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    Telling Your Story

    Consider engaging directly in the legislative process as the State Bar fights to make justice-reform issues a high priority.

    Larry J. Martin

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    As spring approaches, the new Congress and the Wisconsin Legislature are in full swing. With the new term come big issues policy makers face as part of a long struggle toward ensuring access for all to a fair and equitable justice system. Expungement reform, increasing the private-bar rate, civil legal funding, and bail reform top a long list of issues to be debated that profoundly affect the quality of justice in our society.

    Larry J. Martinorg lmartin wisbar Larry J. Martin is the executive director for the State Bar of Wisconsin.

    It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the legislative process. It can at times seem distant and disconnected to our daily lives, moving slowly on matters that from our individual standpoints demand immediate and direct attention.

    But there is something you possess that will have a significant and meaningful effect that no paid lobbyist could ever deliver – your individual story.

    You have a story to tell. A personal experience and a specific perspective that your elected official wants to hear. Why? In addition to being a living, breathing voter, you have something all legislators want – a better understanding of how the issues and policy choices they face affect the individuals and communities they represent back home.

    In the age of mass and social media, believe it or not, the most effective ways to communicate with lawmakers remain in-person meetings and old-fashioned handwritten letters.

    As a lawyer, you advocate on behalf of your clients daily. Many of those same skills can be used when advocating for reform. On many of the issues at hand you have a unique perspective on the problem and the potential solutions. You can speak from personal experience, using stories that relate the issues to your profession, your clients, and your community. Stories allow you to express your values not as abstract principles, but as lived experiences that have the power to move others.

    There are big policy issues before us, but I bet virtually every State Bar member has a personal story that can humanize and give context in ways no formal State Bar position paper ever could.

    The State Bar is working to increase our grassroots lobbying efforts, and you are at the center of this effort. We want to engage you directly in the legislative process as we fight to make justice-reform issues a high legislative priority.

    In the age of mass and social media, believe it or not, the most effective ways to communicate with lawmakers remain in-person meetings and old-fashioned handwritten letters.

    I strongly encourage you to take a minute of your time and go to the State Bar’s new advocacy website, http://www.congressweb.com/sbw/. You will find contact information for writing your elected officials, and it provides an easy way to send a message to your lawmaker through email, Twitter, phone, or any combination. I’ve sent a message; it takes only a minute. You will automatically be matched with your state representative and state senator and linked to an issue-related email that you can modify with your own thoughts and words. There are also links for making phone calls and using Twitter.

    We need your help – your ideas, your enthusiasm, your personal stories, and your engagement – if we are going to successfully move toward greater justice in Wisconsin. We need you to tell your story.

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