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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    November 13, 2018

    President's Message
    Now Playing in Your Neighborhood: State Bar Outreach and Services

    The State Bar is eager to help you where you work and live, such as with the recent bus tour that brought together rural communities with unmet legal needs and lawyers seeking jobs.

    Christopher Earl Rogers

    In October, I had the pleasure of participating in the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Greater Wisconsin Initiative Bus Tour. Each autumn, this tour takes lawyers and law students to some of the state’s rural areas and small towns and connects them with local judges, lawyers, and civic and business leaders to learn more about life and practice in Wisconsin. This year, over a span of two days, the tour visited Buffalo, Jackson, Pepin, Trempealeau, Crawford, and Grant counties. The group, consisting of new and relatively new lawyers and spouses, State Bar section leaders and staff, and representatives from the U.W. Law School, found the tour to be extremely enlightening and helpful.

    Christopher RogersChristopher Earl Rogers, U.W. 1995, of Habush Habush & Rottier SC, Madison, is president-elect of the State Bar of Wisconsin. Reach him by email.

    In addition to meeting with community leaders and judges to network and hear testimonials regarding practicing in rural communities, the participants also attended a continuing legal education session by attorneys Kathy Brost and Kate Knowlton, past president and current president of our Solo/Small Firm & General Practice Section. The CLE focused on best practices for starting a law firm in rural Wisconsin, business continuity planning, preparing for transition, and client succession planning before retirement. It was thorough, topical, and hopefully helpful as well.

    During the tour stops, judges and local lawyers voiced concerns regarding the lack of younger or new lawyers coming to or staying in the area. They also described the advantages of practicing in rural communities and repeated several of the benefits outlined in “Going Rural: Insights from Park Falls to Monroe” (Wisconsin Lawyer, Sept. 2018).

    The challenges in recruiting lawyers to rural communities have been significant. With many lawyers retiring or near retirement, rural areas risk losing access to convenient legal services. This is certainly true in the areas the bus tour visited in October, as evidenced by the number of active and emeritus lawyers in those counties. (See chart.)

    Approximately 70 percent of lawyers practicing in these counties are over age 50. Clearly, rural counties are struggling to attract younger lawyers to cover the available work load. The issue is even more acute in the state’s northern counties. Fifteen counties – nine in northern Wisconsin – have 10 or fewer lawyers actively practicing.

    This is exactly why the State Bar is emphasizing, discussing, and writing about these issues. The Greater Wisconsin Initiative is a clear-cut example of the State Bar coming to you with boots on the ground to help solve some of the issues surrounding our communities and the legal profession.

    By coming to where you practice and live, the State Bar is learning more about the problems affecting you, our profession, and the communities we live in. Together, with stronger connections, we can take meaningful strides to address these problems.


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