WisBar News: The Centennial: Christopher Rogers Lays Out Priorities for State Bar Presidency:

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  • WisBar News
    June
    21
    2018

    The Centennial: Christopher Rogers Lays Out Priorities for State Bar Presidency

    Joe Forward

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    Christopher Rogers, a third generation lawyer whose grandfather began practicing law in Wisconsin 100 years ago, took the oath of office last evening to become the State Bar of Wisconsin’s new president.
    Chris Rogers and fmaily

    New State Bar President Chris Rogers poses with his family following his swearing-in ceremony at the State Bar's Annual Meeting & Conference in Lake Geneva. Rogers begins his term July 1.

    Visit the State Bar’s Facebook page for more photos of this event, or click here.

    June 21, 2018 – Christopher Rogers, a third-generation lawyer whose grandfather began practicing law in Wisconsin 100 years ago in 1918, took the oath of office last evening to become the State Bar of Wisconsin’s 63rd president, starting July 1.

    But Rogers, who took the oath administered by Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, was “astounded” to be standing there in front of a packed room of colleagues, friends, former classmates, justices and judges, and his family.

    “Here’s the deal,” Rogers said. “I was never going to be a lawyer. Ever.” But things changed, he said, and he realized that his talents, and his passion for helping people, lie in advocacy. “To do what I wanted to do, I realized I would have to go to law school.”

    The rest is history, and the history is long and rich in the Rogers family. His grandfather became a lawyer in 1918, his father in 1952. His brother, Peter, was admitted to the bar in 1980. And Chris Rogers was admitted to practice in 1995.

    All graduated from U.W. Law School, and U.W. Law School Dean Margaret Raymond spoke to note that tradition. “An extraordinary legacy,” said Dean Raymond, before presenting a gift from his law school classmates, a U.W. union terrace chair.

    One classmate, Milwaukee Bar Association President Shannon Allen of Dewitt Ross & Stevens in Milwaukee, toasted and lightly roasted Rogers. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Rhonda Lanford, a former colleague at Habush, emceed the event, held at the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, the location of the Annual Meeting and Conference.

    Chief Justice Patience Roggensack and State Bar president Chris Rogers

    Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack administered the oath to new State Bar President Chris Rogers. Rogers becomes the 63rd president starting July 1.

    A True Advocate

    A personal injury attorney at the Madison office of Habush Habush & Rottier, Rogers’ passion for advocacy runs deep, and he wants to use that to help Wisconsin lawyers.

    “Many of my clients have had traumatic injuries. Their lives are upside down,” he said. “We advocate for them as hard as we can every day. It struck me when I started volunteering for the Bar that this provided me an opportunity to advocate for lawyers. Now, I get to advocate for people who spend their lives advocating for other people.”

    Others who spoke about Rogers, including Daniel Rottier, president of Habush Habush & Rottier, said the State Bar is in very capable hands in the next year.

    Rottier noted that before law school, Rogers spent several years advocating for developmentally disabled individuals in Colorado, and upon moving back to Wisconsin, formed a union at a Madison hotel where he worked to protect fellow workers.

    “He’s an advocate,” Rottier said. Whether he’s advocating for persons with disabilities, workers, or clients, Rottier said Rogers “truly believes that every person should be treated with respect and their cause should be advocated forcefully and with diligence.”

    Rottier also said Rogers is just a kind person. From family and friends to colleagues and clients, the respect and affection they have for him are earned, Rottier said.

    “He even treats opposing counsel with kindness, and that’s not true of all of us,” Rottier said. “It’s a remarkable thing, and I think it bodes well for the State Bar. He will be an advocate not only for the lawyers of the state, but also for the people of Wisconsin.”

    Chris Rogers and staff from Habush Habush & Rottier

    New State Bar President Chris Rogers poses with staff from his law firm, Habush Habush & Rottier.

    Visit the State Bar’s Facebook page for more photos of this event, or click here.

    The Year Ahead

    Rogers, who succeeds State Bar President Paul Swanson, laid out a general plan for his one-year presidency, including a “full-court press” on the $40-per-hour pay rate paid to private bar attorneys who take appointed cases from the State Public Defender.

    That rate is the lowest in the country. The State Bar has pushed for years to increase the rate, including this past year, and Rogers said he is going “full steam ahead."

    “It’s no longer in debate that the rate needs to change,” he said. “We need to lobby and advocate for a system to be created and implemented that is fair, not just for the public defenders and the citizens who they represent, but also for the system itself.”

    Rogers said he will also continue the work, spearheaded by past President Fran Deisinger (2016-17) and continued by outgoing President Swanson, on measures to address the mass and disparate incarceration problem that is plaguing Wisconsin.

    The State Bar’s Board of Governors took policy positions yesterday to drive related changes, and that work will continue under Rogers’ leadership. 

    Rogers also vowed to continue work towards greater diversity and inclusion within the State Bar and in the legal profession as a whole.

    And he will work to get more judges involved in the State Bar’s work. “I want to continue an emphasis that President Paul Swanson began to increase the number of members of the judiciary participating in the State Bar,” Rogers said.

    “We need their voice and their perspective and, quite frankly, we need their leadership both within the Bar and within the communities we serve.”

    past-presidents

    Several past presidents of the State Bar were in attendance to help "pass the gavel" to Chris Rogers.

    A Focus on Members

    Finally, Rogers said much of his tenure will focus squarely on members, who are facing a multitude of challenges, including unregulated competition, the changing face of legal service delivery, the demand for piecemeal legal services, and many other challenges.

    “We don’t have an answer for all of these problems, but we have an answer for some, and we are working on it,” said Rogers, noting the State Bar is working to be more nimble and strategically smaller. “But we are going to get boots on the ground.”

    He wants member service teams to visit law firms, governmental agencies, and other groups to sit down and discuss what they need and how the State Bar can help them.

    He said the State Bar of Wisconsin is viewed as one of the greatest state bars in the country. “But this is meaningless if our members personally don’t believe that the State Bar adds value and relevance to them and their practice. We are going to work on that.”

    Rogers took time to recognize and thank his friends and colleagues, and his family: wife, Corina, and their three children, Nicholas, Abigail, and Danielle.

    “Becoming State Bar president is one of the single greatest honors that I will ever have in my profession,” said Rogers, noting the sacrifices of all lawyer families.

    “But it doesn’t even compare to the honor and privilege of being your father. It’s not even close. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for understanding when I’m gone.”

    Chris Rogers addresses State Bar members

    Chris Rogers addresses State Bar members after being sworn in as president.

    Visit the State Bar’s Facebook page for more photos of this event, or click here.