Lawrence Bugge served as State Bar president 1980-81.
April 27, 2023 – A leader who dealt with tough issues facing the profession and State Bar. A “wise, kind man — and a brilliant lawyer,” say peers of Lawrence J. Bugge, who recently passed away. Bugge was a former president of the State Bar of Wisconsin (1980-81).
“He demonstrated leadership qualities in each and every endeavor that he participated in,” said State Bar Past President Franklyn Gimbel (1986-87), who knew Bugge from the time they were in high school. “He and I attended Badger Boy’s State together when we were in high school – me at Whitefish Bay and him at Marquette.”
“Larry was a wise, kind man – and a brilliant lawyer,” recalls John Skilton, also a former State Bar president (1995-96).
A Business Lawyer and Teacher
Bugge majored in philosophy as an undergraduate at Marquette University while also serving in the Navy ROTC. Between college and law school, he served on a minesweeper off the California coast (1958-60).
After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1963, he became an associate at Foley & Lardner in the firm’s business law practice group in Milwaukee.
When the firm expanded to Madison in 1975, Bugge headed the office there. He stayed with the firm and in Madison until his retirement as a partner in 1996 following 33 years of practice, practicing in banking, business, commercial, and consumer law.
He served with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform Statute Laws and participated in drafting the Wisconsin Consumer Act enacted in 1973, which the
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions describes as “widely regarded as the most comprehensive law of its type in the nation.”
Bugge taught at various times during his career. “I did a lot of lecturing to bankers’ organizations about the then-new Uniform Commercial Code,”
Bugge said in 2013.
After his retirement, he
taught business law at U.W. Law School for 10 years.
Lawrence Bugge and his wife Elaine pose for a photo with their son, David, at the State Bar's 1981 Spring Convention, which took place at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.
A State Bar Leader
When he ran for State Bar president-elect, Bugge was a strong candidate, given his experience as a former president of the Milwaukee Junior Bar Association, the Milwaukee Bar Association, and governor on the State Bar Board of Governors, including serving as chair (1975-76).
As a candidate in 1979, Bugge wrote on his views about the role the State Bar plays within the legal profession. “It is a service organization,” he wrote in the April 1979 issue of the
Wisconsin Bar Bulletin (which became
Wisconsin Lawyer in 1989). “We should recapture a self-image of lawyers as professionals with public service responsibilities, and the State Bar as a service organization designed to help fulfill them. With that self-image, our public image will take care of itself.”
Issues he dealt with as State Bar president include “modest” revisions of the State Bar Rules and Bylaws – in the works since 1976. In his August 1980 – and therefore, first – president’s column, he discussed the proposed revisions, saying “Therefore, believing as I do that Bar governance, like politics, is the art of the possible, I think this proposal deserves your support.”
The revisions brought about redistricting of the State Bar Board of Governors and created the Government and Nonresident Lawyers divisions, to join the existing Young Lawyers Division. They also allowed the practice sections to become self-supporting by charging dues.
In that same column, he discussed the creation of the Client Security Fund, created during his term in 1981. The Fund, he wrote, was “to provide a source to reimburse members of the public who suffer financial loss because of the fraudulent or dishonest conduct of lawyers.” This became the
Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection.
His monthly columns also talked about other issues of the legal profession in Wisconsin at the time:
updates and changes to the idea of lawyers as “specialists” and whether they may say so in advertising; updates to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (1981);
the various CLE programs in Wisconsin at the time;
the question of whether the Federal Trade Commission should regulate the practice of law in Wisconsin (opposed by the Board of Governors – and Bugge’s conclusion was “Is 1984 already here? Big Brother is watching … and asking”);
efforts for Wisconsin to become a marital property state;
advocating for continuation of nominating commissions for state court judgeships similar to those for federal district courts; and
continued funding of the Legal Services Corporation in providing legal services to the poor after President Ronald Reagan proposed to cut the funding.
Bugge also talked about petitions before the Wisconsin Supreme Court regarding mandatory membership, saying that the issue would come up again in 1982 – after his term ended.
“This situation is by no means unique to Wisconsin,” he wrote. He advocated for a continued integrated bar. “A strong and unified state bar – having the participation and resources of all Wisconsin lawyers available to it – is needed by the court, the lawyers themselves, and the public.”
In his final president’s column published in the June 1981
Wisconsin Bar Bulletin, he concluded: “I am proud to be a lawyer. And I am immensely proud and grateful to have served as your president. Thank you for the opportunity.”
“Larry was a great lawyer, an active public citizen, and a loyal friend,” Skilton said. “He was honest as the day was long, blessed with unyielding integrity – all a man should be. I was privileged and proud to be his partner for 25 years. He will be missed by all who came to know him.”
Celebration of Life is Sunday, May 7
The Lawrence John Bugge Memorial Service will be held Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Madison at Oakwood Village University Woods Campus Chapel, 6205 Mineral Point Road. The service begins at 2 p.m., with a celebration reception 2:45 to 5 p.m.
Questions and messages of condolence can be sent to the family via