Margaret Hickey passes the gavel to Dean DietrichNew State Bar of Wisconsin President Dean Dietrich accepts a gavel from immediate Past-president Margaret Hickey. The gavel is symbolically passed from each past-president in attendance to the new State Bar president to underscore the history and continuity of the office. Visit the State Bar’s Facebook page for more photos of this event, or click here.

June 15, 2023 – A glance at Dean Dietrich’s resume proves that he has passion for serving the legal profession.

Dietrich, who practices employment law, municipal law, and professional responsibility law in Wausau, has served two terms on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors (1990-91, 1994-98) and one as the State Bar Treasurer (2001-2005).

He’s also chaired the Committee on Professional Ethics (2000-02 and 2005-present) and served as a member of the Senior Lawyers Division, the Finance Committee, (chair 2000-2004), the Professionalism Committee, and the Young Lawyers Division.

Dietrich will add to that record by governing the State Bar of Wisconsin for FY 2024 (July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024). He was sworn in last night as the State Bar’s 68th president.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler gave remarks before administering the oath of office. Mike Williams, a lawyer and childhood friend of Dietrich’s, emceed the event.

Dietrich, who also ran for president in 2005, will begin his term on July 1. He will be the fourth member of the Marquette University Law School Class of 1977 to serve as State Bar president (the other three are John Decker, Steven Sorenson, and Patricia Ballman).

For the last year, Dietrich has served as president-elect.

alt textWisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler gave remarks before administering the oath of office.

Worried about the Profession

Dietrich began his brief remarks by thanking Chief Justice Ziegler, other members of the judiciary in attendance, and his family – particularly his wife, C. Ann.

Jeff M. BrownJeff M. Brown, Willamette Univ. School of Law 1997, is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6126.

“She has been at war for 47 years with my love of the law and my love of the legal profession, and she hasn’t won that many battles,” Dietrich said, jokingly.

Dietrich, who said he’s “addicted to the law and addicted to the legal profession,” said he worries about the profession.

“Why am I worried?” Dietrich said. “Because I watch other professions struggle and, in my view, lose.”

“I’ve watched engineers lose all their creativity and have to follow a book of regulations any time they’re designing a building,” Dietrich said.

“I’ve watched teachers have to teach to a test. And I’ve watched doctors who are only allowed to meet with their patients for 15 minutes. I don’t want the legal profession to become that same way.”

alt textPast-presidents of the State Bar gathered to witness the swearing-in and support Dietrich.

‘Nudge Things Along’

Dietrich said his role as president was to “nudge things along” – “nudge” being a word his Polish grandmother was fond of.

Dietrich said he plans to focus on four things as president: civility, lawyer wellness, legal deserts, and inclusion.

Dietrich said that while Wisconsinites have a reputation for politeness – “Wisconsin nice” – the habit doesn’t always carry over to the courtroom.

“I worry about where civility is in our profession,” Dietrich said.

On wellness, Dietrich pointed out that among all the professions, lawyers have one of the highest rates of suicide. Addressing the causes behind that statistic won’t happen overnight, Dietrich said, but “we need to make lawyer wellness a habit.”

Addressing the problem of legal deserts – counties in greater Wisconsin with unmet legal needs because of too few attorneys – will take time, Dietrich said. It will also require participation from all sectors of the state’s legal and justice system, Dietrich said.

“We need to get more people involved in addressing that issue,” Dietrich said. “Areas where there are no lawyers, or where there’s just a prosecutor and a public defender, are areas that are losing their rights and the ability to advocate for their rights.”

Dietrich said bolstering inclusion in the legal profession was key to improving the profession.

“What I mean by inclusion, is not who you are or where you came from or are you sitting at the table,” Dietrich said.

“It means, are you being listened to when you’re sitting at the table? You’re being listened to when you walk in the courtroom, you’re being listened to when you’re talking with a legislator.”

Dietrich closed his remarks by thanking the members of the State Bar.

“I want to thank you for the privilege of being your next bar president,” Dietrich said.

alt textNew State Bar President Dean Dietrich poses with his wife, C. Ann. “She has been at war for 47 years with my love of the law and my love of the legal profession, and she hasn’t won that many battles,” Dietrich said, jokingly.