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Candidate for State Bar President-elect

Ralph M. Cagle

Hurley, Burish & Stanton SC, Madison




My career has mainly been about lawyers. As a government lawyer, a private practitioner, and law professor, I have defended, trained, and advised lawyers, and have worked with lawyers to improve our profession and the justice system. My career has given me professional satisfactions and enduring friendships.

I have been involved in numerous State Bar activities that include presenting at seminars and serving on committees. However, I was surprised to be invited to run for President-elect, because my State Bar activities have not included governance activities. I have come to consider that as an invitation to look with a fresh perspective at how the State Bar operates and serves its members.

Our Emerging Challenges. Rapid societal changes, fueled by technological innovation, economic re-allocations, and new public attitudes, are changing how we practice law. These changes are not episodic but structural and are likely to be enduring. Leaders in the law warn that we must develop new ways to practice and deliver legal services. Clinging to business as usual is not a path to sustainability or success.

I agree. And I believe that as we lawyers re-examine our own practices, assumptions and traditions, our legal institutions, courts, law schools, and the State Bar must do the same, openly and in a manner that is responsive to the needs of their stakeholders. These re-examinations are underway but may not be keeping us ahead of the pace of change. Expectations for greater efficiency, immediacy, openness, and responsiveness are extant in today’s legal services marketplace. The State Bar must pro-actively assist its members to better anticipate, understand, evaluate, and implement change; the State Bar must also lead by examining and revising its own assumptions, programs, and traditions.

Our Service Opportunity. Our professional time centers on what we do for our clients. But, of course, our role as lawyers in society is larger. Equipped with training and experience, lawyers offer unique leadership skills to their communities: knowledge of the law, analytic capacity, problem-solving and collaborative skills, and artful communications. Lawyers also provide essential pro bono services to people who need but cannot afford legal representation. The State Bar can and should use the experience of our most engaged community leaders to train, encourage, and facilitate lawyer-leaders to expand the positive impact of our profession in local communities and statewide.

Our Private-Public Partnership. Many government lawyers serve the State Bar through committees and in governance. Others feel distanced from or under-served by their State Bar. They don’t see the State Bar addressing their needs or encouraging their aspirations. Our government lawyers have unique skills; they have an informed perspective on public needs and interests, and their expertise in making and administering the law is valuable to all of us. They are affected by technological innovation, economic dislocations, and new public attitudes similarly to private practitioners. As both a government lawyer and a private practitioner, I hope to constructively connect these diverse but coordinated sectors of our profession.

Our Profession's Living Future For 25 years, I have taught law students and emerging lawyers how to meet the challenges and experience the fulfilling possibilities of a career in law. That work is the source of my greatest professional satisfaction. Obstacles faced by experienced lawyers are magnified for new lawyers. We have a duty to train, support, and encourage them, and to provide them with practical assistance in launching their careers and orienting their practices toward excellence. As recommended in the Challenges Facing New Lawyers Task Force Report recently presented to the Board of Governors, the State Bar, working with our two law schools, our supreme court, and public and private employers, can and should develop useful strategies, structures, and programs to open paths to professional development, community service, and professional satisfaction for our newest lawyers.

Going Forward. I unabashedly ask for your ideas, support, and vote in this election.

Until very recently, my life plan did not include running for this office. This is a demanding three-year commitment that at this point in my life I can make wholeheartedly and without reservation. I look forward to all the possibilities. There will be challenges, frustrations, and probably more meetings than any rational person would ever want to attend. But, I have learned that challenges reveal opportunities, frustrations develop our patience and our resolve, and meetings can lead to understanding, progress, and friendship. I hope I get this chance to serve.


Ralph Cagle

Clinical Professor, University of Wisconsin Law School
Of Counsel, Hurley, Burish & Stanton, S.C.

Professional Background

As a government lawyer, private practitioner, and law professor, my career has mainly involved defending, training, and advising lawyers, and working with lawyers to improve our profession and the justice system.

  • Practicing as a civil trial attorney from 1974 to 1990 and currently of counsel to Hurley, Burish & Stanton, S.C.
  • Defending lawyers in malpractice and disciplinary cases;
  • Since 1990, serving as University of Wisconsin Law School Clinical Professor of Law and Director, (emeritus since 2011) of the Lawyering Skills Course (formerly General Practice Course), a practice-centered course that teaches the skills of successful law practice through an annual faculty of 60 to 70 practicing lawyers working as teaching teams;
  • Assisting and counseling lawyers on professional responsibility, ethics and practice management issues in private consultations and through the State Bar Lawyer to Lawyer Program;
  • Mentoring lawyers regarding professional development strategies;
  • Teaching more than 250 CLE programs about professional responsibilities and ethics, negotiation and mediation, legal communications and professionalism;
  • Serving on Supreme Court and State Bar committees and commissions including chair of the Continuing Legal Education, Professionalism and Office of Lawyer Regulation Review Committees, and as vice-chair of the Board of Bar Examiners; and as member of Supreme Court Commission to Review the Rules of Professional Conduct;
  • Serving as the Reporter and consultant to the State Bar Professional Ethics Committee;
  • Serving as Dane County Bar Association president; and
  • Serving as a mediator in business, professional, estate and tort matters.

Other credentials and experiences include:

  • Graduation from the University of Wisconsin Law School 1974 (Order of the Coif)
  • Peer Review Rated as AV® preeminent™ by Martindale-Hubbell (since 1983)
  • Super Lawyers® 2004-2008 [Alternative Dispute Resolution]

Current community service:

  • Agrace Hospice and Palliative Care, Foundation Board
  • Combat Blindness International Board
  • Mediator, Dane County Case Mediation Program
  • Madison Public Library Board (past president)
  • Dane County Library Board (past president)
  • Caucus Staff Director, Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly and Assistant to Assembly Speaker Norman Anderson
  • Legislative lobbyist for professional groups (architects, professional engineers, Certified Public Accountants, bankers, social workers, psychologists and farmers
  • Racine County Board of Supervisors (1975-6)


My wife, Tonia Neustifter and I have been married for 32 years. We have three children: Nick Cagle, Ben Cagle and Elizabeth Schlitz. I have a daughter, Kristin Butor, by a prior marriage and two grandchildren, Alia and Evan Butor.

Contact Information:

Prof. Ralph Cagle
University of Wisconsin Law School
975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
Ph: (608) 262-7881