June 25, 2015 – Madison attorney and recently retired U.W. Law School Professor Ralph Cagle marched into office as the State Bar of Wisconsin’s 60th president last night in the presence of friends, family, colleagues, and former State Bar presidents.
No, he really marched in. Bucky Badger and a U.W. Marching Band ensemble appeared at the State Bar’s Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony at the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva to help Cagle assume the presidential gavel from 19 former State Bar presidents, including Michelle Behnke, who Cagle mentored in earlier years.
“I’ve known Ralph all my legal career,” said Behnke, who emceed. “I know a thing or two about how he will handle the responsibility that he is going to undertake today.”
Sharing stories of Cagle’s mentorship to her as a young lawyer, Behnke described Cagle as someone who deeply cares about fellow lawyers and is willing to serve and lead.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack administered the oath of office, and Cagle assumes a one-year term on July 1, succeeding outgoing State Bar President Robert Gagan of Green Bay, who becomes immediate past-president.
Madison attorney and recently retired U.W. Law School Professor Ralph Cagle was sworn in as the State Bar of Wisconsin’s 60th president.
Cagle Knows Lawyers
With children, grandchildren, and wife Tonia nearby, Cagle said the event celebrates “those who have, who do, and who will do the work of making our association a force for bettering our profession, the lives of its members, and the people they serve.”
Cagle (U.W. 1974), who came to Wisconsin from the East Coast in his early 20s, spent 25 of his 40-year legal career at U.W. Law School – as director of what is now the Lawyering Skills Program and teaching professional responsibility courses.
He retired just this month. But he has also spent much of his career advising lawyers and law firms on professional discipline and malpractice cases, currently as of counsel with Hurley Burish & Stanton in Madison, and he’ll continue a mediation practice.
In short, Cagle knows lawyers, and spoke of the important work lawyers do.
“We represent the reviled, the aggrieved, the angry, the dispossessed, the dissenter, the fanatic, the pariah, and sometimes even as unpopular: the powerful, the rich, the arrogant, the polluter, the landlord, the bank, the bill collector, and the government.
“Like Atticus Finch, lawyers do this with integrity, civility, good sense and common decency, which is not often recognized or revered,” Cagle said.
“Lawyers do much of the heavy lifting needed to make our legal system fair and our communities whole and successful.” Look around Wisconsin, he said, and “you will consistently find lawyers planted firmly in the soil of community betterment.”
During the ceremony, 19 former State Bar presidents helped to pass the presidential gavel to Ralph Cagle.
Lawyers Need Help Too
Cagle said the State Bar leadership, including 21 new board members, can help lawyers continue their important work by developing an evolving portfolio of programs and services, and continuing the good work of former presidents and other leaders.
He’ll also address “the cards he is dealt” – those immediate, unforeseen, and pressing issues – and promote initiatives to help lawyers face the unknown: the future.
“I will propose some new initiatives in the areas of leadership development and the future of the legal profession,” Cagle said.
For instance, Cagle wants to examine how elected leaders are selected and trained, exercise leadership roles, and assess how to strengthen leadership capacity and performance. And he plans to develop a leadership training program “to develop leadership skills and capabilities among our next generation of lawyers,” he said.
On the future of the legal profession, Cagle notes the “forces that challenge our professional lives” in structural, profound, and permanent ways.
From technology to cross-jurisdictional practice, from outside competition to changing client expectations, Cagle wants to draw on the work of the ABA and other state bars to identify proposals that can constructively address the changes. But first, he’ll march through Wisconsin, talking to lawyers directly about the challenges they are facing.
Members of the University of Wisconsin - Madison Band and mascot Bucky Badger helped to present new State Bar President Ralph Cagle, a former U.W. Law professor.
“I want us to get out and talk with Wisconsin lawyers where they live and work,” Cagle said, “to ask them about the current condition of their professional lives, what has changed in recent years and what they expect the future of their practice to be.”
“It is worth noting that whenever there is great change and challenge – and there are great challenges ahead – there are often great opportunities,” said Cagle.
More on President Cagle
Don’t miss “Ralph Cagle: A Perfect Fit” in the upcoming July/August issue of Wisconsin Lawyer magazine, to learn more about the State Bar’s newest president.
Visit the State Bar’s Facebook page for more photos of this event, or click here.