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  • WisBar News
    May 23, 2016

    State Bar Executive Director George Brown Announces 2017 Retirement Date

    George Brown

    May 23, 2016 – After 16 years as executive director of the State Bar of Wisconsin, George Brown has announced that he will retire on June 30, 2017. By the time he retires next year, Brown will have served almost 30 years in various State Bar roles.

    “George's impact on the State Bar of Wisconsin has been perhaps the most consequential of any person in the recent history of the bar,” said State Bar President Ralph Cagle. “He has built an organization and professional staff that provides one of the most complete arrays of services to members of any bar in the country.”

    Executive Director Brown said it has been an “extraordinary ride,” but it’s time to end his State Bar journey. “For nearly 30 years, I have had the privilege of serving Wisconsin’s lawyers, judges, and justices in the never-ending responsibility of improving the administration of justice and the delivery of legal services to the people of Wisconsin,” he told members of the State Bar’s Board of Governors in a resignation letter.

    “I have served with some tremendous officers and members of the Board of Governors as well as numerous intelligent and capable committee and section volunteers. They have been leaders, colleagues, mentors and friends. I will miss them all,” he wrote.

    Brown has served in the State Bar’s chief executive officer role since May 2000, guiding program and policy direction and the implementation of policy decisions set by the State Bar’s 52-member board. Under his leadership, the State Bar has become a viable organization with more tools to assist its 25,000 member base.

    “I believe in what this organization is doing,” said Brown. “And I believe that lawyers are the true guardians of society. It’s a privilege to help attorneys in the work they do.”

    Brown said the State Bar has taken great strides since he took the helm in 2000, and has remained an innovative leader among bar associations across the country.

    “The State Bar provides its members with numerous programs and services to improve their practices and their lives and to help them meet their public obligations,” Brown wrote in his resignation letter. “It accomplishes this because of the hard work of dedicated volunteers and elected leaders as well as an exceptional staff.”

    Cagle added: “George has always taken a deep personal interest in the lives and the well-being of the lawyers throughout Wisconsin. In our many travels together around the state, I am always touched by the deep affection that lawyers everywhere have for him."

    The board will follow an approved succession plan to fill the vacancy. At the board’s upcoming June meeting, Cagle will appoint a 12-person Transition and Search Committee to find and interview candidates for the board’s consideration. The board must approve the committee by a majority vote.

    “In his 30 years of service to the lawyers of Wisconsin, George has become not only the face of the bar but also a champion of quality of service to our members,” Cagle noted. “He is also a warm friend who it has been my delight to serve with. We will find a successor to him, but a replacement for George will be a very, very tall order.”

    Brown encouraged the board to select a successor with “strong administrative experience, positive interpersonal skills, an ability and willingness to connect with members in every practice setting, and an appreciation and understanding of lawyers and the practice of law.”

    Executive Director Brown moved up the State Bar ranks, starting as the organization’s public affairs director in 1986. Brown had been working at the Wisconsin Legislature, rising to acting deputy director of the Wisconsin Assembly’s Democratic caucus staff. He also served as chief aide to the Joint Finance Committee’s co-chair.

    As the State Bar’s public affairs director, Brown helped establish strong and positive relationships with the legislative, executive, and judicial branches in Wisconsin.

    Brown left briefly in 1997, serving as a government relations advisor to Quarles and Brady, LLC. But the State Bar lured him back in 1998 to serve as assistant executive director. He served almost a year as interim executive director before taking the permanent executive director job in May 2000, where he has remained since.

    A South Chicago native from a blue collar family, Brown used a strong work ethic, high intellect, and an interest in history and politics to drive his ambitions. He came to Madison to attend U.W., earning a master’s degree in American history in 1978.

    Over the years, Brown held various high-ranking roles within National Association of Bar Executives (NABE), culminating with his election to serve as NABE president in 2014-15. 

    He has given more than 65 plenary and workshop presentations at national, regional, and state conferences on governance, public policy, financial planning, coalition building, and many more topics important to bar associations in the U.S.

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