Sign In
    Wisconsin Lawyer
    November 29, 2006

    FY06 State Bar Annual Report: It Takes Many Hands

    It takes a lot of hands to work the mission of the State Bar of Wisconsin.

    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 79, No. 12, December 2006

    It takes many hands

    State Bar of Wisconsin Annual Report Fiscal Year 2006: July 1, 2005 - June 30, 2006

    It takes a lot of hands to work the mission of the State Bar of Wisconsin. More than 22,224 diverse members, nearly 100 elected and appointed volunteer leaders, and the thousands of members of committees, sections, divisions, special study groups, and professional staff join together in myriad ways to support lawyers, the public, and the legal system.


    In July 2005 the Board of Governors, the State Bar's policy making body, refined the association's strategic plan that focuses on common goals shared throughout the organization. Committees and divisions engaged in the strategic planning process in FY 2006 - and sections will do so in FY 2007 - to apportion limited resources to ensure that all Bar activities support these strategic priorities:

    • increase relevance of the Bar to its members
    • improve member engagement in the Bar
    • improve public access to the legal system
    • increase public understanding of the legal system

    As in past years, the Bar's FY 2006 activities are so numerous that only a representative few can be included in this annual report to State Bar members.

    Year at a glance

    July 2005

    D. Michael Guerin, Milwaukee, the State Bar's 50th president, appoints the Access to Justice Study Committee to assess unmet civil legal needs of Wisconsin residents in response to supreme court order approving mandatory WisTAF assessment.

    Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Portfolio, 17 prints by 15 artists honoring the state's 150 years, exhibits at the Bar Center. Justice David T. Prosser and the Wisconsin Law Foundation fund the portfolio.

    August 2005

    State Bar CLE releases The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, provides seminars on the dramatic change in U.S. bankruptcy laws.

    September 2005

    The Young Lawyers Division hosts Midwest regional conference in Milwaukee offering practice advice, business tips, and professional guidance to new lawyers.

    40-plus WisLAP frontline responders receive in-depth training to better help hotline callers cope with depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and other threats to their lives.

    Board approves Criminal Law Section support of the Criminal Justice Reform legislative package to improve criminal justice procedures, Individual Rights & Responsibilities Section opposition to the Graham/Levin Amendment to deny Guantanamo Bay detainees petition and hearing rights, and Public Interest Law Section opposition to legislation that would weaken consumer protections.

    October 2005

    Pro Bono Survey respondents report providing 110,736 hours of free legal services in the preceding 12 months, valued at about $18.3 million.

    "Wisconsin Lawyers Make a Difference" TV spots continue statewide rotation, airing in northern Wisconsin October through November.

    30-second spots educate the public about the value lawyers bring to their communities. TV spots rotate to 11 southeastern counties, January - March.

    November 2005

    The Unauthorized Practice of Law Policy Committee begins work on a petition to the court to develop a rule defining the practice of law and creating a system to administer the rule. The Bar begins collecting evidence of how the UPL harms the public.

    Following Hurricane Katrina, the State Bar donates laptop computers and printers to the New Orleans Bar Association to aid displaced lawyers. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita affect 167 State Bar members in Gulf Coast states.

    December 2005

    State Bar CLE debuts Online Fillable Forms Bank with the Real Estate Enhanced Library, followed by the Criminal Law Library and the Elder Law Library; presents 580 programs to 10,000-plus attendees in FY 06.

    January 2006

    30-second TV spots showcasing attorney public service air statewide during U.W. men's Badger basketball games, reaching a potential 2 million viewers.

    State Bar CLE and the Business Law Section introduce the nine-volume Wisconsin Business Advisor Series with its debut volume Securities, Mergers and Acquisitions, and followed by Environmental and Real Estate Law.

    February 2006

    Practice411TM, the State Bar's Law Office Management Assistance Program, kicks off to provide resources to help State Bar members more efficiently and effectively practice law. An electronic list allows members to share information and access a panel of experts when tackling business and technology aspects of their practice.

    March 2006

    Following extensive study and debate, the Board created an Ethics 2000 Review Committee to respond to the supreme court's draft revisions to the Rules of Professional Conduct.

    Sections' legislative work is passed into law: Real Property Probate & Trust Law - Uniform Principle & Income Act and UCC Ch. 5; Children & the Law - protecting children in foster care; Construction Law - lien statutes revisions.

    370-plus lawyers and judges volunteer for the 23rd Mock Trial Tournament - comprising 150 teams, helping 900-plus high school students develop critical thinking and public-speaking skills as part of the profession's most visible public service project.

    April 2006

    State Bar hosts 65 leaders of 39 local and specialty bar associations at the Wisconsin Bar Leaders' Conference, offering training to build and lead bar associations.

    May 2006

    The Communications Committee translates into Spanish the guide, A Gift to Your Family: Planning Ahead for Future Health Needs. Gov. Doyle proclaims May 22-26 life planning week.

    The Elder Law Section's 10-year effort earns passage of three major pieces of legislation affecting guardianship, protective services and placement, and adult protection systems. The Business Law Section revision of Chapter 180 is signed into law.

    The 2006 State Bar Annual Convention provides 28 CLE programs by 150 presenters to 1,000-plus attendees. 95 attorneys admitted to practice in 1956, including Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, are recognized for 50 years' service as lawyers. The Volunteer Lawyers Recognition Celebration, held during convention, honors lawyers for service to their colleagues and communities.

    June 2006

    During the year, 687 attorneys are admitted to the State Bar, bringing total membership to 22,212.

    The Diversity Outreach Committee copresents the 2006 Annual Diversity Counsel Program in Milwaukee. The Board cosponsors a resolution to urge the ABA to work to improve diversity through increased educational opportunities and awareness.

    Increase the Bar's Relevance to and Engagement of Its Members

    An organization's relevance to its members goes hand-in-hand with members' involvement in their organization. Relevance can take many forms - it may be legislation to protect your clients' interests. It may be a new CLE seminar or resource in your practice area to help you practice more knowledgeably or increase your efficiency. It may be assistance in managing your law practice. Involved members also broaden their network of professional contacts and shape the future of their profession by developing policy, products, and services that benefit their colleagues, the public, and themselves.

    Products and Services

    To find out what members need and value, the Bar conducts several surveys every year. In FY 2006, 16 surveys captured 5,462 responses on topics ranging from member satisfaction with Bar services, law office management needs, Branding the Profession awareness, bench and bar assessment of issues affecting the legal system, members' pro bono contributions, fillable forms utility, and more. Survey responses and other member input help in developing and refining products and services:

    • Practice 411 , the State Bar's Law Office Management Assistance Program, kicks off with a staff advisor offering telephone and in-person guidance on the use of technology, business and financial planning, and personnel, facilities, and operations management; a Web site and lending library of practice management resources; and an electronic list for the sharing of information between members and a panel of experts. In the six months since the program launched in January 2006, the staff advisor assisted 192 individuals and spoke to multiple attendees at state and regional conferences, local bar meetings, and law school classes. In FY 2006, the Board of Governors adopted a policy to provide confidentiality between members and State Bar-employed legal counsel for the Practice 411 and ethics hotlines to protect candid discussion on behaviors otherwise subject to reporting under professional conduct rules.
    • State Bar CLE launches online forms with the real estate, criminal law, and elder law libraries. State Bar CLE also introduces the nine-volume Wisconsin Business Advisor Series with Securities, Mergers and Acquisitions, followed by Environmental and Real Estate Law. In FY 2006, State Bar CLE releases 54 publications, including six new titles, and 48 updates and supplements of other titles.
    • State Bar CLE continues technology upgrades, recording seminar audio on CD, compressing seminars for future MP-3 downloads, converting Law Office videos to DVD for improved quality, and streaming seminars to an archive for future on-demand viewing. In FY 2006, 60 different seminar titles delivered live and by video, telephone, and the Internet resulted in 580 presentations for 10,000-plus attendees.
    • The 2006 State Bar Annual Convention provides 1,000-plus attendees opportunities to network, build business, attend 28 CLE programs - including an in-depth Spotlight Program on changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys, and honor lawyers at the Volunteer Lawyers Recognition Celebration - the "feel good" celebration of the year - for leading by example in serving their colleagues and communities.
    • Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLap) provides in-depth training to frontline responders to better help hotline callers cope with depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and other threats to their lives; adopts the "Johnson" intervention process; and joins with the Senior Lawyers Division to present a retirement planning program during the Annual Convention.
    • Leadership training and networking events for various groups, including promoting diversity in the legal profession, lobbying training for section leaders, the Wisconsin Bar Leaders' Conference offering programs to build and lead local and specialty bars, receptions welcoming new lawyers into the Bar, and outreach activities to law students, among others.
    • A new group health plan especially helpful for smaller firms becomes available to members in August. Other similar services to members include discounts on long-term care insurance, prescription drug discounts, discounted online legal research, no annual fee credit card, and more.

    Issues and Policy Decisions

    Work on issues affecting the practice of law and the public often generates in-depth study and passionate discussion by leaders and members that results in Board of Governors actions:

    • In response to the Wisconsin Supreme Court's final draft revisions to SCR Chapter 20, the Board creates the Ethics 2000 Review Committee, to solicit member feedback, make recommendations, and provide input to the court. The court makes the rules effective on July 1, 2007.
    • Issues surrounding the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) continue to occupy the Board's attention, leading the Bar to collect evidence of how UPL harms the public, UPL Policy Committee work to develop a rule defining the practice of law and a system to administer the rule, and taking a public policy position to support legislation prohibiting notary publics from misleading the public about whether the notary is licensed to practice law.
    • Following supreme court imposition of a mandatory $50 assessment - beginning in FY 2006 - on all active-licensed Wisconsin lawyers payable to the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF), the Bar creates the Access to Justice Study Committee to study the civil legal needs of poor residents and recommend long-term solutions, and to study issues related to the court's assessment order, including whether to seek rule modification to allow contributions to entities other than WisTAF. The study committee report is expected in December 2006.
    • The Board opposes an Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) petition seeking an additional assessment on all lawyers to cover costs assessed against respondents in OLR proceedings; approves the Bar's Lawyer Regulation Study Committee proposed rule on proceedings before a referee and assessment of costs, with an amendment to the rule relating to reinstatement.
    • The Board approves amicus filings by the Criminal Law Section (support Criminal Justice Reform legislation), Individual Rights & Responsibilities Section (oppose federal legislation to deny "terror" detainees petition and hearing rights), and the Public Interest Law Section (oppose legislation that weakens consumer protections).
    • The Board approves actions or other activities that influence law or policy undertaken by the Bar (oppose legislation to allow real estate brokers to provide legal advice), the Trust Account Rule Working Group (amend trust account rules), the Legislative Oversight Committee (affirm decision on section advocacy), the ADR Section (approve filing of amicus brief), the Children & the Law Section (termination of parental rights), the Appellate Practice Section (contents of appellate briefs), Public Interest Law (oppose legislation that weakens consumer protection) and, on request of the Bench Bar Committee, adopts a public policy position in support of judicial independence.
    • The Board previously approved legislative work of the Bar's lobbying sections. In FY 2006 important work, much of it years in the making, results in new or amended laws: Real Property Probate & Trust - the Uniform Principle & Income Act and UCC Ch. 5; Children & the Law - protecting children in foster care; Construction Law - lien statutes revisions; Elder Law - three laws affecting guardianship, protective services and placement, and adult protection systems; Business Law - Chapter 180 revisions; Criminal Law - criminal justice procedures reform.
    • More than 16,000 members participate in the Bar's 26 sections - from Administrative & Local Government Law to Taxation - to assist in improving the Bar and the legal system, make important contributions to the laws affecting Wisconsin citizens, and gain in-depth knowledge of practice-related issues.

    Improve Public Understanding of and Access to the Legal System

    The Bar, with vital volunteer assistance from lawyers, judges, and the public, improves public access to the legal system through pro bono and public service projects; educates the public about the value lawyers bring to their clients and communities; and informs citizens about their role in society through law-related education programs.

    An October 2005 survey of Bar members' pro bono contributions reports that respondents provided 110,736 hours of free legal services in the preceding 12 months, valued at about $18.3 million. By comparison, federal Legal Services Corporation funding in Wisconsin last year was a little over $4 million. In related action, the supreme court votes tentatively to reject its Ethics 2000 Commission recommendation to require mandatory reporting of pro bono work.

    The Wisconsin Pro Bono Initiative - a major Bar initiative to improve public access to the legal system and increase the availability of pro bono resources for low-income residents - funds locally developed new or innovative pro bono projects, particularly in rural areas. In FY 2006, the program:

    • grants $27,000 to seven local pro bono projects, including training for pro bono volunteers, and welcomes 100 new lawyers to the program, increasing the availability of pro bono lawyers for low-income residents
    • provides free CLE credit to 50 members in exchange for a commitment to accept one pro bono referral during the following year, and pays liability insurance for volunteers

    In FY 2006, the Local Bar Grant Competition program awards a combined $6,000 to the Dane, Tri-County (Buffalo, Jackson, Pepin, Trempealeau), and La Crosse county bar associations for public service projects on domestic abuse and resources for pro se litigants.

    Of 32,000 phone calls to the Lawyer Referral and Information Service and 4,476 contacts through LegalExplorerTM, the Bar's consumer Web site, legal assistants refer 9,743 prescreened clients to panel attorneys and give information or refer remaining callers to community agencies or other legal resources. LRIS Lawyer Hotline volunteers statewide provide 500-plus consumers with free answers to simple legal questions. LRIS offers a valued, visible public service and a way for attorneys to build their client base.

    The Wisconsin Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, through an annual assessment to Wisconsin attorneys of up to $25, reimburses people who lose money due to dishonest acts by Wisconsin attorneys. This year, the fund's administering committee pays $465,045 on 90 claims against 16­­ attorneys. The legal profession stands alone in providing voluntary reimbursements for client losses.

    The Bar continues statewide rotation of its "Wisconsin Lawyers Make a Difference" TV spots, which eventually will air 30-second spots in each major TV market in the state to inform the public about the value lawyers bring to their communities. In FY 2006, spots showcasing lawyers' public service work rotate to 28 northern and 11 southeastern counties, reaching a potential viewing audience of 1,279,000 people. Supplemental spots air statewide during U.W. men's Badger basketball games, and a U.W. vs. Marquette game, to reach a potential total viewing audience of more than 2 million households per game.

    The State Bar promotes Law-related Education programs and curricula to give school-age youth and other community members an understanding and appreciation of the law, the legal system, and their rights and responsibilities as citizens through the use of practical and experiential learning. A sampling of this year's programs includes:

    • the 23rd Mock Trial Tournament, involving 600 lawyers and judges, 120 teachers, and 25 regional coordinators, develops critical thinking and public speaking skills of 1,800-plus high school students.
    • 37 teachers gain a deeper understanding of the court system to enhance their civics curricula during the Judicial Teaching Institute, taking part in a sentencing exercise and moot court activity with assistance from supreme court justices, judges, attorneys, and university professors.
    • "We the People" programs promote civic competence and responsibility among students in state schools, including the "Project Citizen" competition, generating 14 public policy portfolios from 14 middle schools and a team of students from Ecuador, which is starting a similar program. The Ecuadorian students presented their portfolio to a panel of Spanish-speaking judges.
    • Governor proclaims Life Planning Week (May 22-26) to support State Bar activities that remind families of the importance of preparing for future health needs. To help communicate this message, the Bar translates its publication A Gift to Your Family: Planning Ahead for Future Health Needs into Spanish; English and Spanish-speaking attorneys participate in radio interviews; and the Bar distributes 1,000 free copies of the guide. Since 1999 more than 250,000 print copies have been distributed to the public; since 2003 more than 30,100 copies have been downloaded from
    • In FY 2006, new or updated public education publications include: Farmers Guide to the Law, a joint project of the Young Lawyers Division and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture; the Media-Law Relations Committee publications Wisconsin Lawyers Guide to the News Media and the Wisconsin News Reporters Legal Handbook; and the Communication Committee's consumer pamphlet series. The publications provide basic legal information and describe the need for, and role of, attorneys.
    Executive's Message

    Members are the Association's Lifeblood

    People join together in associations to accomplish goals they cannot accomplish alone. Thus, the members are the association's owners. The members expect to receive goods and services from that association that will help them accomplish those goals. Thus, the members are the association's customers. The members also are called on by the association to actively participate in accomplishing the association's goals. Thus, the members also are the association's workers.

    This year's annual report reflects the efforts of State Bar members to help each other provide greater service to their clients and to the public. It also reflects the efforts of the State Bar and its staff to help other bar associations in need because of destruction caused by the Gulf Coast hurricanes of the last year and because of the continuing needs of those less fortunate in our state.

    Major initiatives supporting these efforts include President Guerin's creation of the Access to Justice Study Committee to assess the unmet civil needs in Wisconsin, the training of more than 40 frontline responding attorneys participating in the Wisconsin Lawyer Assistance Program to help those dealing with drug and alcohol abuse or depression, the implementation of the Practice411TM program to provide business assistance to lawyers in all practice settings, and the donation of wireless enabled and programmed laptops to the New Orleans Bar Association to aid displaced lawyers trying to help their clients and rebuild a devastated justice system infrastructure.

    Thousands of lawyers were actively engaged to fulfill these and the hundreds of other goals, projects, programs, and services provided to members and to the public this last year. Thank you for your service.

    George C. Brown, State Bar executive director

    President's Message

    Taking Our Measure

    This has been an interesting year. The Wisconsin Supreme Court responded to the needs of underrepresented people by imposing an assessment on active Bar members. While lawyers alone cannot and should not represent the entire solution to problems of poverty and the disparate treatment of citizens, as lawyers we have to recognize that this gap in legal services to poor people is a threat to our members and to the people they represent. The need for legal services, like any vacuum, will be filled, either by honorable people or by dishonorable people marketing forms or do-it-yourself divorces, real estate closings, and the like. Obviously, our profession and the public are best served by trained lawyers providing legal service.

    The Bar's Legal Needs Study Committee continues to assess the needs of Wisconsin residents and, more importantly, decide how to meet those needs. The committee is working diligently to devise practical solutions that can be implemented.

    A committee has been appointed to review the State Bar's structure and status. It will study where the Bar is and where it should be to meet the future needs of lawyers and the people they serve. As futurists remind us, periodically we must have the conversation that we do not want to have. For the State Bar, that conversation is - are we going to continue to be relevant to society and, if so, how must we be positioned to do that.

    While I mentioned only a few major study groups, all of the divisions, sections, and committees continue to pursue their missions to advance the profession and deliver high quality legal services. Our competent professional staff supports and gives continuity to these groups, to the Board of Governors and officers, and to individual members.

    It has been a genuine pleasure to have stepped into the role of spokesperson for the State Bar. I continue to believe that lawyers represent the greatest profession. I also believe that as lawyers we sometimes feel sorry for ourselves. We fail to recognize how important we are to the public and that the community has respect for lawyers.

    Finally, remember that the most important people in your lives are members of your family. Even if you think no one else cares, remember that your family respects the hard work, long hours, and professionalism that you put into serving your clients and the public.

    D. Michael Guerin, president, State Bar of Wisconsin

    July 1, 2005 - June 30, 2006

    President-elect's Message

    Change the World

    When I ran for State Bar president-elect, I raised several issues that I want to follow through on in my year as president: whether State Bar membership should be voluntary rather than mandatory; whether nonresident Bar members should receive full representation on the Board of Governors; whether Wisconsin should continue its current dual system of requirements for bar admission - diploma privilege for in-state law school graduates, bar exam for all other law school graduates; and how to make the Board of Bar Examiners more user-friendly regarding bar admission and CLE requirements.

    I will be working hard as State Bar president - and for as long as it takes - to provide you the chance to vote on the voluntary/mandatory Bar issue, to provide nonresident Bar members with full rights and representation, to end the discriminatory aspects of Wisconsin's diploma privilege, and to improve all aspects of Wisconsin lawyers' lives vis-à-vis the Board of Bar Examiners. I'll also do all I can to help the Bar continue to provide the quality, cutting-edge services to members that we have come to expect - law office management, the lawyer assistance program, continuing legal education, pro bono assistance, the whole gamut.

    A vibrant, meaningful State Bar requires new ideas and new members willing to participate and contribute. Get involved, get active, get going. The Bar needs you and your new ideas - even if you disagree with the direction you see the Bar going. (Actually, especially if you disagree with Bar policies, get involved.) A section or committee is waiting for you and your ideas. One individual's act, however small, can benefit a Wisconsin lawyer and his or her client, and change the world. Do that act. Change the world.

    Steve Levine, president-elect, State Bar of Wisconsin

    July 1, 2005 - June 30, 2006

    FY 06 Allocation of State Bar Dues and Supreme Court-imposed Assessments

    For FY 2006, of the total fee ($429.66) collected from active, full dues-paying members, 52 percent ($224) was for State Bar dues, while the remaining 48 percent ($205.66) fulfilled mandatory supreme court assessments to fund the Office of Lawyer Regulation, the Board of Bar Examiners, the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF), and the Wisconsin Lawyers Fund for Client Protection.

    This Annual Report represents how your State Bar dues dollars work to support you, the public, and the legal system. Due to space constraints, the report highlights some of the many activities that State Bar members and staff come together to provide.

Join the conversation! Log in to comment.

News & Pubs Search

Format: MM/DD/YYYY