work for the State Bar makes me a more well-informed lawyer and a better-connected professional," says State Bar President-elect Margaret Hickey, who encourages her colleagues to run for a State Bar position.

    Margaret Wrenn Hickey

    Sept. 15, 2021 – Are you missing the collegiality of your peers during the pandemic? Do you love to work on issues that have a reach beyond your day-to-day practice of law?

    Consider running for a State Bar officer position, a member of the Board of Governors, or volunteering to work on one of our many committees, section boards, or divisions.

    While some may think that volunteering or running for a State Bar position is too time consuming and distracts from the law practice, my experience has been that my volunteer work for the State Bar makes me a more well-informed lawyer and a better-connected professional.

    While it does take time, one can select a position that is only a few hours per year, such as service on some committees, or run for a board position that may require more like a few hours or more per month.

    A Long History of Volunteering

    My early volunteering as a lawyer was for the Family Law Section Board on a child support committee. As a result of that work, I was asked in 1994 to serve as a member of the Joint Legislative Council Special Committee on Child Custody, Support and Visitation Laws.

    Margaret Wrenn Hickey Margaret Wrenn Hickey, U.W. 1986, is managing shareholder of Becker, Hickey & Poster, S.C., Milwaukee. She is president-elect of the State Bar of Wisconsin and chair of the Nominating Committee.

    After serving on this Joint Legislative Committee, I was asked to serve on the Family Law Section Board, where I served approximately 13 years. In this work, I met other experienced and respected family law attorneys from throughout the state, worked on special events such as the Family Law Section’s Door County Workshop, and learned about legislation before it happened with the opportunity to influence that legislation.

    In the 1990s, I became active with the Elder Law Section (now Elder Law and Special Needs Section) for the same reasons. Elder law attorneys who help the elderly and those with special needs are a very special group of people.

    Quite frankly, I thought I may be too intense for them, but they welcomed me anyway. I worked on legislation helped to create the annual Elder Law Workshop, which has been one of the most well attended CLE events for over 20 years. Like the Door County Workshop, it is not only the education, but also the networking with colleagues that makes this event so popular.

    Later, I ran for and served on the Board of Governors (BOG) for multiple terms for District 2 in Milwaukee. I served on the BOG for a total of about 13 years, including a year as chair and two years as treasurer. The BOG handles issues that affect the practice of law, such as petitions to the Wisconsin Supreme Court involving rules that govern attorneys, changes related to how courts function and things like multi-jurisdictional practice. The BOG work educated me about what is happening now and what may be coming for the profession. This improved the way I dealt with clients and how I ran my law practice.

    This Work Returns Benefits

    The benefits of this work are numerous.

    First, I benefited from the collegiality of my peers. So often, we are at odds with the attorney on the other side. It is a pleasure to get to know each other in a non-confrontational setting.

    Second, I have learned so much about the law from the meetings, about proposed legislation, and from my more experienced peers. This makes me a better lawyer.

    Third, I got a welcome break from the challenges of a daily family and elder law practice. The meetings reminded me of why many of us originally chose to practice law – to help people and attempt to improve some aspect of society.

    I am asking you to consider this work that will actually return benefits to you, perhaps more than you give to the work. Consider a run for Board of Governors. This is where the policy decisions are made about our State Bar.

    The deadline for governor nominations is March 1, 2022. Contact Jan Marks at jmarks@wisbar.org if you are interested. Districts across the state are proportional to the population of attorneys, so you may be one of many governors from your district, or you may be the only governor for a larger swath of the state. Either way, you will learn a lot, meet wonderful people, and improve the practice of law.

    If you are more ambitious or have more time, consider running for one of the officer positions of the State Bar: president-elect, secretary​, and Judicial Council representative. The deadline for nominations is Oct. 15. If you are interested in nominating yourself (a perfectly acceptable practice) or nominating someone else to run for State Bar office, contact Jan Marks at jmarks@wisbar.org.

    Thank You, Nominations Committee Members

    Thank you to Nominations Committee members Bob Gagan, Kristen Hardy, Peggy Herlitzka, and Joel Skinner, who will review nominations with me. Together, we will propose a slate of candidates for the statewide offices.

    If you are interested in a committee, section, or division, let me or a State Bar employee know that, and find out more about State Bar leadership opportunities on WisBar.org.

    Whatever you are interested in doing, we likely have a spot for you at the State Bar. I look forward to seeing you there!




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