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Blinka takes Milwaukee Bar helm


“What attracted me to the law was the study of law in American history and world history.”

Daniel Blinka

An interest in the past moved Daniel Blinka toward his future as a lawyer and Marquette University Law School professor. Looking toward the coming year, Blinka’s future will include a stint as the Milwaukee Bar Association president.

As a first-generation college graduate, Blinka explained that he was not raised with the expectation that he would grow up to practice law. His interest in the law actually grew out of his initial interest in history.

“What attracted me to the law was the study of law in American history and world history,” Blinka explained during a recent interview. He was interested in “the prominent roles that the law played in social and economic development and in the political development of this country.”

After receiving his undergraduate degree in history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he turned his sights on a law degree from the Univer-sity of Wisconsin Law School, which he received as a cum laude graduate in 1978.

From there, he spent seven years in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office where he prosecuted cases out of the felony division and sensitive crimes unit. In 1985, he was offered a position at Marquette University Law School where he continues to teach classes in evidence, criminal law and trial practice.

Blinka’s interest in trial work and his love of teaching law did not dampen his interest in history, so in 1992 he entered the graduate program in history at UW-Madison and received a Ph.D. in U.S. history. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the changing role of trial by jury in the American Revolution.

In addition to teaching law at Mar-quette, Blinka has taught American history courses at UW-Madison and Marquette. However, he still acknowledges an interest in trial work.

“It is a great privilege to teach law students each year, but I will honestly admit that there are days when I miss trying cases,” Blinka acknowledged. “I miss the practice of law, I miss the challenge of trying to take what you know and put it into action, particularly in the courtroom.”

He keeps his hand in the practice of law, serving as Of Counsel to the firm of Stierman, Steffens & Kuphall.

Blinka became actively involved with the Milwau-kee Bar Association when he was asked to participate in a task force looking at public defender and district attorney staffing.

“What I found as I got involved in that project was that I was drawn into the work of the MBA,” Blinka recalled. “I realized what a wonderful collection of professionals it is.”

He noted the diverse group of people from a variety of practice areas ranging from members of the largest firms in the state to solo practitioners, handling everything from criminal law to the most complex commercial transactions.

After spending the last four years on the MBA board of directors, Blinka said he is looking forward to the coming year as president. Rather than creating a long list of goals, he is prepared to address issues as they arise. However, there are several things he sees the bar addressing this year.

“One of the things that I think is imperative is that we continue to provide high-quality service to our membership,” Blinka said. “Part of that takes the mundane form of timely, topical, informative CLE.”

Blinka also highlighted the MBA’s Lawyer Referral & Information Service as an important area that the bar can continue to improve. When people call seeking attorneys, LRIS directs them toward lawyers practicing in the areas they need help. The 40,000 calls received last year resulted in 8,300 clients being referred to lawyers, Blinka said.

“That’s obviously a palpable benefit to not just the local bar, who gains the clients and the fees, but also to the people of the community, who don’t know the names of the lawyers, who don’t know who to turn to in a moment of distress like that,” Blinka said.

The new president also wants to make sure the MBA “remains visible, active and engaged in important issues that affect the legal profession.” As an example, he noted the organization&#14
6;s efforts to support the creation of new indigency guidelines for the State Public Defender.


Milwaukee Bar Association

He also stated a desire for the MBA to actively promote discussion of the Ameri-can Bar Association’s Ethics 2000 recommendations. The state Supreme Court has appointed a commission to review potential changes to the rules of professional conduct.

Blinka wants to see the MBA facilitating dialogue before the group makes its recommendations to the Supreme Court.

“What I intend to do through the Milwaukee Bar Association is to hold a number of forums for our members to discuss these changes and suggestions,” Blinka said.

His goal is to provide “some background information for this committee and for the Supreme Court about how lawyers feel about these changes and how they are likely to impact on the practice of law not just in Milwaukee but throughout the state.”

The historian also hopes to turn an eye toward the future looking beyond what the MBA should be doing now. To that end, he anticipates some discussion of where to take the organization over the next five years.

Tony Anderson can be reached by email.

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