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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    August 01, 2003

    President's Message

    In his first column, State Bar President George Burnett sets forth seven principles to guide the Bar's decisions over the next 12 months.

    George Burnett

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 76, No. 8, August 2003

    Guiding Principles

    In his first column, State Bar President George Burnett sets forth seven principles to guide the Bar's decisions over the next 12 months.

    by George Burnett

    George BurnettSometimes it is difficult to know where to begin. As the State Bar soon begins its 126th year, a new bar president might write about the important national issues facing our profession - about public esteem for the legal profession, the pro se litigation explosion facing our courts, society's confidence in our legal system, or how our profession should define its boundaries in an electronic world. Alternatively, one might write about more parochial concerns - the financial status of our association or the past success of our organization and how to continue that success into the future. Finally, one might write about the goals and aspirations for our association as we face difficult challenges over the next 12 months.

    However, because this is the beginning, perhaps the best subject is those first principles that should guide all that we do. Whether it is facing problems national in scope or more local concerns, we should recall Adlai Stevenson's admonition that it is sometimes easier to stand for principles than to live by them as we progress over this year. These are the principles that should guide our decisions for the next year.

    First, all that we do should be undertaken with the recognition that most Wisconsin lawyers are good and decent people who care for their families, their communities, their clients, and their profession. The rest of the community needs to know and believe that fact because the public cannot have confidence in a system of justice without confidence in the men and women who serve the law.

    Second, we need to remember that this organization exists to help its members succeed: to provide the goods and services that make our members proficient in what we do.

    Third, we need to remember that we are a profession, and despite the depth of our disagreements, our colleagues deserve courtesy and respect.

    Fourth, we need to continue to believe that as a profession we must give all those with the talent and dedication to join us the opportunity to do so, without regard to wealth, race, or gender.

    Fifth, we need to remind all around us that our education and talents are important. A profession governed by a stringent code of ethics and prepared by three years of post-graduate education has the right to expect that others less trained or less able will not enter upon this field.

    Sixth, we need to remember that we have an obligation to serve the poor. No system of justice can long survive that serves some but not all in society.

    Seventh, lastly, and perhaps most importantly, our profession stands to defend the courts and our way of justice. This organization exists to stand between forces that would restrict the wisdom of judges or remove the common sense of juries. If the organized bar is to stand for anything, it is to stand for our system of justice and the judicial branch of government.

    These are the first principles that must guide our decisions as we face those important issues that have long challenged our profession.

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