Vol. 76, No. 6, June
Celebration and Remembrance
Serving as your State Bar president this past year has been an honor
- and a lesson in humility. Thank you for the privilege.
The State Bar heard from a member that he had been to 34
consecutive State Bar annual conventions, and that in his opinion, the
2003 convention was the best ever. I thought it was a tremendous
The Thursday Spotlight program was a departure from normal convention
fare. The Government Lawyers Division, led by Assistant Family Court
Commissioner Bill Honrath, arranged for nationally acclaimed poet,
professor, writer, and National Public Radio commentator Andrei Codrescu
to speak on "Lawyers, Poets, and Other Alchemists: Looking for Gold in
the 21st Century." Mr. Codrescu was alternately brilliant,
thought-provoking, and humorous. After his hour-long presentation, he
participated in two panel discussions on "Government and the Individual"
and "Government and the Arts," both extremely relevant and
controversial. Four members told me that they attended the convention
solely to hear Mr. Codrescu. They were not disappointed.
The Friday Spotlight program, "Echoes of the Past: Landmark Issues,
Famous Cases, and Legal Giants - Shaping Wisconsin Yesterday and Today,"
featured such historical yet current topics as Wisconsin's experience
with the death penalty, the 1917 Espionage Act's resemblance to the USA
PATRIOT Act, "Independence and Integrity: Arms in the Capitol to
Deficits in the Budget," and presentations on the creation of the court
of appeals and its role in the development of law. A panel of eight
speakers presented these pieces of Wisconsin's rich legal history.
There were almost 1,000 registrants to the convention this year, more
than in recent years. Many came for the regular CLE programs in their
respective practice areas of law, which were also well-attended and
worth the price of admission alone.
The six-foot-tall birthday cake at the Friday Spotlight program
reminded us that the convention was part of our year-long celebration of
the State Bar's 125th anniversary, along with the supreme court's 150th
anniversary and the court of appeals' 25th anniversary. Not mentioned as
often is that 2003 is also the 75th anniversary of our nationally
acclaimed Wisconsin Lawyer and its predecessor, the
Wisconsin Bar Bulletin.
For me the bittersweet moment of convention week came on Thursday
evening when my successor, George Burnett, was sworn in as State Bar
president for 2003-2004. That ceremony gladdened me because it signified
that I am off the hook and will have more time for my clients and my
other interests. But it also saddened me because I have truly enjoyed
the privilege of being president. The people I got a chance to know and
work with are terrific, and the issues with which I have had to grapple
have been fascinating and challenging.
The end of my term came too fast. I was not able to accomplish nearly
as much as I had hoped for in the areas I tried to concentrate on:
improving the image of lawyers, improving the diversity of the Bar and
the profession, and increasing funding for civil legal services. My
limited successes have reinforced the need to stay humble. But my
attention was diverted, as it always is for a bar president, by events
over which I had no control: the move to adopt multi-disciplinary
practice in Wisconsin, the challenge to the constitutionality of IOLTA,
the conflict over whether our Bar should have joined as an amicus in the
University of Michigan Law School affirmative action lawsuit. These and
other issues have demanded my attention and that of the whole Board of
Governors. There has not been a dull moment.
So I want to thank all of you for allowing me the honor of serving as
your State Bar president, and thank you for your support of me this past
year. It has been a real privilege.