Friends and Fellow Lawyers:
Forgive that this month’s column is a personal note.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, I taught my last class at the University of Wisconsin Law School. What started in 1990 as a brief sabbatical from law practice managed to grow into 25 of the most fulfilling years of my professional life. Now, it’s over.
My legal scholarship is minuscule, but writing books and law review articles was never my plan. My only ambition was to create and teach a curriculum to help law students develop the practical skills, perspectives, and communication tools needed to provide sensible judgment and practical legal service to their clients and to do so with integrity. If along the way they helped make law a better profession or found personal fulfillment in the work, all the better.
Over those years, I taught the Lawyering Skills Course (formerly General Practice), Professional Responsibilities, Negotiation and Mediation, the Legal Profession, and on occasion pet courses on Abraham Lincoln and Lawyers as Community Leaders, with a few thousand students. Since my method was to engage practicing lawyers in the teaching enterprise, I shared my classrooms with a thousand or so savvy practicing lawyers.
I am forever grateful to my students for their curiosity, energy, and engagement. To my practitioner-teaching colleagues, thank you not only for your selfless service to my students, but also for the friendships we formed, which I look forward to continuing.
Ralph 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.
Whatever success I may have realized was immeasurably influenced by the encouragement and support of the three outstanding law school deans under whom I had the good fortune to serve: Dan Bernstine, Ken Davis, and Margaret Raymond.
My faculty colleagues were always accepting, helpful, and often inspirational teachers. Two who were especially supportive and became my dearest friends are Howie Erlanger and the much missed John Kidwell. The Lawyering Skills Course, which was always my major teaching commitment, now moves forward in the dedicated and able hands of my long-time teaching partner and friend, Gretchen Viney.
One of the most satisfying rewards of teaching has been to keep contact with so many of my former students. I’ve seen a generation of them grow into lawyers, leaders, and lovely people. Whenever I could, I was happy to provide encouragement or some small boost to their progress along the way. The law school kindly is providing me an office to work from and to which I will repair regularly. From there, I hope to stay connected and readily available to encourage and help whomever I can whenever possible.