Inside Track: Know Your Candidates for State Bar President-elect: Madison Lawyers Bring Different Perspectives:

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  • Know Your Candidates for State Bar President-elect: Madison Lawyers Bring Different Perspectives

    The spring election campaign is on. In this article, learn more about your candidates for State Bar president-elect: Ralph Cagle and Kevin Palmersheim.

    Joe Forward

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    Jan. 15, 2014 – Both candidates for the State Bar of Wisconsin’s president-elect post – Kevin Palmersheim (U.W. 1992) and Ralph Cagle (U.W. 1974) – realize this is a challenging time for lawyers and the State Bar. Both are up for the task.

    In this article, the candidates explain how they got here, what drives them, and how they can help members and the bar. In April, State Bar members will elect one candidate to carry out a one-year term as president-elect, starting July 1, 2014, followed by a one-year term as State Bar president commencing on July 1, 2015.

    Kevin Palmersheim: The Business Lawyer

    Bio and Platform Statement

    Kevin PalmersheimKevin Palmersheim was about 12 years old when he found his true calling. A youth in La Crosse, Palmersheim’s sixth grade class was invited to witness court proceedings at the local courthouse. He liked the judges, but he loved the lawyers.

    “I knew right then I wanted to be an advocate,” Palmersheim said. “My mother says I had an argument for everything, but I saw being a lawyer as an intellectual challenge and it seemed like the right path for me. Down the road, I found a way to combine law with my interest in business.”

    Palmersheim, a shareholder and managing attorney at Haley Palmersheim S.C. in Madison, is a business lawyer who does both transactional and litigation work.

    Established in his practice and open to new challenges, Palmersheim says he’s ready to lead the State Bar. Palmersheim can relate to other small firm lawyers in Wisconsin, he says, and brings a wealth of volunteer experience in other leadership capacities.

    “I want to be president for a couple reasons,” Palmersheim said. “First, I feel very fortunate to be a lawyer. We are in a position to do great things. I’d like to look back on my career and know that I contributed to helping the profession as a whole.”

    “Secondly, these are trying times for lawyers,” he said. “The economics of practicing law is a pressing issue, with an impact on the State Bar as an organization. I have the right skill set to address the economic, business, and financial issues we are facing.”

    After graduating from U.W. River Falls as a business and political science major, Palmersheim went to law school at U.W. and obtained a master’s degree in business at the same time. He graduated in 1992, and attracted the attention of attorney Thomas Haley, a veteran business lawyer and solo practitioner in Madison.

    “I had Kevin work on briefs and other projects,” Haley said. “Some other attorneys were working for me, too, but they didn’t measure up to Kevin. I told him he could stay on as long as he wanted, but I couldn’t guarantee the work. That was 20 years ago.”

    Around 1995, Haley offered Palmersheim a partnership and Haley Palmersheim S.C. was born. Now staffed with four attorneys, the firm handles primarily business matters.

    Palmersheim advises businesses and serves as outside general counsel to small- and mid-size companies. He also litigates on matters involving business break ups and dissolutions, including shareholder or partnership disputes.

    As a leader, Palmersheim would use his skills to address tough challenges. “We fail as a member association if we don’t address the new economic realities,” said Palmersheim, past president of the Dane County Bar Association (2001-02).

    He also served on the State Bar’s Board of Governors and chaired several State Bar committees. He’s on the board of directors for the Western District Bar Association, and volunteers on the boards of both for-profit and nonprofit corporations in Wisconsin.

    Haley believes his partner is the right man to lead the State Bar. “Leaders must be personable, approachable, and respect those with differing views. Kevin displays those characteristics on a daily basis,” Haley said. “In addition, he is a hard-working, easy-going guy with a keen mind for law and business. He will certainly get the job done.”

    Ralph Cagle: The Lawyer’s Lawyer

    Bio and Platform Statement

    Ralph CagleRalph Cagle is a lawyer’s lawyer. For much of his 40-year career, Cagle has represented lawyers in malpractice and disciplinary matters, learning about the stresses of law practice and the root problems that can cause lawyers to make mistakes.

    In short: Cagle knows lawyers. And he wants to help them surmount the ongoing challenges of practicing law by serving in the State Bar’s top leadership post.

    “I’m in a situation where I can focus a lot of my energies on making the State Bar a central resource for attorneys,” said Cagle, of counsel with Hurley, Burish & Stanton in Madison and emeritus clinical professor at U.W. Law School.

    A civil litigator and mediator, Cagle spent 22 years on the U.W. law faculty, directing the general practice skills program and teaching courses on professional responsibility, negotiations, and mediation. Now he embraces a new opportunity.

    “Ralph would make an outstanding leader,” said attorney Marie Stanton, a long-time colleague at Hurley, Burish & Stanton. “He’s a good-humored, grounded individual who takes the time to listen. He understands what lawyers are facing on a daily basis.”

    Although Cagle is now a veteran Wisconsinite, he grew up in Rhode Island and attended the University of Rhode Island, earning a degree in political science.

    “Obsessed with politics,” Cagle went on to earn a master’s degree in political science at Rutgers in New Jersey. But a fateful moment in history changed Cagle’s path in life.

    “I was working on Bobby Kennedy’s campaign when he was murdered,” Cagle said. “After that, I decided I needed to get away from politics. But it was the only skill I had. I guess I just needed a fresh start someplace new. Wisconsin was that place.”

    Through a connection, a 23-year-old Cagle obtained an interview with Wisconsin Senator Fred Risser, who hired him to be a caucus staff member. He worked in different capacities for both houses of the legislature for several years, and continued to work full time while attending law school and supporting a family in the early 1970s.

    Cagle worked for a Racine trial firm before returning to Madison to join the Murphy Desmond firm. He stayed until joining U.W. in 1990.

    “I came to realize that teaching, particularly teaching young people to be lawyers, was where I belonged,” said Cagle, who maintains a mediation practice and continues to represent lawyers.

    Cagle served as president of the Dane County Bar Association (1991-92). He also served on various committees relating to professional ethics, including stints as chair of the State Bar’s Professional Ethics and CLE committees.

    Now, he’s ready for another challenge, at a challenging time for lawyers. “The legal profession is experiencing fundamental changes,” Cagle said. “I’d like to facilitate the responses that help lawyers manage these changes. The organization must be the focal point for gathering resources and providing relevant services.”

    “Ralph collaborates with lawyers, represents lawyers, and teaches aspiring lawyers,” said Stanton. “He has a unique perspective on the changing legal landscape. I think he can use this perspective to drive the bar’s efforts in helping to meet lawyers’ needs.”

    2014 State Bar Candidate Bios and Platform Statements



    Judicial Council

    Election ballots will be mailed no later than April 11, 2014, and must be returned by April 25, 2014. Those elected will take office July 1, 2014.

    Visit the State Bar 2014 Election page