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    Inside the Bar: A Legacy of Service to Members

    George Brown

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    Vol. 79, No. 7, July 2006

    A Legacy of Service to Members

    Long-time Member Relations and Public Services Director Betty Braden will retire in August. We'll miss our friend and colleague, and we'll honor her legacy by continuing to provide exceptional service to members.

    by George C. Brown,
    State Bar executive director


    When friends leave, it is hard. When colleagues leave - colleagues who have been friends, with whom you have shared triumphs and hard times, with whom you have built things, and with whom you have shared bread - it is even more difficult.

    Let's face it. Often, we spend as much time with our colleagues at work as we do with family; sometimes even more. That happens sometimes at the State Bar, too - and next month, one of our colleagues is retiring.

    Aug. 15, 2006, will be Betty Braden's last day as an employee of the State Bar of Wisconsin. For 28 years, Betty has been one of the driving forces behind the State Bar's increased service to members throughout Wisconsin and to nonresident members. In Betty's years with the State Bar, the number of lawyers has nearly doubled, programming to support lawyers in their practices and in their professional lives has increased dramatically, and outreach and support for local and specialty bars has developed and improved.

    Though her title has changed over time, Betty's focus has always been on service to members. Betty has been director of Member Relations and Public Services for the last 22 years; you have seen the result of her dedication to members through programs such as the Wisconsin Bar Leaders Conference, the principal training ground for local and specialty bar leaders throughout Wisconsin. Last April, more than 75 bar leaders from throughout the state attended this important event.

    Under Betty's leadership, you have seen the creation and development of the Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP). Starting many years ago with the Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers program, which was principally a crisis program for lawyers with problems with alcohol, WisLAP is now a full-time program with one full-time and one part-time staff member working to help lawyers and judges with stress, depression, and drug addiction, as well as alcohol dependency. In recent years, you have seen the Ethics Hotline grow from a part-time hotline to a full-time service providing ethics guidance and education, and just at the beginning of this year, you saw the creation of the Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP), designed to assist lawyers from all practice settings deal with the challenges of running a law office.

    The majority of the staff support for the State Bar's many programs that provide lawyers with opportunities to fulfill their public service obligations falls under Betty's leadership. The State Bar High School Mock Trial competition, with its thousands of students across the state, supported by hundreds of lawyers and teacher coaches, is one of the most well known examples. There are many others, including the Judicial Teacher Institute and Project Citizen. The State Bar's Pro Bono Program, our Lawyer Referral and Information Service, and most of the administrative support for our 26 sections and four divisions and for most of our committees have been the responsibility of Betty and her staff.

    In addition to helping others serve, Betty herself has served by being elected president of the National Association of Bar Executives in 2000. She was the first Wisconsin president of this organization since Phil Habermann, the first State Bar executive director, served in 1951.

    Has Betty done this alone? Of course not. She has been surrounded by highly competent staff, most of whom she has hired, and highly motivated, hard-working volunteer leaders - from State Bar presidents who have championed a particular program to roll-up-their-sleeves lawyers across Wisconsin who have been willing to leave their offices or take some of their vacation time to work on projects affecting dozens to hundreds of lawyers or thousands of school children.

    In retirement, Betty and her husband, attorney Buzz Braden of Lake Geneva, will travel and Betty will continue her volunteer work in teaching adults to read. Although Betty leaves her department in good hands with Jan Wood, many people, lawyers and staff alike, are going to miss working with Betty. We're going to miss her special energy, her infectious smile, and her happy laughter. Not the least of those who will miss her is me. We've known each other for nearly 20 years, both as colleagues and friends. We've planned together, counseled each other, fretted and worried together, even fought from time to time. But we've always been friends, and even though we no longer will be colleagues, I know our friendship will continue.

    So enjoy a long and happy retirement, my friend. You've earned it.