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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    April 07, 2020

    President's Message: Hope for the Best, but Prepare for the Worst

    We can't always predict where or when emergencies will occur. Lawyers can prepare for the unknown, however, using a new law practice self-assessment tool.

    Jill M. Kastner

    As I write this article, the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down virtually everything. I am working from home. After only a week of social distancing and e-schooling, my teenagers have cabin fever. The State Bar cancelled all in-person meetings, CLE, and events, but staff are still working hard (mostly from home) providing essential services. Bar leadership is communicating regularly​ (over the phone or computers, of course) about what steps the Bar needs to take and what services the Bar may offer to help members deal with the pandemic.

    Jill M. KastnerJill M. Kastner, UCLA School of Law 2000, is president of the State Bar of Wisconsin. She is the project director for the student legal aid program at Legal Action of Wisconsin Inc., Milwaukee.

    I pray that you and your family are safe and healthy. But even if this particular infectious disease doesn’t infect you, every lawyer should have plans in place to prepare for emergencies. As a mom, I have two-plus weeks’ worth of food and water and backup sources of power at home, and I have insurance policies, a will, and other contingencies.

    My law firm has backups of our data as well as plans and procedures to mitigate any disruption in services to our clients in case of a disaster or the sudden death or disability of a lawyer. My firm requires me to have my files and database updated and organized so that if I am injured or become seriously ill tomorrow, another lawyer can pick up where I left off.

    Is your law office prepared? Are you sure? The March issue of Wisconsin Lawyer highlighted a new member benefit: lawyers and law firms can do a self-assessment to see how prepared they really are. The new self-assessment tool gives Wisconsin lawyers a meaningful way to improve their operations, manage risk, and increase client satisfaction – not to mention reduce the likelihood of grievances and malpractice claims.

    We are providing this valuable tool to help members, particularly those practicing solo or in a small firm, better serve their clients and ensure they are compliant with their ethical responsibilities. The self-assessment tool is available at

    • There is no extra cost (a benefit of membership).

    • It can be completed online or on paper.

    • It does not require personally identifiable information.

    • It is completely anonymous – again, it doesn’t request personally identifiable information.

    If your assessment indicates you have adequate plans, great. If you see some areas to improve, the tool points to ethics rules and procedures. Additional information and tutorials can be found at Finally, confidential helplines at the State Bar of Wisconsin are available to provide answers to questions concerning ethics and practice management.

    While I hope and pray that Wisconsin is not overwhelmed by COVID-19 or a flood or other disaster, I do hope that all this media coverage causes everyone to examine whether they are personally and professionally prepared. It never hurts to be reminded to have plans and procedures in place so that if illness strikes, your home or business burns down, or a tornado devastates your community, you are prepared and your clients continue to be adequately served. And remember, please wash your hands.

    Ask Us!

    Questions about ethics or practice management? Confidential assistance is a phone call away:

    Ethics Hotline: (800) 254-9154, or (608) 229-2017
    9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    Practice411: (800) 957-4670, or

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