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  • InsideTrack
  • December 16, 2015

    Top 10 Articles of 2015

    From top tech innovations to legislation on restrictive covenants, from Wisconsin law blogs to groundwater conflicts, attorneys covered some hot topics in 2015. This is the annual “year in review” of top articles from Wisconsin Lawyer™ and InsideTrack™.

    Dec. 16, 2015 – The year cannot possibly end without the State Bar of Wisconsin’s annual review of Wisconsin Lawyer and WisBar InsideTrack articles that received the most hits on, based on numbers tracked by Google Analytics.

    Much of what’s written in those pages (and webpages) reflect the major legal and legislative developments that occured throughout the year, the substantive changes in the law, and other updates and trends to help lawyers keep up-to-date and informed.

    What’s more, many Wisconsin Lawyer and InsideTrack articles reflect the voices of State Bar members who deliver important developments of interest to other lawyers. In this “annual review,” the State Bar highlights some of the most read articles of the year.

    The Cloud has Landed: 10 Legal Tech Innovations and What They Mean1. The Cloud has Landed: 10 Legal Tech Innovations and What They Mean (WL, April)

    Attorney Bob Ambrogi, who covers technology for the ABA Journal, received a lot of hits on this one, perhaps reflecting the rapid development of technology and lawyers’ attempts to keep up. He discusses innovations and advances over the last five years, which have brought “dramatic and irreversible changes to the practice of law.”

    Topping his list: lawyers have a duty to be technologically competent. “The duty of technology competence will continue to expand and the Luddites among us will increasingly be at risk.”

    Bringing Up Baby: How Lawyer-moms Make it Work2. Bringing Up Baby: How Lawyer-moms Make it Work (WL, April)

    Raising children while working outside the home continues to be a challenge for 21st-century parents, but some developments in the past few decades bring women lawyers closer to equilibrium. In this article, attorney Kara Higdon follows-up on a 1986 Wisconsin Lawyer article that focused on women lawyers in the legal profession.

    “We’ve come a long way from the days when an attorney would bring her child to court, but firms and companies should remain vigilant in helping women achieve the balance they desire,” she wrote. “It will make them happier mothers and better lawyers.”

    Labor Department Dramatically Changes Interpretation of Independent Contractor Classification3. Labor Department Dramatically Changes Interpretation of Independent Contractor Classification (IT, September)

    Any time you have the words “dramatically” and “changes” in a headline, lawyers are bound to pay attention. Add “independent contractors” to it, and the hits start coming from labor and employment lawyers who encounter these problems daily.

    In this one, attorneys Sean Scullen, Michael Aldana, and Kerry Mohan provide a timely update on an Administrative Interpretation (AI) from the U.S. Department of Labor.

    “While an AI does not have the force of law, it is a strong indication of the DOL’s enforcement position and could limit employers’ ability to use the independent contractor classification moving forward,” the authors wrote.

    Protecting Your Rights: What to Do When Pulled Over in Wisconsin4. Protecting Your Rights: What to Do When Pulled Over in Wisconsin (IT, January)

    Attorney Eric Hunt kicked off the year with this top article, which appeals to both lawyers and their driving clients. Hunt notes that traffic stops are the most common contact that people will have with police, but many don’t fully understand their rights.

    Hunt explains that a significant percentage of criminal charges arise out of what begins as a routine traffic stop, and offers suggestions to deal with that stressful situation.

    “Most people are used to obeying police officer instructions, and police officers count on this to get you to do things at a traffic stop that they can only do with your permission,” he wrote. “The biggest example of this is asking to search your vehicle.”

    Sweeping Restrictive Covenant Reform Introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature5. Sweeping Restrictive Covenant Reform Introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature (IT, April)

    This legislation hasn’t moved since March, but attorney Daniel Finerty was quick to explain what this legislation proposes to do: change Wisconsin’s restrictive covenant statute and impact the drafting, negotiation, and enforcement of restrictive covenants.

    “While there is no telling what final legislation will look like, the legislation’s biggest impact, if enacted, will play out in state circuit courts and federal district courts in employers’ post-employment enforcement actions,” Finerty wrote.

    What is the Law on Driving under the Influence of Marijuana in Wisconsin?6. What is the Law on Driving under the Influence of Marijuana in Wisconsin? (IT, September)

    The law on drunk driving is relatively clear: You can’t drive with a blood-alcohol concentration above 0.08 in Wisconsin and most other states. But what about marijuana, which is now legal in some states and becoming more socially acceptable?

    In this article, attorney and State Bar legal writer Joe Forward explores the law on driving under the influence of marijuana in Wisconsin, with insight from OWI-DUI litigation specialist Lauren Stuckert, who says the zero-tolerance laws should change.

    Groundwater: Diminishing Resource, Increasing Conflict 7. Groundwater: Diminishing Resource, Increasing Conflict (WL, July 2015)

    Groundwater conflict isn’t limited to drought-stricken California. The high-capacity wells that support agriculture and other groundwater users in Wisconsin are drying Wisconsin’s waterways from the bottom up, according to attorney Christa Westerberg.

    Her article explains the legal basis for Wisconsin’s groundwater regulations, the legal developments, and the potential legislative action surrounding this natural resource.

    “Recent legal developments have provided Wisconsin’s groundwater, and the surface waters that depend on it, protection from increasing effects of well pumping and other stressors,” wrote Westerberg, noting that precedent could provide a framework for resolving future conflicts legislatively, administratively, or through future court decisions.

    An End to the Doctrine of Adverse Possession in Wisconsin?8. An End to the Doctrine of Adverse Possession in Wisconsin? (IT, November)

    Adverse possession remains a hot topic because the doctrine is used frequently to clarify boundaries, facilitate resolution of boundary disputes, and clean up titles.

    Attorney Jessica Shrestha has been our go-to author on explaining the age-old doctrine for Wisconsin Lawyer magazine, which has published two recent articles on the topic. In this article, Shrestha explains how two legislative proposals could effectively eliminate it.

    49 Wisconsin Law Blogs: Attorneys Writing Their Way to New Business 9. 49 Wisconsin Law Blogs: Attorneys Writing Their Way to New Business (IT, March 2015)

    “Law Blogs,” also known as “blawgs,” are all over the blogosphere, or “blawgosphere,” if you will. State Bar Legal writer Joe Forward wondered how many Wisconsin lawblawgs he could find. He initially identified 49, but that number is growing.

    Currently at 68 and counting, Forward explains how lawyers in Wisconsin are using their blawgs to inform potential clients – and attract their business – and as libraries to organize their own learning on subjects within or outside their own practice areas.

    “Although referrals from friends and family remain a top information source for finding and selecting a lawyer, one survey found that 61 percent of people now begin a lawyer search online, and legal blogs are among the online resources consulted,” he wrote.

    An Introduction: American Indian Tribes and Law in Wisconsin 10. An Introduction: American Indian Tribes and Law in Wisconsin (WL, May)

    In this article, attorneys Rebecca Webster, Andrew Adams III, and David Armstrong provide a general orientation to help Wisconsin lawyers understand the history and current status of American Indians and their tribes’ self-governance and law in the U.S.

    The authors noted that Wisconsin is home to 11 federally recognized Indian tribes that are independent entities with inherent power of self-government, but the independence of tribes is subject to exceptionally great powers of Congress under federal law.

    “Indian people and tribal governments face challenges far different from other people and communities due to their unique, historical, legal, and political relationship with the United States,” the authors write. Check out the fantastic photography in this one!

    Photo: Scott Denny, “The Approach” © 2015

    Bonus Picks

    The following articles are additional favorites identified by the State Bar’s Communications Department, which tracks legal developments and solicits authors for Wisconsin Lawyer and WisBar InsideTrack.

    11. That’s a Fine Idea! Meet Wisconsin’s Legal Innovators (WL, November). A few rock star lawyers among us – this article features a first-ever lifetime legal innovator and a number of lawyers and legal organizations that are using new ideas to solve problems and improve the delivery of legal services.

    12. Chief Appeals Court Judge Richard Brown Says Fare Thee Well (IT, July). A Wisconsin Appeals Court original, Judge Richard Brown retired in 2015 as one of the longest serving judges in Wisconsin history.

    13. Pick Your Winner: 2015 Smartphone Lineup (WL, January). State Bar Practice Management Advisor Tison Rhine did what is difficult to do on our own: Review the new smartphones out there and compare the features to arrive at an informed decision. Look for his update on this topic in the January Wisconsin Lawyer.

    14. How to Conduct Legally Compliant Job Applicant and Employee Background Checks in Wisconsin (IT, February). Attorney Scott Paler delivers a practical guide under both state and federal law, and the consequences for noncompliance.

    15. Bryan Stevenson: This Public Interest Lawyer Could Change America (IT, May). A featured speaker at the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Annual Meeting and Conference (AMC), public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson is an inspiring speaker. Look for an adaptation of his bestselling book, Just Mercy, on the big screen soon.

    16. Marti Wronski: At Bat for the Brewers (WL, July). Because being the general counsel for the Milwaukee Brewers is awesome.

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