Agricultural Law & Rural Practice | Solo Small Firm & General Practice Section

This blog discusses topics of relevance to attorneys with clients who work in the agricultural industry, and to attorneys who practice in rural areas. Published by the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Solo Small Firm & General Practice Section, monthly articles are typically written by section members.  This section’s central purpose is to enhance the quality of practice for the solo and small-firm lawyer, as well as the lawyer who has interests beyond the bounds of a single professional practice area. The section sponsors CLE seminars, provides resources on its webpage, produces CLE seminars, hosts a conference each fall, and publishes a newsletter.​​​

Members of the State Bar of Wisconsin may join the section by visiting https://www.wisbar.org/formembers/groups/pages/join-a-group.aspx (login required).

Section Website: https://www.wisbar.org/forMembers/Groups/Sections/SoloSmallFirmandGeneralPracticeSection/pages/home.aspx

In rural Wisconsin, attorneys face distinctive obstacles including inadequate access to resources and overburdened calendars (often due to travel).

For attorneys with offices in secluded or rural locations, covering extensive territories to serve their clients and managing multiple duties is essential to maintain their legal practice. Skillfully managing business costs is crucial. Client appointments and court dates necessitate appearances. Leveraging the skills of competent legal assistants can significantly mitigate these hurdles.

Paralegals as trained professionals can perform tasks that
Continue Reading Rural Lawyers: Reap the Benefits of Teaming Up with Paralegals Remotely

In March 2023, a New York attorney represented a client suing an airline company. The attorney submitted a brief citing over half a dozen cases.

When the judge reviewed the citations, the cases could not be found. The lawyer then admitted to using OpenAI’s ChatGPT to perform the legal research. The artificial intelligence tool had provided fake caselaw and fake citations.

The incident resulted in a $5,000 fine for the attorneys and law firm that submitted the brief.

The
Continue Reading Artificial Intelligence: The New Frontier in Legal Research?

In the vast landscape of legal practice, solo and small law firms stand out as models of accessibility and personalized service.

Smaller firms often provide a level of attention and care that larger firms may struggle to match. However, operating on a smaller scale also presents unique challenges, particularly when it comes to generating a consistent flow of clients.

In this dynamic environment, referral sources emerge as invaluable assets, playing a pivotal role in sustaining and expanding the reach
Continue Reading Nurturing Growth: The Crucial Role of Referral Sources for Lawyers in Solo and Small Firms

A failed home improvement contractor project can be an aggravating experience for both consumer and contractor clients and present a range of legal issues for attorneys. This article analyzes the legal implications of several recurring complaints arising out of home improvement contracts, including poor contractor workmanship, warranty issues, and contractor theft. Poor Workmanship The most frequent problem from home improvement projects are claims of poor workmanship. Many home improvement contracts will extend a workmanship warranty for a limited period
Continue Reading Remedies for Home Improvement Contract Disputes

The intersection of access easement rights and timber rights presents an interesting question for attorneys practicing in rural areas.

Access easements often become overgrown with and blocked by trees and other vegetation, especially in wooded areas of northern Wisconsin. When this happens, both the benefited and burdened property owners may ask “what right does the easement holder have to cut timber on the burdened property?”

Unfortunately, this question does not have an easy answer, though Wisconsin’s statutes and case
Continue Reading Easement Rights versus Timber Rights

In its simplest terms, “portability” allows surviving spouses to add any unused federal estate and gift tax exemptions of their deceased spouse to their own.
Background
The federal estate and gift tax exemption is the amount of assets that an individual is allowed to transfer from their estate to other people or entities free of federal estate and gift tax.

Prior to 2010, any part of the federal estate and gift tax exemption amount that was unused by an
Continue Reading To Port or Not: The Federal Estate and Gift Tax Exemption

If you own or “control” a business, company, or partnership – or advise someone who does – you should know about a new federal law that is going into effect soon that places new reporting requirements on companies and their “beneficial owners.”

Many small and midsize Wisconsin companies and their owners will have to comply with this new law – some as soon as in January 2024.

Here’s a brief introduction to that new law.
The Purpose of the
Continue Reading New Law Requires Many Companies to Disclose ‘Beneficial Owners’

​Inflation remains high. Landlords, particularly agricultural landlords, may well want or need to raise rents. Raising rent on an agriculture lease may be especially difficult.

Generally, the terms of a written lease control the modification of rent. In contrast to a typical written lease, many agricultural leases are verbal, and the tenancy is typically on a year-to-year basis. Therefore, an agricultural landlord will need to terminate the verbal lease to raise rent.
Verbal Leases
The Wisconsin statutes set out
Continue Reading The Benefits of Written Leases for Agricultural Landholders

Meticulous preparation in making a strong record is one of the most effective tools for successful litigators. During trial, attorneys must focus on making a clear and concise record in the court – the key to success in both the trial and appellate courts.

When attempting to make the best record, the most crucial thing an attorney should consider is “how will this read in a transcript?” and “will it make sense to someone who reads a transcript who
Continue Reading 5 Tips to Make a Record for Success in Litigation

The 2019 death of an 8-year old on a Wisconsin farm recently made state and national headlines after ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel conducted investigations and co-published an article regarding the events that lead to the child’s death, and how the police investigation of the circumstances missed key details in how the child died.

As a result of the investigations and resulting articles, there is renewed awareness of safety risks faced by children on
Continue Reading Keeping Kids Safe on Wisconsin Farms

As marijuana becomes big business, it may be time for Wisconsin lawyers to take another look at the industry.

As Wisconsin Public Radio reporter Shawn Johnson wrote in a Dec. 21, 2022, article, “Wisconsin is on its way to becoming an island among Midwest states when it comes to recreational marijuana. Already, marijuana is legal in Illinois and Michigan, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, said his state would pass a bill to legalize marijuana by May.”
Continue Reading Legalizing Marijuana: Its Impact on Lawyers – and Insurance

Wisconsin farmland values rose an average of 11% in 2022, according to the Seventh Federal Reserve District Ag Letter. The 2022 increase came on the heels of a 22% increase in 2021, and was the second largest in the past 10 years. Let’s explore what effects this increase will likely have on Wisconsin farmers. Obvious Benefits: The Good Higher land values increase net worth. This, in turn, can help farmers access and obtain credit. Farmers will get more money
Continue Reading Increases in Wisconsin Farmland Values: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Many Wisconsin family farms operating as limited liability companies may be surprised to learn that the law governing their entities has changed.

While the changes are numerous, and a general understanding of all such changes is warranted, this article discusses three changes that are likely to have the biggest impact on family farms organized as LLCs in Wisconsin.
Background and Application
The new Wis. ​Stat. chapter 183 became effective Jan. 1, 2023, and represents a significant departure from established
Continue Reading New LLC Law Impacts Family Farms: 3 Things You Need To Know


Many lawyers automatically append a disclaimer to each outgoing email explaining that the recipient should not rely on any tax advice contained in the email. Some of these disclaimers explain that
IRS Circular 230 requires that the lawyer provide the disclaimer. For example: IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to
Continue Reading The IRS Does Not Require Me To Say This

Your farm client has sold apples to a wholesaler operating as an LLC and has not been paid. Now the LLC has closed, and the owner of the LLC has filed bankruptcy. What can you do to get your farmer paid? Wisconsin has far fewer farms now than it did 40 years ago, but we are still an agricultural state. It therefore makes sense for lawyers, particularly those in rural Wisconsin, to have some understanding of the Perishable Agricultural
Continue Reading Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust Claims

For many of us in Wisconsin, summer and fall is full of travel, recreation, and family time. That means more Wisconsinites are on the road traveling to cabins and lakes, or out hitting the trails on ATVS.

Unfortunately, family vacations also can be a dangerous when it comes to the roads, lakes, and trails. According to the American Automobile Association, summer is the most dangerous time of the year for teen drivers.

On top of that, the amount
Continue Reading Keeping Your Family Safe on the Road Also Means Being Insured Against the Underinsured