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BOG focuses on new exec director, possible legislation

The state’s Board of Governors got down to business last weekend by preparing to search for a new executive director of the State Bar, discussing possible legislative proposals and considering proposed Wisconsin Supreme Court rules changes.

Here are some of the highlights:

Possible legislation

The governors discussed whether to work with lawmakers to draft legislation requiring that insurance companies send letters to parties in insurance cases when settlement checks have been sent to their lawyers.

The matter was brought up on Friday by Lindsey Draper, a Milwaukee attorney and member of the committee that administers the Wisconsin Client Protection Fund, which compensates clients who have been wronged by attorneys. Part of attorneys’ bar dues go into the fund.

The fund, which has existed since 1981, has paid out more than $2 million in trust-account conversions. Many of those claims, Draper said, involve cases in which an insurance company pays a settlement to a party’s lawyer and the lawyer, instead of telling the client and making a disbursement to the client, uses the money for other purposes.

Requiring that letters be sent directly to clients would help ensure that they are aware that a settlement has been reached and that money should be on the way, Draper said.

Governor Chris Rogers said he thinks the matter should first be considered by the bar’s litigation section because many of the claims involve liability.

In liability cases, settlement checks already come with release documents that must be signed. Any requirement calling for additional notices could intrude on attorney-client privilege, he said.

“I have grave concerns for allowing an insurance company to communicate directly with someone represented by counsel,” Rogers said.

Governor David Werwie said the legislation would probably cost insurers money, meaning clients will foot the bill. Moreover, he noted that the measure implies attorneys are not trustworthy.

Search for bar executive director to begin

State Bar of Wisconsin/Andy Manis

George Brown (State Bar of Wisconsin/Andy Manis)

On Friday, Rogers talked about the committee’s progress in advertising the bar’s need for a new executive director. He also discussed the procedures the committee will follow before presenting a candidate to the governors.

Whichever candidate is eventually chosen will replace Executive Director George Brown, who will retire on June 30.

Ads will be placed in print and other media in the next one to three months, and the governors should expect to be contacted by possible applicants, he said. They should direct any inquiries to members of the committee charged with vetting candidates.

The committee has decided to work with Young Mayden LLC — a firm based in Nashville, Tenn., and Charlotte, N.C. — to narrow down the pool of applicants, Rogers said.

Among Young Mayden’s notable accomplishments is the role it played in helping the New York State Bar Association find an executive director and assistant executive director.

Rogers said that Young Mayden will help the committee with its first round of vetting. Committee members hope to start their interviews by the middle of January. The goal will be to have a candidate to present to the board by the time it meets in February.

BOG mum on proposals to kill deadman’s statute, change rules of evidence

The Board of Governors voted on Saturday to take no position on requests for two changes to Wisconsin Supreme Court rules.

One proposal, first put forward by the state’s Judicial Council, calls for repealing the state’s deadman’s statute. The second concerns changes to the state’s rules of evidence.

Both proposals were filed with the court earlier this year. Hearings for the proposals are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Oct. 24.

On the other hand, the governors gave their approval Saturday to a rule-change proposal brought by a Supreme Court advisory committee.

The proposal would modify the state’s limited-scope representation rules to allow attorneys who conduct a mediation to also draft legal documents in accordance with any negotiations conducted as part of the mediation.

The proposal was unanimously approved by the committee in August. The next step is for the Director of State Courts to file a rule-change petition with the high court.

The earliest a hearing would be scheduled for the petition would be in November, said Milwaukee County Judge Mike Dwyer, a member of a group that presented the committee with recommendations related to limited-scope representation. But it is more likely the court will schedule the hearing for February, he said.

About Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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