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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    December 01, 2015

    President's Message
    Next Generation Up: Lawyer-leaders Face Forward

    The State Bar is preparing the next generation’s lawyers to lead the way as the legal profession navigates the future’s uncertain course.

    Ralph M. Cagle

    Friends and Fellow Lawyers:

    Last month’s column celebrated lawyers who left an indelible mark on the world in various careers, endeavors, and expressions. This month I look closer to home.

    Ralph CagleRalph Cagle, U.W. 1974, is of counsel to Hurley, Burish & Stanton, S.C., Madison, practicing principally in professional responsibility law and serving as a mediator. He is also an emeritus clinical professor at the U.W. Law School.

    Wisconsin lawyers have a vibrant history of leading the profession, their communities, and public life. Go into any Wisconsin community and you will find lawyers leading the organizations, ventures, and citizen efforts that built, sustained, and advanced that community’s position and progress.

    Lawyers are often burdened by a distorted image drawn by the caustic and comical imagery fostered by television, movies, and media. But a more realistic and honorable portrait emerges from the experience of community members who served beside or benefitted from the dedicated service and skillful leadership lawyers provide by advancing justice, serving on charitable and nonprofit boards, organizing funding drives, spearheading educational and reform initiatives, developing cultural resources, and organizing people in response to crisis and challenge.

    As Bar president, law teacher, and lawyer, I deeply admire everything my lawyer colleagues do to advance the public good. But, we need to nurture, encourage, and direct that leadership service to future needs. That is the mission of the State Bar’s Leadership Development Committee. Ably led by Renee Ruffin Narwocki (chair) of Milwaukee and Jesse Dill (vice chair) of Brookfield, they are now developing the structure and curriculum for a Lawyer Leadership Training Institute.

    Wisconsin lawyers have a vibrant history of leading the profession, their communities, and public life.

    Recently, I participated in an ABA-sponsored leadership training program broadcast to state bars, including an energetic Wisconsin group of young lawyers, seasoned lawyers, and Bar staff. The day-long program served two purposes. First, the ABA provided relevant leadership training to lawyers throughout the country.

    In Wisconsin, we had a secondary purpose; to engage some younger lawyer leaders in assessing which skills and perspectives our next generation of Wisconsin lawyers will need from a leadership training program. Our Leadership Development Committee heard thoughtful ideas and will continue acquiring insights to help form the substantive content that training the next generation of leadership will demand. In doing this, the committee will also draw on the practical experience of Wisconsin lawyers who have served so well in a wide array of leadership roles.

    Yogi Berra once said that “the future ain’t what it used to be.”Once again, Yogi was right in his peculiarly profound way. Today’s future is not the future we faced back when. Today’s future is more uncertain, less within our control, and coming on faster than ever before. Understanding that future, charting a prospective course of action, and uncovering the knowledge needed to prosper will demand marshaling the best of many available resources.

    A key resource is the quality of our future leadership cadre. I see the State Bar and the Wisconsin legal professionwell-positioned for that. The future lawyer-leaders I see in classrooms, law practice, and community engagements are eager to lead and fully up to the challenge. We do well today to help prepare them to lead us into tomorrow.

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