Vol. 76, No. 11, November
Fully Represent Nonresident Lawyers
If nonresident members must pay the same dues and
abide by the same rules as resident members, they deserve representation
on the State Bar Board of Governors on the same basis.
by Steve Levine & Jon
Steve Levine, Georgetown 1973, assistant
general counsel, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, resides in
Jon Kingstad, Marquette 1975, is an attorney
in private practice in Minnesota. He is a member of both the Minnesota
and Wisconsin bars and resides in Afton, Minn.
Something is wrong with the State Bar Board of Governors. A
significant segment of Bar membership - a group that pays full dues and
is required to meet all other Bar obligations - is vastly
underrepresented on the State Bar's governing board. Nonresident
lawyers1 make up 23 percent of the Bar's
active membership but are allotted only three seats on the Board of
Governors - compared to 34 seats for in-state district representatives.
If board positions were allocated to nonresident members on the same
per-lawyer basis as in-state members, there would be at least 10
nonresident members on the Board of Governors. Next year the board will
have an opportunity to correct this injustice.
Of a total membership of 17,000-plus active lawyers, there are almost
4,000 nonresident active Bar members. While nonresident active Bar
members reside all over the country, about 2,100 reside in adjoining
states. A number of nonresident Bar members are licensed both in
Wisconsin and in the states where they reside. Some live in other states
and have offices in Wisconsin; others live in Wisconsin and have offices
in other states.
As lawyers licensed to practice in Wisconsin, active nonresident
lawyers are subject to the same obligations as in-state practitioners.
They must pay full Bar dues as well as the Client Security Fund
assessment. They are subject to the rules regarding interest on lawyer
trust accounts, and they must comply with continuing legal education
reporting requirements administered by the Board of Bar Examiners.
Nonresident active Bar members are significantly affected by legal
developments in Wisconsin. However, because of limited representation on
the Board of Governors, their ability to affect those developments is
Most representation on the Board of Governors for in-state lawyers is
based on residence in one of 16 State Bar districts. At the Bar's last
redistricting in 1995, each district was allocated one representative
for approximately each 350 active lawyers residing in that district. As
a result, of the total 16 Bar districts, 13 have one representative
each, one has 13 representatives (Milwaukee County), one has six
representatives (Dane County), and one has two representatives (Waukesha
The board is also comprised of "representatives" from other groups
without regard to residence. In addition to board members elected from
each district, a number of "representatives" of various groups are given
a vote on the Board of Governors - such as the Government Lawyers,
Senior Lawyers, and Young Lawyers Divisions, and three nonlawyer
members. Nonresident lawyers had no representation on the board until
1981, when the Nonresident Lawyers Division was established and was
allocated one board representative. This number was increased to three
in 1986.4 Including the district governors,
representatives, and State Bar officers, the board is composed of 49
Nonresident lawyers are the only group that is underrepresented on
the Board of Governors. While members of such groups as the Young
Lawyers and Senior Lawyers divisions are represented by both their
district governors and their group representatives, nonresident lawyers
- with just three representatives - are vastly underrepresented on the
board when representation is considered on a per lawyer basis. The 77
percent of the Bar's active membership represented by in-state district
governors is allocated 34 votes, while the remaining 23 percent of the
Bar's active membership - that segment composed of nonresident lawyers -
is allocated only three votes. Something is rotten in River City.
But if nonresident lawyers live outside Wisconsin and aren't
interested in State Bar activities, why should they be allocated
representation on the same basis as in-state lawyers? First, since
nonresidents pay the same Bar dues as residents, they should be accorded
representation on the same basis. Equal obligations deserve equal
representation. As the great Wisconsin lawyer Patrick Henry once
proclaimed, "No bar dues without equal representation!"
Second, a large segment of the Bar's active nonresident members -
more than 2,100 - reside in states adjacent to Wisconsin and are
interested in the State Bar of Wisconsin and its affairs. Some
nonresident members have offices just a stone's throw from the border
and regularly serve clients in Wisconsin and Wisconsin courts. These
members are "Wisconsin lawyers" just as much as lawyers located in
And even those active nonresident Bar members who live in far-away
states can be significantly affected by in-state legal developments.
Right now a State Bar committee is considering methods to make CLE
compliance and reporting less onerous for nonresident Bar members.
Although the Bar is addressing this important problem unique to
nonresident members, progress has been slow. Nonresident members might
expect higher priority for their problems with greater representation on
the Board of Governors.
There might be problems with deciding how representation of
nonresident lawyers is to be weighted or allocated or how nonresidents
are to attend board meetings. But whatever the problems, the bottom line
is that active nonresident members of the State Bar pay the same dues as
active resident members and deserve board representation on the same
basis. By Jan. 1, 2005, the Board of Governors is required to present to
the supreme court its regular 10-year redistricting plan - a plan that
is supposed to adjust State Bar districts in light of shifts in lawyer
population.5 Next year's plan should also
adjust board membership to provide equal per-lawyer representation for
nonresident members. The time to begin considering this process is
1"Nonresident lawyer" is determined
by where an attorney's office is located. An attorney whose home is
located out-of-state but whose office is located in-state would be able
to vote for candidates in one of the 16 in-state Bar districts. An
attorney whose home is located in Wisconsin but whose office is located
in another state is a "nonresident" lawyer. See SCR
2Nonresident lawyers also are
precluded by SCR 10.04(1) from serving as State Bar officers, including
president, chair of the board, secretary, or treasurer. This restriction
also is unfair and should be removed. The payment of full Bar dues
should entitle a member to all rights of a Bar member, including the
right to be a State Bar officer.
3See SCR 10.05(2).
4See In the Matter of
the Amendment of Supreme Court Rules: Regulation of the State Bar, SCR
10.05(1), supreme court order dated Feb. 21, 1986.
5The redistricting plan is required
by SCR 10.05(2)(c).