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  • May 04, 2022

    Wisconsin Legal Innovators, Class of 2022: Nominate by June 30

    The State Bar of Wisconsin is seeking nominations for the 2022 Wisconsin Legal Innovator awards. The "That's a Fine Idea: Legal Innovation Wisconsin" initiative, now in its 9th year, has uncovered some of Wisconsin's greatest legal innovators.
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    May 4, 2021 – Fueled by necessity, the legal industry has undergone transformative change in recent years. Lawyers and law firms, and corporate and government legal departments are innovating to meet the challenges. Are you one of them?

    The State Bar of Wisconsin is seeking nominations for the 2022 Wisconsin Legal Innovator awards. The “That’s a Fine Idea: Legal Innovation Wisconsin” initiative, now in its 9th year, has uncovered some of Wisconsin’s greatest legal innovators.

    If you or someone you know has implemented innovative ideas, take the time to nominate them. Selected by the State Bar’s Communications Committee, the 2022 class of legal innovators will be featured in November Wisconsin Lawyer™.

    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 We are particularly interested in the following categories of innovators:

    Solo & Small Firm Innovators. Solo and small firm lawyers wear a lot of hats. They are constantly thinking of ways to increase efficiency, market their services, and provide top-quality client services in a challenging market. If you are a solo or small firm attorney, think about any changes you or your firm have made, however small. Innovation isn’t just grand ideas and major transformation. It also appears in small bites, over time.

    Large Firm Innovators. As we have seen in recent years, larger firms often experiment with innovative ideas to drive competitive advantage and create value for larger clients. This has come in the form of special software applications, compliance tools, alternative billing practices, or creating partnerships with other community leaders.

    Corporate Counsel Innovators. In-house lawyers at corporate legal departments must deliver strategic solutions to help their organizations navigate regulations, manage litigation, and close on business transactions. What innovative ideas has your department implemented in recent years to meet the challenges?

    Government Law Innovators. From prosecutors to public defenders, from state agency lawyers to city attorneys, government lawyers and court systems must find innovative ways to balance large caseloads with stretched resources. At the same time, government lawyers are instrumental in creating innovative initiatives to help the public. Help us publicize innovation in your agency, department, court, or program.

    Young Lawyer Innovators. Growing up in the digital age, younger lawyers are often technologically savvy, network and market differently, and assist their clients, their firms and their legal departments with creative and innovative thinking. Do you know of a young lawyer is has embraced innovation early in their careers?

    Nonprofit or Pro Bono Innovators. Legal aid organizations, pro bono clinics and programs, and other nonprofit service providers are constantly using innovation to assist indigent and low-income individuals and families. With limited resources, innovation is required. What kinds of innovation are you seeing in this area? Please nominate!

    Lifetime Legal Innovator. These are the movers and shakers who have been innovating their entire careers. As the times change, they consistently find innovative ways to keep their programs, law firms, or other organizations on the cutting edge.

    Legal Innovators: Where are they Now?

    The State Bar of Wisconsin has recognized 8 classes of Wisconsin Legal Innovators since 2014, with more than 50 individuals or programs recognized.

    Mike GonringMike Gonring was in the inaugural class, in 2014. His firm, Quarles & Brady, donated funds to start the Milwaukee Justice Center’s Mobile Legal Clinic, still in operation. The goal is “to bring services provided by the Milwaukee Justice Center out to isolated neighborhoods where it is difficult for those residents to reach free legal assistance.”

    “The Innovator program gave it more exposure among attorneys and generated more interest in the Milwaukee metropolitan area and, I believe, led to more volunteers to work the clinic,” Gonring said recently. “It is crucial that we get more people thinking of ways to close the gap, or creative ways to fund programs that close the gap. Innovation is everything in this area.”

    Angela Schultz and Mary FerwerdaAngela Schultz and Mary Ferwerda, of Marquette University Law School and the Milwaukee Justice Center, received Wisconsin Legal Innovator awards in 2019.

    They developed an experiential learning activity called “Lost in the Law.” The role-playing game educates various participants in the justice system about the complex circumstances facing lower-income Wisconsinites in navigating the court system.

    “When the pandemic hit, we were unable to offer the in-person activity experience, but we have since worked with Marquette University’s Digital Scholarship Lab to develop an electronic version of the experiential learning activity,” they said.

    David Simon and John Turlais

    David Simon and John Turlais of Foley & Lardner LLP, Milwaukee, were part of the 2015 Wisconsin Legal Innovator class. They devised a new tool to help U.S. companies comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when doing business abroad. The tool helps clients implement the legal advice dispensed to help them follow the law.

    Simon said recently that the Wisconsin Legal Innovator program “was very helpful in raising awareness of our service, Foley Global Risk Solutions. It was also great to be connected into a network of other innovative thinkers in the Wisconsin bar.”

    What has changed since 2015?

    “Competition is coming,” Simon said. “Bar-rule restrictions that have protected lawyers from real competition are eroding. Our clients are demanding more for less and faster. Innovation is no longer a ‘nice to have;’ it is a ‘must have.’ The biggest change I see is the expansion of and improvement in technology to help facilitate innovation.

    Nominate a legal innovator

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