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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    May 01, 2016

    President's Message
    New Lawyers Pave the State Bar’s Path

    The State Bar is teaching and learning from young lawyers as they step up to take leadership roles.

    Ralph M. Cagle

    Friends and Fellow Lawyers:

    William Shakespeare said our world is a stage and men and women play a part that spans seven ages. Frank Sinatra described four ages and saw each as “a very good year.” Both the Bard and the Voice seemed to hold special affection for the age that marks emergence into engaged adulthood. I agree.

    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.

    A perk of being State Bar president is how you get to engage with young lawyers, such as in the Young Lawyers Division, the young lawyers who often lead local bar associations, and most recently for me with new lawyers chosen for our Leadership Development Summit. It is encouraging and inspiring to be with them. It only requires that I move at a brisker pace and think and speak on a more contemporary wavelength. I hope I was up to the task.

    For the Leadership Development Summit, bar members recommend young lawyers to participate in leadership training for future State Bar service. We select 24 young lawyers each year, train them, and invite them to serve in committee, section, or division capacities. Almost all accept, and the incoming State Bar president finds suitable matches between their interests and talents and the State Bar’s service needs. This year was our fourth Leadership Development Summit. Even over that short time, several young leaders have emerged, including the president-elect of the Nonresident Lawyers Division and five members of the State Bar’s Board of Governors.

    These young lawyers are a splendid lot; bright, articulate, energetic, and highly diverse. They demonstrate enormous capabilities and even greater promise for service, success, and leadership. The State Bar is betting that attracting these individuals and others like them to service will provide reliable and renewable energy and engagement into our future.

    Encouraging young lawyers to aspire to leadership in our association and in our profession through rapidly changing times is a key strategic goal.

    Encouraging young lawyers to aspire to leadership in our association and in our profession through rapidly changing times is a key strategic goal. Every public and private institution or organization concerned with the long-term well-being of its members must nurture a succession of leaders who will commit the time, energy, and talent that the long-arc task requires.

    Students of organizational behavior observe that millennials are less drawn to existing patterns of engagement. For example, they organize their commitments and communications more through social media than through face-to-face networks and operate more individually than by work organized by committees. Their approach to organizing, communicating, and taking action, like their approach to organizing their lives and practices, is an important strategic choice and ultimately one for them to decide.

    The lesson for my generation is really one we proclaimed long ago when we were the new generation. It is that “the times they are a changing” and “the present now will later be past.” To secure a vital future for our profession and the State Bar, we must secure the long-term commitment of these bright, energetic, and differently tuned young lawyers. We can offer them what we know, especially what our experience has taught us. From what I have seen of them, they will give respectful and due weight to that advice and experience. But, the road into the future will necessarily be one of their own design.

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