Thursday, October 27th, 2016

New bar keep


The State Bar of Wisconsin has elected a new president-elect, Douglas W. Kammer, of Kammer and Studinski.

Kammer’s term begins July 1 when Diane S. Diel, solo practitioner, Milwaukee, succeeds Thomas J. Basting Sr., Madison, as State Bar president.

“I’m honored to serve my peers as president of the State Bar of Wisconsin,” says Kammer. Kammer graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1970 and has been active in the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers (WATL), local government, and Boy Scouts.

Here’s the fun part. From Kammer’s campaign statement:

There is only one issue in this campaign: Does the majority want to end mandatory Bar membership?

The bar has lost sight of its mission. In a cloud of vague gabble about the “public interest” the Bar has become an embarrassment to its members.

And what has the Bar done for you lately- or ever, for that matter? Can you not find a credit card without them? Or achieve a magazine subscription? Or purchase life insurance? Or arrange a cruise with (shudder) other lawyers and judges?

I voir dired a jury the other day. I asked them to answer this question, but not aloud: “Please use the word ‘frivolous’ in a sentence.” Then, when they each had a sentence in mind, we discussed the results. Every juror, every one, used the word in the phrase “frivolous lawsuits” or some permutation thereof. From my point of view, this universally held mind set is just awful: But some lawyers feel this is as it should be. So what position should the Bar take? Embrace tort reform and end the civil practice? Or fight to improve our image? It takes neither. The biggest organization for lawyers in this state has no comment on the greatest threat in history to our justice system (and our livelihoods as lawyers).

He adds:

The integrated Bar gives credence to the myth. Decent, honest lawyers are guilty by association. Is the Bar going to solve this problem? Not in a pig’s eye! The Bar doesn’t have the will or the tools to even address the issue. Rather they sit in their inverted shot-glass in Madison and aggrandize the other insiders in the club while discussing how to protect the public from – you guessed it – lawyers!

Lawyers – at least good ones – fight for freedom. (When I watch the lawyers in Pakistan on the news I grow ashamed of what we have become). Yet we are ourselves deprived of our freedom of association. And most take it without a whimper. Your vote in this election is your chance to roar – finally.

A voluntary bar must court the lawyers in quest of members. It must actually offer something for the dues charged. (Remember how the Bar developed Warranty Deed and other forms, on company time of course, and then tried to sell them back to the members who owned them in the first place?) Disillusioned members can vote with their feet. If the Bar becomes a decent and useful organization for lawyers, the roster will swell. In Illinois, for example, the bar is voluntary and enjoys a 70 percent participation rate. But you would never believe the services it offers its members!

We’ll watch and see what happends next.

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