The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors met virtually for its December meeting.
Dec. 4, 2020 – The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors today voted to support efforts to expand internet broadband access to ensure citizens in rural parts of the state have access to online legal tools, as well as access to attorneys who can help them.
The board, meeting virtually, unanimously adopted the broadband policy position to support funding for broadband statewide to ensure more uniform coverage, as well as broadband expansion in any capital or infrastructure legislation.
“Access to broadband is necessary for the proper functioning of our legal system,” said Dist. 2 Gov. Lisa Lawless, chair of the board’s Policy Committee, noting the policy position supports the State Bar’s efforts to increase access to justice. Lawless also said expanding broadband could address lawyer shortages in rural parts of the state.
Patrick Puyleart, a public member of the board, noted that large portions of some urban areas are not adequately covered with broadband capabilities. “As we look at remedies, we need to include that in our considerations,” said Puyleart.
Current State Bar President Kathy Brost said broadband expansion is a critical access to justice need to support attorneys and their clients. Dist. 2 Gov. Ryan Billings of Milwaukee said the pandemic has forced a digital transition.
“If there’s a silver lining to this pandemic for the legal system, it’s been that we have been dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age when it comes to court appearances,” Billings said.
Director of State Courts, Judge Randy Koschnick, accepted a State Bar of Wisconsin 2020 legal innovator award on behalf of the Wisconsin Court System.
He noted overwhelming bench and bar support for using Zoom to replace status conferences and other minor hearings normally conducted in-person. “This is something that is here to stay, and it means more access to justice for everyone,” he said.
Taking a policy position allows the State Bar’s government relations staff to actively lobby on legislation relating to expanded broadband access in Wisconsin.
Board Supports Appellate Practice Petitions
The board also voted to support petitions that will allow electronic filing in appellate cases and new rules governing pro hac vice admission, substitution, and withdrawal of retained counsel in appellate cases.
The Appellate eFiling Committee convened by the clerk of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals filed a petition last month to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to amend the Wisconsin Rules of Procedure as needed to implement e-filing. The petition now moves forward with full support from the State Bar of Wisconsin.
2020 Wisconsin Legal Innovators Honored
Tom Watson, on behalf of the State Bar’s Wisconsin Legal Innovator Initiative, led an award ceremony to honor this year’s award winners. Learn more about the initiative and the award recipients in the November Wisconsin Lawyer.
The Wisconsin Judicial Council filed the appellate pro hac vice petition. A supporting memo notes that “appellate courts have no formal procedure regarding the notice necessary or how retained counsel withdraws in civil appeals” and “the Court of Appeals suggested there was uncertainty as to when retained counsel’s motion to withdraw in a civil appeal could and should be denied.” The petition addresses these issues.
Board Supports Law Student Practice Changes
The board also voted to support a petition to amend the law student practice rule that allows law students to practice law under the supervision of attorneys.
The Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission filed a petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to amend the rule. The petition now moves forward with State Bar support.
Under the current rule, students must complete half their law school education before they can practice law under the supervision of an attorney.
The petition would allow supervised students to practice after the first year of law school. Mitch, a U.W. law professor, said law schools generally offer clinical programs after the first year and the rule change will allow those law students to get more practical experience sooner.
The proposal would also allow law school graduates of out-of-state law schools to practice under supervision in government roles and approved pro bono programs for the first 12 months before taking the Wisconsin Bar Exam to gain admission.
This aspect would allow Wisconsin to attract a more diverse pool of attorneys than currently exists at Wisconsin’s two law schools, Mitch said.
In the petition filed with the court, the commission says the current rules, adopted in the 1970s, “do not provide for adequate experiential learning opportunities for law students, nor do they encourage equitable and diverse membership in the Wisconsin Bar.
“Beyond that, the proposed rule furthers administrative efficiency, and modernizes and clarifies the out-of-date and at times confusing current Student Practice Rule.”
Board Supports WisTAF Organizational Document Changes
Under Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 13.03(1), the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF) must maintain bylaws, rules, and procedures “in consultation with” the State Bar’s Board of Governors.
The WisTAF board of directors recently reviewed existing organizational documents and found that they did not fully reflect current operations, current law, or best practices.
WisTAF amended and restated the documents and sought the State Bar board’s consultation. At the meeting today, the State Bar board approved the amendments.
Board Supports NLRD Request on CLE Rule Changes
The board approved a request from the Nonresident Lawyers Division to file a petition with the Wisconsin Supreme Court related to continuing legal education (CLE) rules.
The petition addresses the issue of transferring between active and inactive status for members who have not practiced law in Wisconsin for the past 10 years.
Currently, inactive members can transfer to active status only if they obtain at least 30 credits of Wisconsin-compliant CLE, if they did not comply with the most recent reporting period. If they failed to comply with two reporting periods, it’s 60 credits.
The proposal would allow inactive attorneys who reside in mandatory CLE states to use compliance with their home state’s CLE to meet the requirements for transferring to active status in Wisconsin. It would also remove the requirement that the attorney be actively practicing in their home state the entire time they are inactive in Wisconsin.
“Rather, they need only meet the requirements necessary for an attorney to petition for full membership in Wisconsin, practicing three out of the past five years,” the division’s memo states. “This three-out-of-five years rule tracks the requirements of [CLE] 3.015for admission to the State Bar of Wisconsin based on practice in another jurisdiction.”
NLRD Representative Kathryn Bullon said the current rule creates a “disconnect” when inactive lawyers want to return to active status in Wisconsin, since “active” Wisconsin lawyers can use CLE from other jurisdictions to comply with Wisconsin’s requirements.
· State Bar President-elect Cheryl Daniels, chair of the State Bar’s Nominating Committee, announced the slate of 2021 candidates for State Bar president-elect, treasurer, and Judicial Council. The election is in April.
· The board approved the Monona Terrace in Madison as the location for the State Bar’s 2025 Annual Meeting and Conference.
· The board approved the requests of various State Bar sections to change their bylaws to allow section elections to be held in conjunction with elections for the State bar Board of Governors and State Bar divisions.
Upon request, interested members may obtain a copy of the minutes of each meeting of the Board of Governors. For more information, contact State Bar Executive Coordinator Jan Marks by emailor by phone at (608) 250-6106.or by phone at (608) 250-6106.