Vol. 77, No. 11, November
The Times They Are a Changing
Naturalist and author Charles Darwin once said the species that
survives is not necessarily the most intelligent or even the strongest,
but the one most able to adapt to change.
by Michelle A. Behnke
This profession is facing change, and how we are able to
adapt to that change could determine how our profession survives. The
changes that we face, the questions before us, do not often lend
themselves to "yes" or "no" votes but require a consideration of a "mega
issue." Are we prepared to address such issues? How do we, as an
organization, make the big decisions that are ahead?
Recently, the State Bar Board of Governors held a two-day meeting.
While there was nothing unusual about the meeting or even the length of
the meeting, there certainly was something unusual about how the board
went about its work.
The Board of Governors spent the first half of the meeting learning
tools for a knowledge-based governance strategy. Before your eyes glaze
over, let me explain. Glenn Tecker of Tecker Consultants explained that
successful governance has more to do with the willingness of people to
do things differently than their knowing what to do differently. Tecker
also indicated that associations are moving from a traditional political
model of decision- making to a more business-based model focused on
information and insight. With that admonition, the board set about
learning and then applying the new model of decision-making. The board
did not just listen to the theory. The case study was a live issue for
the State Bar: how to respond to the Ethics 2000 Committee Report and
Petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The board started by working on the four key questions for
- What do we know about our members - their needs, wants, and
preferences - that is relevant to this decision?
- What do we know about the current realities and evolving dynamics of
our members, marketplace, industry, and profession that is relevant to
- What do we know about the "capacity" and "strategic position" of our
organization that is relevant to this decision?
- What are the ethical implications of our choices?
Questions in hand, the board took the proposed changes to the Rules
of Professional Conduct for Attorneys and worked through the questions,
trying to make sure that board members had good information on which to
base a decision. The work is ongoing. The start made by each work group
on each issue of the Ethics 2000 proposed rules will be available for
all of the other work groups to review. By working in this manner, we
can have greater confidence that all of the board members have the same
knowledge base when it comes to actually making the decision and that
they are focused on the responses to the four key questions.
To really address the issues ahead, this association will need to
gather solid information about its members' preferences, needs, and
wants. We also will need to acknowledge current realities and evolving
dynamics and apply this information to the issues at hand.
So, does this association know what you, as a member, think? If not,
I hope you'll take a moment to contact your Board of Governors
representative, use the member feedback links on the WisBar Web site, or
write a letter. Make sure we know what you're thinking and how we can
address the mega issues facing the State Bar of Wisconsin.