Wisconsin Lawyer: Your State Bar When a House Becomes a Home:

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    When a House Becomes a Home

    Two decades after moving to a new building, the State Bar of Wisconsin continues to thrive as a gathering place for Wisconsin's legal community and employees.

    Larry J. Martin

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    Charles Goldberg, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Grover Broadfoot, and Harold Lichtsin

    The first State Bar Center, envisioned as a symbol of the profession’s pride and strength, opened its doors in 1958 in downtown Madison. Here, (from left) Charles Goldberg, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Grover Broadfoot, and Harold Lichtsin review their remarks before the building’s dedication. Sixty-one years later, the State Bar Center continues as a meeting place for Wisconsin’s legal community.

    Time sure does fly. It might be hard to believe, but it has been 20 years since the State Bar of Wisconsin left its downtown-Madison location for more spacious quarters on the city’s far eastside. It would be several years before I would join the organization, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge, but members and colleagues who remember tell me the old space was less than ideal.

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

    To hear the stories, employees were packed in like sardines, with old storage closets converted into offices to accommodate the growing needs of the organization. As in so many older buildings, asbestos was liberally present, and the multistory facility lacked an accessible passenger elevator and a current technology infrastructure.

    Parking was at a premium at the building, located at the corner of Wilson and Broom streets just south of the State Capitol. Because there were more staff members than spaces, parking in the State Bar’s lot was by seniority. But members were always a priority, so when meetings were held, employees jockeyed for the limited spaces on the crowded neighborhood streets.

    The new State Bar Center out in the sprawling development adjacent to American Family Insurance headquarters came with plenty of parking and meeting and work space for everyone. It was shiny and new, and while not near the center of the city, it affords far greater and easier access for members driving to the building for what have become hundreds of meetings and seminars hosted each year.

    While the old downtown headquarters could no longer keep up with the growing and changing needs of a dynamic association, it remains fondly thought of for the many memories that were made within its walls. I’ve greatly enjoyed the stories shared by members and colleagues who remember “those days” and the successes, battles, heartaches, friendships, and accomplishments that occurred.

    Brick and mortar may make a building, but it is the people inside and their shared experiences that define what is truly important and worth celebrating.

    It is not the building that we celebrate, but the experiences that together our members and staff have shared.

    My mom used to say that a house doesn’t become a home until a family experiences a birth, a wedding, and a funeral.

    Well, we as a legal community and State Bar staff have had our share. We have gathered in celebration and to mourn loss. In just the past year, eight babies were born to Board of Governors members and to State Bar employees. Two years ago, two members of the Board of Governors passed away during their terms. Literally thousands of members have passed through the doors of what is your State Bar Center over these years. You have come to learn, lead, plan, and connect with your colleagues.

    For the past 20 years the State Bar Center has served as the crossroads for Wisconsin’s legal community. However, it is not the building that we celebrate, but the experiences that together our members and staff have shared. After two decades, we once again have a place we can truly call home.

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