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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    February 12, 2019


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    When People Find Out You’re a Lawyer

    An article in Above the Law, which was shared on the State Bar’s Facebook page, suggested that people treat you differently when they find out you’re a lawyer.  Here are a few examples the author provided: “The first change in my personal interactions that I noticed was that people were way more CYA (‘cover your ass’) around me after I became a lawyer than they were before I was an attorney.” And, “Another way that people treat you differently after you become a lawyer is that individuals will automatically assume that as an attorney, you are wealthy. This belief particularly infuriated me, since I paid for my college and law school expenses all by myself, and I was repaying a boatload of student debt for most of my legal career.”

    Readers posted comments:

    Reader: People regularly ask for free legal advice (or even for free legal services) in all sorts of matters! You wouldn’t ask a friend who happens to be an auto mechanic to fix your car for free.

    Dera Johnsen-Tracy
    Horn & Johnsen SC, Madison

    Reader: Unfortunately, the answer is often yes. Fortunately, most of the time I’m not working, no one suspects what I do for a living. I’m very unconventional.

    C.R. Krieger
    Law Office of C.R. Krieger LLC, Manitowoc

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    Women Leaving Law

    woman walking out of office

    In “Women Leave Law Firms and the Legal Profession. Why?” (InsideTrack, Oct. 17, 2018), Joe Forward wrote that although women make up half of today’s law school graduates and law firm associates, only 20 percent of equity partners are women.  Forward talked to Wisconsin lawyers Margaret Hickey, Deanne Koll, and Tamara Packard.

    According to Forward, “Insufficient work-life balance may be one reason women leave law firms having never advanced to partnerships, but it’s not the only reason. Implicit bias, sexual harassment, law firm culture, and unequal access to opportunity are cited as other reasons.”

    Readers posted comments:

    Reader: Or they do [hire women.] .... Just to say they’re diverse ... which is good for business for the firm/shareholders ... not always proportionately good for women in positions of parity – on paper only.

    Lauren Avery Blumenthal
    Blumenthal Group LLC, Milwaukee

    Reader: Because the entities in a position to rein in the local good old boys’ clubs in places like Western Wisconsin allow them to flourish. Have to believe that if the State Bar and OLR started demanding better, things would get better.

    Sarah Yacoub
    Slice Law Inc., Hudson

    Reader: I’m curious what percentage of female lawyers desire to become equity partners. Personally, the thought has never even crossed my mind. My plan has always been to stay home with my kids and focus on my career later. What the article characterizes as the “burden of care-giving” is the “privilege of being a mom” to me. I enjoy practicing law, but my family will always be my top priority. That said, if any men at big firms want to encourage a solo practitioner, I’ll take all of the sports tickets your female attorneys supposedly don’t want ... preferably for Packer games, but I’m not fussy!

    Sarah Aue Palodichuk
    Sarah Palodichuk Law LLC, Prescott

    Reader: Well “today’s graduates” and “equity partners” are different groups entirely, right? My law school contracts professor went to school with one female law student. There were a majority of women in my graduation class. Obviously, it is going to take that change awhile to reach the top of the firms.

    Justin Singleton
    Singleton Law Firm LLC, Waukesha

    From the State Bar’s Archives

    State Bar member Fritz Wagner requested a photo of past president (1971-72) Clyde Cross. In thanks for the fulfilled request, Wagner shared the following story:

    When the State Bar met at Lake Lawn Lodge in Delavan in 1972, one of Clyde’s partners came up to me at a cocktail party and asked if I would be interested in joining the firm. I was then with the DNR. I said, “yes.” Later my wife said to Clyde that his offer was the second greatest compliment ever paid to me. “What was the greatest?” asked Clyde. “When I agreed to marry him,” replied my wife! 

    Indigent Defendants’ Plight Hits the Federal Courts

    Court and Gavel

    In “Federal Lawsuit: ‘Indigent Defense in Wisconsin Has Reached a State of Crisis’” (InsideTrack, Jan. 18, 2019), Joe Forward wrote abouta federal lawsuit filed in mid-January by individuals in Ashland and Bayfield counties that raises constitutional claims against Wisconsin’s criminal justice system, based on delays in providing legal representation while the plaintiffs languished in county jails.

    “The lawsuit says that state public defenders (SPDs) have significant caseloads, ‘in some cases staggering,’ which can preclude representation that is constitutionally required.

    “In addition, the rate paid to private bar attorneys to take overflow and conflict cases – the private bar handles about 40 percent of the nearly 140,000 cases per year ­– is so low that many attorneys have simply stopped taking them, especially in rural areas.

    “Private bar attorneys are paid $40 per hour to take SPD appointed cases, regardless of whether they are felony or misdemeanor cases. They get $25 per hour for travel time.

    “This hourly rate is the lowest in the country for states that use private bar attorneys to assist public defenders, and has remained largely unchanged since 1978, when the Wisconsin Legislature set the private bar rate for SPD appointments at $35 per hour.”

    Readers posted comments:

    Reader: $40 an hour is not enough to pay the cost of most lawyers’ services. There are enough staff public defenders but private lawyers need to be hired for cases the staff, full time public defenders can’t handle.

    Gary Getzin

    Reader: About 15 years ago I advocated for the private bar to boycott SPD appointments to try to get the hourly rate raised. It went nowhere. The current system is terrible for defendants and attorneys. I’d rather work for free than take an SPD appointment.

    Joseph Norby
    Ahrens Veternick & Norby LLP, Appleton

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