More than 30 lawyers attended to the 50-year Member Recognition Luncheon May 12 in Delafield. At center, front row, are two of the few women in their law school graduating class – Mary Sfasciotti (left) and Helen Madsen. (Click image to view larger version.)
Visit the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Facebook page for more photos of this event, or click here.
May 15, 2015 – In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson was President, Earl Warren was the U.S. Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, the Vietnam War was heating up, and the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. That same year, a new class of lawyers took the oath to uphold and support the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law, among other duties.
This year, some of those lawyers celebrate 50 years in the legal profession as members of the State Bar of Wisconsin. Many of them practiced law in firms, or as judges. Some worked in government, in business, at universities, or nonprofit organizations.
Some of them worked in small towns, some in big cities. But all of them made contributions to the Wisconsin legal community and beyond, and all of them were recently honored at the 50-year Member Recognition Ceremony in Delafield.
The 50-year member list includes two former State Bar of Wisconsin presidents, Gary Bakke (2000-01), of New Richmond, and Myron LaRowe (1981-82), a Reedsburg attorney who helped start the Wisconsin Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS).
The list also includes former U.S. Congressman Thomas Petri, who served Wisconsin's 6th Congressional District from 1979 to 2014, and numerous judges, including former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox, and former Wisconsin Appeals Court Judge Charles Dykman.
In addition, the list includes several woman, trailblazers in a profession that was traditionally dominated by men. Judith Lichtman, a Washington D.C. lawyer, fought for women and families. Helen Madsen worked on major health law issues for U.W.-Madison.
Helen Madsen, one of two women in her Cornell Law School class, is honored by the State Bar on May 12 for her 50 years of service.
But the list goes on.
Attorney James Kurtz spent 37 years as a lawyer for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), including 29 years as the DNR’s chief counsel. He decided to become a lawyer after watching Perry Mason.
One of the biggest challenges Kurtz faced was finding a legal framework to create the Lower Wisconsin Riverway. He’s a happily retired military history junky.
Lawyers like Alan Levy, a Milwaukee employment and labor law attorney, have spent years dedicated to serving their clients, and also have many stories to tell. As a young lawyer in 1965, one of Levy’s first assignments involved Jimmy Hoffa (read about it here).
Attorney Kenneth Hill, a partner at Hill & Walczak Law Office in Wisconsin Rapids, also spent 34 years as a part-time city attorney. He said the biggest challenge he ever faced was in his work as a city attorney, during a teachers’ strike.
Stories and Advice from 50-year Members
Read about other 50-year members in previous issues of InsideTrack:
“Full Circle: 50 Years for Justice Jon Wilcox”
Jon Wilcox played a lot of fiddles in his day. A practicing attorney, trial judge, legislator, state supreme court justice, and a tree farmer – when Justice Wilcox looks back on his career, he can say he did a thing or two, or three.
“Full Steam Ahead: 50 Years for Appeals Court Judge Charles Dykman”
Despite his brother’s warnings that he would have to “work like a dog” to be a judge on the new Wisconsin Court of Appeals, Charles Dykman proceeded full steam ahead. A year later, he was elected and stayed for more than three decades.
“‘Be Courageous’: Helen Madsen, Pioneer in Medical Center Law, Celebrates 50 Years in the Profession”
While she didn’t aim to practice as a lawyer, Helen Madsen’s career encompassed pioneering changes in health law in her position as an attorney with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Alan Levy: The Jimmy Hoffa Story and 50 Years in Labor Law”
Milwaukee lawyer Alan Levy has some good stories to tell, including one involving Jimmy Hoffa. But it’s his 50 years in labor law that takes the cake, and he’s still going.
“Law Degree as License for Activism: Judith Lichtman Celebrates 50 Years”
A 1965 U.W. Law School graduate goes on to fight for rights of women and families in Washington, D.C. as leader of the National Partnership for Women and Families. Judith Lichtman celebrates 50 years as a lawyer in 2015.
“50-Year Member: Gary Bakke, Ahead of His Time”
A former State Bar of Wisconsin president, Gary Bakke knew change was coming in the legal profession, well before it came. A visionary and small-town lawyer, he built the law firm of Bakke Norman.
“I also believe that my assistance with the settlement of the teachers’ strike was one of my most rewarding experiences as an attorney,” said Hill, who recalled a funny story.
“I served as a guardian ad litem in a divorce action and I recommended to the court that one child be placed with the husband and one with the wife. The children were teenagers. The wife paid my fees with a waste paper basket full of pennies, with a note that said ‘you are such a skunk that I thought I would pay your fees in scents.’
Attorney William Finke spent 45 years as corporate counsel for Wisconsin Electric Power Company. He was a civil engineering major who attended law school after active duty in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, during the Berlin crisis in 1961-62.
“When the situation in Germany cooled off, young officers were released from active duty to attend graduate or professional school,” Finke recalled. “I decided to attend law school at Marquette University, my parents’ alma mater.”
As a young attorney with Wisconsin Electric, Finke battled with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in the early 1970s over proposed thermal water quality standards for Lake Michigan.
Since his retirement in 2010, Finke has served as vice president and general counsel (pro bono) of the East Troy Railroad Museum, Inc. d/b/a East Troy Electric Railroad, a tourist railroad operating under the jurisdiction of the Federal Railroad Administration and the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads in Wisconsin.
Roger Pascal, spent his career in private practice in Chicago. As a young lawyer in the 1970s, Pascal brought a case against the New York Taxing Authority, which landed at the U.S. Supreme Court. His parents attended the oral argument, Pascal arguing.
“Bursting with pride during the argument, my Dad nudged the lady sitting next to him and whispered to her ‘that's my son up there.’ She whispered back 'that's my husband up there,’ pointing to Justice John Paul Stevens,” Pascal joked.
Despite losing in all the New York state courts, Pascal won a unanimous 9-0 decision in Boston Stock Exchange v. State Tax Commission, 429 U.S. 318 (1977).
Attorney Oak Dowling worked in numerous corporate capacities before starting his own law practice in San Rafael, California. He started in the legal department of Wisconsin Bell Telephone Company in 1965, and went on to work for United Airlines and Abbott Laboratories in Illinois, and Del Monte Corporation in San Francisco.
His most rewarding experiences in the law: “Representing a disabled African-American man become adopted in an adult step-parent adoption and helping a cleaning lady receive a large inheritance,” said Dowling, married 52 years to girl he met at U.W.-Madison. His daughter was born while Dowling attended law school at U.W.
At age 57, Dowling obtained a degree in Drama. He’s acted in 15 main stage plays, and currently teaches Courtroom Drama in the Movies and Theater at Dominican University.
Congratulations to all these lawyers, and other members of the class of 1965. For the full list, see "Milestone Celebration: 50-year Members to be Honored at Spring Event."