The WDC - Increased Relevance for You in Changing Times

WDC Journal Edition: Winter 2011
By: Michael W. Gill, President, Wisconsin Defense Counsel

At our annual meeting in August, I was given the great honor, and opportunity, to serve as the President of this organization. It is a great honor because of the men and women who have held this office in the WDC and CTCW before me. That list includes many of the finest and most accomplished civil litigation defense attorneys in Wisconsin over the last several decades. To be included in their ranks is indeed humbling.

I look upon my new position as an opportunity because of the changing environment that we as civil litigation defense attorneys must practice and operate within now, in 2011, and beyond. As an organization, the WDC has the opportunity to help its membership and the defense bar in general adapt to and thrive in this ever-changing environment.

What are the changes and how can the WDC help you in dealing with them? In this limited space, I will note a few examples.

We are practicing in an era where there have been enormous legislative changes that impact our practices. Very recently, many of these changes have been positive developments for the defense bar and its clients. Thanks to the strong leadership of my immediate predecessor, Bryce Tolefree, the WDC played a very prominent role in the last legislative session that led to numerous positive changes in the law in Wisconsin. It was only a few years before that, however, that the WDC and its membership were forced to react and respond to numerous legislative changes that were not of our choosing.

Regardless of whether the changes are “pro” or “con,” we all have to learn about them and do our best as defense counsel to represent our clients’ interests in responding to the changes. The WDC has done a great job of staying abreast of these changes and informing its membership of them through e-mail alerts, this Journal and, most importantly, at our Winter, Spring, and Annual Conferences.

Our program director, Kara Burgos, has put together an outstanding program for our Winter Conference that includes important content on the most recent legislative changes enacted in 2011. The Winter Conference program will also allow attendees to fulfill their ethics credits requirement for CLE reporting purposes. I hope to see many of you at the Winter Conference at the Marriott in Pewaukee for the excellent program that Kara Burgos has put together.

The WDC is also adding a feature to its web site that will allow members to deal with another developing trend. In recent times, many members of the defense bar have been forced to respond to circuit court decisions that are cited as precedent by opposing counsel in a circuit court proceeding elsewhere in the state. Oftentimes, the cited circuit court decisions relate to unusual procedural issues that have not been clearly ruled upon in the appellate courts.

Thanks to board member Jeff Leavell, the WDC has created a “depository” for circuit court decisions that members can add to and access for our mutual benefit. We would urge all of you that have been involved in a case that has generated a decision by a trial court judge that may be of interest to other members around the state to share it with the membership by posting it to this new feature page on our web site. As time goes on, we hope that this becomes a valuable tool for our members who need to access circuit court decisions of interest on unique issues.

The WDC, with the assistance of Andy Cook and others at the Hamilton Consulting Group in Madison, will also continue to monitor the events in Madison as legislative changes are proposed and acted upon. We will do our best to keep our members informed of what is happening in Madison and how the proposed changes may impact our practices. On certain issues, the WDC will actively promote or oppose proposed legislation. We will continue to do so on a selective basis and in a non-partisan fashion, true to the traditions of this organization.

If you have reached this point in this article, I trust that you either have a sincere interest in the WDC or a dire need to improve the quality of your leisure reading material. I hope it is the former, and that during the coming year your WDC membership is useful in helping you adapt to our changing world. I invite all of you to contact me or other board members if there are ways that we can better serve your needs in the coming year, and I look forward to seeing you in Pewaukee at our Winter Conference.