Oct. 20, 2021 – If there’s an episode from Lindsey Draper’s career that exemplifies the passion he brings to client protection, it’s the time he appeared before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2012.
Draper was before the court to argue in support of a petition to boost the annual assessment lawyers pay to the Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection. Draper told the justices the story of a couple with a disabled daughter who’d received a payment from the fund. After the father suffered a heart attack, the couple went to a lawyer to establish a trust for their daughter. The lawyer stole $100,000 from the couple.
“It wasn’t just that their money was gone – it was their peace of mind that their daughter would be OK,” Draper said. “And what I was describing to the supreme court was the tremendous feeling of being able to give that money back.”
The National Client Protection Organization (NCPO) recently recognized Draper for his work on client protection issues by awarding him the Isaac Hecht Award last month.
NCPO is a nonprofit that helps protect clients from dishonest lawyers by supporting funds and programs across the United States. Since 2006, NCPO has annually presented the Isaac Hecht Award to a person or organization with a record of achievements in client protection. The award is named for Isaac Hecht, a Baltimore lawyer who spent decades advocating for client protection programs.
Draper was nominated for the award by David Weyant, the president and CEO of the Alberta Lawyers Indemnity Association.
“Lindsey D. Draper is an extraordinary individual whose passion and dedication to the public good is evident in everything he does,” Weyant wrote in his nomination letter. “His contributions, including selflessly giving his time and experience in a variety of volunteer roles within and outside of the legal profession … are diverse and many.”
Draper, who received his law degree from Marquette University Law School, has been a member of the NCPO board of directors since 2004. He currently serves as a director-at-large. Draper has also served as the chairman of the ABA Standing Committee on Client Protection, the chairman of the State Bar of Wisconsin's Law-Related Education and Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection Committees, and on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility’s Diversity and Inclusion and Continuing Legal Education committees.
Second from Wisconsin to Win Award
Draper is the second Wisconsinite to be honored with the Isaac Hecht award. The first was Kris Wenzel, former program coordinator in the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Member Services Department, in 2015. Draper said he first got involved in NCPO because of Wenzel.
Jeff M. Brown is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6126.
“I nominated her for the award because I watched the work that she did,” Draper said. “Being the second Wisconsin person to win the award means a great deal, knowing that the nomination came from people from other parts of the country.”
During his legal career, Draper worked as an assistant district attorney, an assistant public defender, and a court commissioner. Not every lawyer he worked with, Draper said, saw the value in having a client protection fund. Draper, of course, disagreed. He said his passion for working on client protection issues stems in part from his reverence for the legal profession.
“That whole notion of the difference in us having a job and us being a profession is what drives how I feel about this,” he said.
Draper is currently serving his third five-year term on the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection. Wisconsin lawyers annually pay $25 into the fund, an amount established by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He said the fund’s work is vital to the profession.
“The client protection fund is one of the most significant activities that we as lawyers do,” Draper noted. “We are, to my knowledge, the only self-regulating profession, and as a result we have a responsibility not only to hold ourselves accountable but also to protect the people that lawyers may hurt. You know, it’s painful when you read the stories of people who trusted lawyers and ended up being hurt.”
Role of NCPO
Draper said the NCPO is an important resource for state client protection funds. The NCPO advises state funds on novel issues (such as whether a client who gave money to a lawyer who died before providing any services should be recompensed) and helps push for legislative changes.
An example of the latter is the move to enact payee notification laws. Such laws require insurance companies to notify both a lawyer and his or her client of a settlement, to prevent lawyers from absconding with settlement funds before clients are even aware of the settlements.
Alecia Chandler, NCPO president, said Draper’s support has been invaluable during her term.
“I am so honored that we present this award to Lindsey while I am president,” Chandler said. “He has been my cheerleader when I have faced some very dark days, always making me feel like I have value and that someone else sees how much I try, even when I don’t succeed.”
Draper said the other members of the NCPO board sprung the award on him. Because of the pandemic, the event at which the award is typically handed out was held virtually. Draper was told there had been no nominations for the award this year. So he was surprised when, at the end of a town hall meeting during the event, another board member announced that the next item on the agenda was the Isaac Hecht Award.
“I’m honored beyond belief,” Draper said. “It does mean that a lot of people with whom I have worked for a number of years have felt there was a reason to recognize me. I believe this is the fourteenth time the award has been given out. That puts me in a really special group.”
In addition to his work with NCPO and the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, Draper serves as vice-president for diversity, equity, and inclusion with the Institute for Well-Being in Law. For Draper, the link between lawyer well-being and client protection is obvious.
“If you have a healthy lawyer, there’s a darned good chance you’re not going to need the client protection fund. The kinds of issues that lead to the fall from grace – substance abuse, excessive stress, lawyers walking away from their practices – those are the kinds of things that if the lawyer is healthy, we don’t need to pay back, and we can protect clients.”
Draper said his client protection work is a way to give back to the profession that’s given him so many opportunities.
“Protecting clients is a huge piece. It’s hard for me not to develop a passion – if the profession has been so good to us as attorneys, we have to protect its reputation.”