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BOG may become Internet explorers

James C. Boll Jr.

James C. Boll Jr.

Attorneys who want to keep up with Board of Governors’ meetings have no choice currently but to attend in person.

A proposal to begin webcasting the meetings may finally solve that problem.

The bar is considering the possibility of webcasting meetings, but first, leaders want to know how much it will cost and what kind of audience might log on.

State Bar President James C. Boll Jr. said if webcasting appears to be worthwhile, he expects the concept to go to the board for approval.

Offering the meetings online was proposed by Gov. Steven A. Levine at the bar’s Executive Committee meeting last month and the idea was referred to the Finance Committee, which will meet in January.

“It’s a matter of the financial impact and the interest,” Levine said. “If it’s 300 bucks and two people want do it, I believe it’s worth it.”

Boll didn’t venture a guess as to how much is too much to invest in webcasting the meetings, but some suggested that spending significant dollars on a concept which few people would likely utilize would be a hard sell.

Given the divisive fight on bar membership, Gov. Nathaniel Cade Jr. said members don’t want the organization wasting money.

“It’s clear one of the last things they want is for the organization to spend a lot of money broadcasting themselves,” he said. “Yes, it helps the membership, but it’s self-serving in a lot of respects.”

Cade supports the concept and said he could live with webcast costs of about $1,000 per meeting, but upwards of $10,000 wouldn’t make sense.

Cost is dependent upon how much equipment the bar already has and whether it wants to rent for the day or purchase long term, said Kirk Strong, president of Smart Interactive Media, a Mequon-based Web and video-production company.

Strong said meeting webcasts typically cost about $2,000 for equipment rental, but for regular use, it’s generally more cost efficient to purchase everything. The total outlay for a used two-camera system would be about $7,000, he said.

Nathaniel Cade Jr.

Nathaniel Cade Jr.

Equipment should last at least 10 years, Strong said, given that the “wear and tear” of meeting coverage would be minimal. The only consideration for the bar is whether it would want to upgrade to high definition.

“If the world goes total high def in the next 10 years you’ll probably want to go high def, but I don’t think that is a concern,” Strong said. “Cameras last forever. The switcher is what would get outdated and even that would have a good five-to-10-year life span.” In recent years the bar has aggressively advanced its technological offerings, including On Demand Continuing Legal Education sessions, many of which are conducted at the State Bar Center.

The bar did not have an estimate on how much it costs to webcast live CLE seminars.

While each of the five board meetings held annually are open to the public, only a handful of people outside of elected members ever attend.

Other cost benefit considerations include whether only meetings held at the State Bar Center would be broadcast and if they would be available live.

People can listen to the state Supreme Court’s oral arguments online, but only when held at the State Capitol, largely because webcasting remotely is cost prohibitive.

Still, for active members outside of Dane County, the ability to view meetings online would be an attractive alternative to driving to Madison.

Former board member and Stevens Point attorney Thomas W. Bertz said the option would promote involvement and feedback from more attorneys on critical issues.

“It certainly would be a vehicle to keep more members engaged,” he said.

If approved, Boll said that webcasting meetings would be a matter of utilizing the available technology to better serve members.

“This technology really allows us to increase visibility and exposure to members and enhances their ability to participate,” he said.

Jack Zemlicka can be reached at jack.zemlicka@wislawjournal.com.

2 comments

  1. When you put people on TV they act like actors. We do nothing people should not see and learn about, but televising BOG meetings will turn some people into actors instead of their focusing on the issues.

  2. I agree that webcasting will induce some posturing, but also recognize that happens now as well on some issues.

    I think the membership doesn’t require “live” webcasting, but could benefit from audio recording and the ability to listen whenever a member has time, akin to listening to the Court’s administrative conferences.

    I’d listen to all BoG meetings while travelling if I could download the audio in mp3 format to a CD, at least during the Brewers’ off-season.

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