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Legally Speaking


Issue: August, 2007
Author: Joseph B. Bluemel

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From the President . . .

When planning to write this last column, I considered numerous topics. I tried to recall what significant events occurred during the year and was surprised how quickly time passed and how much I have enjoyed writing this column. I reflected not only on the accomplishments the Bar has achieved for its members, but also the goals the Officers and Commissioners set but have not yet accomplished, such as providing an affordable health insurance program to members. I considered the services being provided by the Bar beyond the mandatory admission and discipline process. The list of services and benefits is significant and includes Casemaker; Wyoming Professional Assistance Program; Wyoming Lawyer; e-Brief; Juror Appreciation event; subscription to the Wyoming Law Review; Membership Directory; Lawyer Referral Service; the free Pathways to Professional Practice CLE; a viable client security fund; Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions; Civil Pattern Jury Instructions; and the Wyoming State Bar website where members can check their CLE status, pay license fees, change their address or status, access the current directory of Wyoming lawyers, subscribe to the new family law listserve, and register for the Annual Meeting.

In addition to all the other member benefits, the Bar will host the Annual Meeting & Judicial Conference in Jackson the week of September 10-14. All of you should have received your registration materials by now and hopefully many will have already registered. The Bar is trying a number of innovations with this year’s Annual Meeting. First, the meetings will be held at the Jackson Center for the Arts downtown. It is located two blocks from the town square and will allow attendees to stay at any of the hotels downtown and walk to the CLEs each day. The second innovation is starting the CLEs at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 11th. The third innovation is to have a breakfast annual business meeting and wrap up at noon on Friday, September 14th. The CLE programs this year include Sharon Nelson and John Simek who literally “wrote the book” on electronic discovery. They will present a program appropriately titled “Sherlock Holmes Goes Digital: Electronic Evidence.” Other headliners, besides the numerous Wyoming judges and lawyers that are experts and are volunteering their time and energy to help us to become better lawyers, include William A. Barton; Prof. Samuel D. Hodge, Jr.; and Timothy A. Piganelli and Diane J. Piganelli. The CLE chairman and the convention committee have put together a great program. I hope you will join us in Jackson September 11-14.

Even with the excitement of the Annual Meeting and tangible member benefits the Bar is providing, it is humbling to have served as President of the Wyoming State Bar—a Bar that is composed of such quality attorneys and judges. Through the year I have been honored to attend different meetings of Bar leaders, and I continue to be impressed with the quality of our Bar. The phrase Gerald Mason promoted and popularized during his year as President, “Proud to Be a Wyoming Lawyer,” has rang true to me every day of the past year and will continue to ring true to me as long as I am a Wyoming lawyer.

During the past year I have repeatedly described Wyoming as a small town with a long street because I know many of the lawyers in distant parts of the state as though they were my neighbors. The most recent meeting of Bar leaders I was honored to attend was sponsored by ALPS, the company that provides many of us professional liability insurance. At that meeting there was a discussion concerning professional assistance programs. I took particular interest in that discussion since Wyoming has recently launched such a program. Wyoming’s program, as is true with the programs offered by other state bars, is not just for instances where there is alcohol and substance abuse affecting the attorney. It is a program designed to assist lawyers who are experiencing mental health issues, family stress and the stress we encounter in our law practices. It struck me that the statistics presented indicate few, if any, of the attorneys who utilize a professional assistance program make the initial contact themselves. In South Carolina not a single attorney in the last year called their professional assistance program to ask for help themselves. Instead judges, partners, colleagues, staff and family members called their professional assistance program and asked that assistance be provided.

This reminds me of being a child growing up in the small town of Carter, Wyoming, and having neighbors. As with many small towns, Carter seemed particularly small, as all the residents oftentimes observed (rather closely) what other residents were doing—or not doing. In short, neighbors could sometimes be nosy. On the other hand, there were times when neighbors could be counted on to lend a helping hand. Fred and Florence Aimone used a coal stove to heat their house. I recall one occasion when sparks flew from the stove, out of the chimney, and onto the roof which caught fire. Fortunately, a neighbor saw the flames and immediately contacted Fred and Florence to let them know of this potential disaster. Other neighbors soon gathered to assist in putting out the fire. Ironically enough, the help in this instance came from the neighbors and not from the fire department. I like to think of the Wyoming State Bar as a “small town,” as we are not just colleagues, we are true “neighbors.” While we may believe that our “neighbors” are too close and somewhat nosy, there will inevitably be times we must rely on each other.

In regard to the Wyoming Professional Assistance Program, I would hope I had a “neighbor” or two who thought enough of me to step in and help me “put out a fire.” The WPAP can be reached at (307) 472-1222. Calls to WPAP are confidential and not reported to the Wyoming State Bar or Bar Counsel.

Besides being honored to serve this last year representing Wyoming lawyers, I have been honored to work with the Supreme Court, the Bar Officers and Commissioners, many attorneys throughout the state, and especially the staff at the Wyoming State Bar. The programs and services that we enjoy as members of the Wyoming State Bar are due to the hard work and dedication of a top flight and caring staff. It has truly been my honor to work with such fine people. Thank you, Sharon Wilkinson, Cathy Duncil, Marie Ellis, Trish Becklinger, Becky Lewis and Sleeter Dover who are responsible for most, if not all, of the quality programs and events provided by the Wyoming State Bar this past year.

Copyright © 2007 – Wyoming State Bar