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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    November 01, 2003


    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.

    Steve Levine; Jon Kingstad

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 76, No. 11, November 2003

    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 Kingstad

    Steve LevineSteve Levine, Georgetown 1973, assistant general counsel, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, resides in Madison.

    Jon KingstadJon 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 severely restricted.2

    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 County).3

    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 voting members.

    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 Wisconsin.

    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 now.


    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 10.05(3).

    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).

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