Inside Track: Jim Baxter: A 'Giant' for Lawyer Wellness and Recovery:

State Bar of Wisconsin

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    Jim Baxter: A 'Giant' for Lawyer Wellness and Recovery

    Milwaukee attorney Jim Baxter was well known for his compassion and dedication to helping struggling lawyers. He was recently honored for more than 30 years of work as a volunteer with the State Bar of Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program.

    Shannon Green

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    Jim Baxter

    Aug. 21, 2019 – Jim Baxter is “a giant for wellness, healing, and recovery among lawyers,” says Chesley Erwin, a volunteer for the State Bar of Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP).

    A volunteer in the program for more than 30 years, James “Jim” A. Baxter is recipient of the 2019 WisLAP Volunteer Award.

    “Jim spent many hours in service to his peers as a mentor, educator, and recovery advocate, said Mary Spranger, WisLAP manager.

    WisLAP provides free, confidential assistance to lawyers, judges, law students, and their families in coping with alcoholism and other addictions, depression, anxiety, and other problems related to the stress of practicing law. The award honors a lawyer or judge who has provided confidential, meaningful assistance, educational outreach, or other volunteer service through the WisLAP program.

    The 2019 WisLAP Volunteer of the Year

    Baxter, 72, a retired shareholder at Von Briesen & Roper, S.C., passed away unexpectedly on July 17, 2019, before receiving the award. He was honored with a moment of silence at the annual WisLAP training CLE on Aug. 9.

    “Jim was an integral part of the effectiveness and longevity of the program,” Spranger said.

    Last year, Baxter reached out to Spranger, asking what he could do to benefit the program. “We asked for help with outreach,” Spranger said. “Jim recently completed four presentations to county bar associations.” Three more had been scheduled at the time of his death.

    Helping Colleagues

    Through his volunteer work, many lawyers learned about where to turn when they need help. Baxter was also involved in interventions for more than 50 attorneys – a process where lawyers who are struggling receive the help, guidance, and support they need to regain control of their lives and careers.

    “When mental health and substance use problems are unresolved, lawyers struggle with functioning at home and at work,” Spranger said. An intervention involves conversations that require both skill and empathy – which Baxter provided for his colleagues.

    “Jim was always willing to meet with a lawyer in need to offer support and guidance without judgment,” Spranger said. “We will forever appreciate Jim’s many hours spent providing compassionate service to his profession.”

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