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    President's Message: Share Your Thoughts about a Voluntary Bar

    Now, while your thoughts are fresh, share your position on the mandatory versus voluntary bar issue with the Strategic Planning Committee.

    Douglas W. Kammer

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 82, No. 10, October 2009

    Douglas W. Kammer

    Read this entire article right now. This is the most important thing on your desk for the next four minutes.

    As I indicated in my August message, the State Bar’s Strategic Planning Committee has been given the question of a voluntary bar and will report its findings to the Board of Governors – soon.

    All of you have received a letter from the State Bar asking you to tell the committee your position on the mandatory versus voluntary bar issue and, more importantly, why you favor one option or the other. I encourage you to not only respond before the Dec. 4 deadline but also to be as specific as possible about your preferences. We already know from our earlier survey how most members feel about the issue, now we hope to get a more complete understanding of why members feel the way they do. This will allow the committee, the BOG and, ultimately, the Wisconsin Supreme Court the best information possible about what a voluntary bar would actually mean to bar members.

    The committee met Sept. 16 and agreed to complete its work in early February. The committee plans to conduct a public hearing on Dec. 10 – 12 at the State Bar Center in Madison to entertain all perspectives. If you cannot attend the public hearings, you will still be able to provide your views via letters, email (org stratplancomm wisbar wisbar stratplancomm org), and on the committee’s Web page (www.wisbar.org/stratplancomm). All comments will be reviewed and considered, no matter what form they take. This will allow the BOG to review the issue at its Feb. 26 meeting and to schedule a vote on whether to petition the supreme court to make the bar voluntary. This should be decided, one way or the other, at the BOG’s June meeting.

    This survey will obviously require substantial effort by the committee, State Bar members, officers, and staff. But the end result will be a report that incorporates both the considered judgments of all interested members and detailed information about how conversion to a voluntary bar would affect our operations, governance, finances, relations with the court, and of course your practices. All points of view will be considered; all ramifications explored.

    Many of you who represent interested State Bar groups or divisions also have been asked to offer more detailed insights about how a voluntary bar would impact bar operations, finances, and so forth. Similar questions will be posed to the court and its agencies. This information will give all of us a more detailed understanding of what conversion to a voluntary bar would mean in a practical sense and will highlight some of the adjustments we will make if the supreme court allows us to reorganize as a voluntary bar.

    I have not been shy about sharing my feelings about a voluntary bar and why I believe that option is the best path forward for this association. But I want to be clear that the report compiled by the Strategic Planning Committee will faithfully reflect both the views we collect from members and other information from other sources such as the American Bar Association; other state, local and specialty bars; and other professional associations in Wisconsin.

    You generally have better things to do with your time than filling out paperwork for the State Bar. But I strongly encourage all members – regardless of your feelings about a voluntary bar – to speak up now. The decision will be based on the best information and reasoning the committee can accomplish. If you don’t speak you will not be heard.