On July 13 and 15th, State Bar members met virtually with lawyer-lawmakers serving in Wisconsin's legislature to discuss how being an attorney shapes and informs their role in the Capitol.
July 26, 2021 - Lawyers have always had an influential role in the democracy of the United States. Of the fifty-two signers of the Declaration of Independence, twenty-five were lawyers. Twenty-six of America’s forty-six presidents were lawyers. In the early 20th Century, a full two-thirds of the US Senate were lawyers.
Today, out of 132 total members of the Wisconsin legislature, only twelve are lawyers. Yet, lawyers bring a unique, informed, and deliberate perspective to the law, a perspective that can be a critically important part of an effective, functioning legislature. The training and experience that comes from the legal profession translates well into crafting and passing successful legislation.
The State Bar’s Advocacy Network aims to connect members to lawmakers, but also to connect members to other members. In mid-July, we accomplished both goals by holding virtual meet and greets with some of Wisconsin’s attorney-legislators.
The first meeting, held Tuesday, July 13, focused on Southeast Wisconsin and included Representatives Evan Goyke (D – Milwaukee), “Tip” McGuire (D – Kenosha), and Senator Lena Taylor (D – Milwaukee). Two days later, on July 15th, another meeting was held with lawyer-legislators from the rest of the state, including Representatives Jimmy Anderson (D – Fitchburg), Gary Hebl (D – Sun Prairie), Ron Tusler (R – Harrison), and Senator Eric Wimberger (R – Green Bay).
After a brief introduction by State Bar president Cheryl Daniels, Government Relations Coordinator Lynne Davis gave an overview of the State Bar’s legislative priorities such as legal system funding, criminal justice reform, and rural attorney issues. Government Relations Coordinator Cale Battles then introduced lawmakers and gave them each had a few minutes to speak about their experiences and priorities in government, as well as how State Bar members can become effective advocates for issues that involve the legal profession.
A recurring topic that most lawmakers stressed was the importance of lawyers’ voices and expertise on legislation that is being considered at the Capitol. As professionals in the law, lawmakers, even attorney lawmakers, look to those who have specific issue expertise to help them make informed decisions on topics that affect both the courtrooms and society at large. In addition, many lawmakers stressed the importance of sharing personal perspectives and stories—data and information is easy to obtain in today’s internet-connected world, but moving personal stories can often make a difference when it comes to changing minds and influencing legislation.
After speeches, attendees were given several minutes for questions and answers with lawmakers, and the program was wrapped up by a brief reminder of the online tools available to State Bar members through the Advocacy Network that make it quick and easy to contact their lawmakers.
What You Can Do: State Bar of Wisconsin Advocacy Network
Interested in organizing a meeting with your lawmakers and colleagues and Local or Specialty Bar? Reach out to Grassroots Outreach Coordinator Devin Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss setting up a meeting in your area.
State Bar members are also encouraged to contact their lawmakers directly, expressing support on legislative topics which positively affect the legal system using the Advocacy Network. The pre-written email message is editable to suit your own thoughts and opinions, and will help to demonstrate the breadth of support for policies that prioritize access to justice.
You can also subscribe to the Rotunda Report and follow us on Twitter to stay informed and get involved in the legislative process.