On the Radar
COVID-19 Task Force: Reopening County Courts Amid Pandemic
In May, a COVID-19 Task Force assembled by Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack released a final report to guide counties and circuit courts as they reopen courthouses, return to in-person proceedings, and normalize operations.
Former State Bar President Christopher Rogers of Habush, Habush & Rottier S.C. was on the 24-member task force, along with numerous judges, circuit court clerks, county corporation counsel, and the dean of U.W-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health.
“As all Wisconsin residents try to adjust to the new normal during this pandemic, it is important to remember that ‘normal’ court operations in this environment will mean something very different than in the past,” the report notes.
The report recommends social distancing in the courtroom and use of personal protective equipment by jurors and of face masks for anyone in the courtroom.
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By the Numbers
– The amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified 100 years ago, that granted women the right to vote.
Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment. It was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on Aug. 18, 1920.
The 19th Amendment states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Will Wisconsin Hold Its Traditional July Bar Exam?
As of late May, there was no word on how Wisconsin will deal with the July bar exam amid COVID-19. The Board of Bar Examiners is evaluating whether to postpone the exam.
Wisconsin holds a July bar exam for graduates of out-of-state law schools. In-state graduates bypass the bar exam through the state’s diploma privilege. Wisconsin is the only state with a diploma privilege. Other states, such as Utah, are adopting a temporary diploma privilege for graduates in their states to bypass the July exam.
In a petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, three Minnesota Law School graduates – with jobs lined up in Wisconsin – asked the court to temporarily extend the diploma privilege to out-of-state law school graduates and grant conditional licenses.
They could obtain full admission after completing 360 hours of supervised practice and meeting Wisconsin law education requirements. The court had not ruled on the petition as of press time.
Several states have decided to hold July bar exams online. In May, the Michigan Supreme Court announced that a one-day bar exam will be conducted online in essay format.
“That’s a departure from the traditional two-day in-person exam that most states have decided to delay, ditch, or both, because of public health concerns associated with the coronavirus,” according to a Bloomberg Law article.
Indiana also will hold a one-day online exam. As of press time, California, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia were contemplating online bar exams.
From the Archives
State Bar Making History: Women Occupy All Three President Offices
For the first time in its history, three women will serve together in the State Bar of Wisconsin’s top leadership positions. On July 1, Kathy Brost will take the reins as president, flanked by Jill Kastner (immediate past president), and Cheryl Daniels (president-elect).
Pamela Barker became the first woman president in 1993, and, before Kastner’s term began in 2019, four other women followed: Susan Steingass (1998-99); Patricia Ballman (2002-03); Michelle Behnke (2004-05); and Diane Diel (2008-09).
Michelle Behnke currently is the treasurer of the American Bar Association.
Last year also marked the first time in the Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers’ 31-year history that three women served consecutive terms as president of that association. One of them, Kristen Hardy, will begin her term as State Bar secretary on July 1.
In her President’s Message in this issue, outgoing President Jill Kastner writes, “Never before has the State Bar had more women or lawyers of color serving as officers of the organization.
“[This] matters because recognizing and celebrating ‘firsts’ not only acknowledges individuals’ accomplishments but also helps provide motivation to reach the next milestone.”
Return to the Office: Legal Glamping?
A law firm in England is bringing workers back to the firm as stay-at-home orders begin to lift, and they will work individually in tent-based isolation booths.
“Our open plan office at April King Legal required a creative solution to the issue of a potential airborne virus,” firm CEO Paul King told Legal Cheek. “Simple Perspex® screens do not offer maximum protection so the idea of ‘legal glamping’ was born.”
“Glamping” is a term used to describe glamorous camping, with luxurious amenities and resort-like services.
The firm surveyed staff, and one-third said they would like to return to the office full-time. Others wanted to continue working remotely or come in part-time.
“There is a gigantic opportunity for lawyers that respond in the right way to this crisis.”
– Jack Newton, founder and CEO of Clio, a legal technology company that provides practice management software to law firms.
Clio surveyed COVID-19’s impact on law firms nationwide and analyzed its findings in a report released in May.
While the report noted that new matter creation was down by nearly 40 percent from February to April, there is a silver lining for the legal profession.
The profession has taken a quantum leap in aggressively adopting and leveraging technology to provide legal services amid this crisis, according to Newton.
“We are seeing five or 10 years of technology adoption compressed into five or 10 weeks,” he reported
Source: InsideTrack (May 20, 2020)
Who are Wisconsin’s Legal Innovators?
Who is embracing current challenges, looking for opportunities to do things better?
Nominate a 2020 Wisconsin Legal Innovator at thatsafineidea.com. Nominations accepted through June 30.