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Legally Speaking


Issue: October, 2008
Author: Mary L. Angell

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Leadership . . . Lavery Style

The Wyoming State Bar’s new president has an addiction. Evanston attorney Rick Lavery is hooked on power tools. He told the Wyoming Lawyer in a September interview that he didn’t know shopping could be so much fun until he discovered Home Depot and Lowe’s. His self-confessed love/hate relationship with home improvement projects has compelled him to re-do almost everything but the kitchen on the main floor of his home—from the molding and window trim to adding hard wood floors.

“I’m very happy with how it turned out,” he said. “Everything I did I had not done before.”

Lavery has not served as Bar president before either, but he has a couple of fix-it projects in mind for his term. Like his home improvement projects, they may not include the kitchen sink, but he hopes to accomplish them with the same degree of success.

First and foremost, Lavery wants to establish a health insurance plan for Bar members.

“It’s a gigantic thing for most members in small firms. The cost of continuing to insure themselves and their staffs is most often unbearable,” he said. “We’re working on that and hopefully we will achieve success.”

He and the members of the Board are looking into establishing a Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA), which allows a group of employers in the same profession to collectively offer health insurance coverage to their employees. He’s investigating whether the legal malpractice insurance company ALPS can create and administer the program.

“ALPS is a good organization that prides itself on maintaining low administrative costs,” Lavery said.

He added the Idaho Bar just initiated a trust in July, so he’s waiting to see how it works for its members; the Wyoming Bar may follow suit.

“The devil is in the details,” he said. “First and foremost, we need to determine whether or not we have an actuarially sound group.”

Another area of concern for Lavery is ensuring access to legal representation for Wyoming’s low income citizens. He wants to coordinate all the areas that help provide legal services to the indigent: legal services, pro bono efforts and the Wyoming State Bar Foundation.

“I want an organized effort that will get lawyers to provide free and reduced legal services. I think that effort will pick up speed,” he said. “A lot of states are forming Access to Courts Commissions. It would improve the delivery of legal services and coordinate legal aid and the raising of funds to help with these services.”

According to the American Bar Association, Puerto Rico and 27 states have established Access to Justice Commissions or a similar structure.

“I think to get a commission together will be an exciting adventure,” Lavery said.

Lavery, who earned his undergraduate degree in accounting from Creighton University, graduated from Creighton Law School in 1981.

A native of Rock Springs, Wyoming, he moved immediately after law school to Evanston, where he maintains his practice Lavery & Rose, P.C., with partner Sharon Rose. The firm’s emphasis is business planning and employment law.

Since 1997, Lavery has also served as part-time municipal court judge for Evanston, Mountain View and Lyman. While he enjoys the bench, he has no immediate plans for pursuing a judgeship.

“I’m just happy doing what I’m doing,” he said.

Lavery has served three terms on the Wyoming State Bar Resolution of Fee Disputes Committee. He’s been a member of the Bar Commissioners Board since 2003 and on the board of the Wyoming State Bar Foundation since last year.

He was appointed by the Governor and served on the Children and Families Initiative Advisory Committee from 2004 to 2006 and currently serves on the Drug Court Steering Committee.
One of the biggest challenges facing the legal profession today is the digitalization of the world, Lavery said.

“Anything that can be digitized can be sold as a commodity, and that’s going to affect us,” he said.

Legal document services like LegalZoom.com, co-founded by O.J. Simpson’s defense attorney Robert Shapiro, allow people to print out documents for trademarks, divorces or wills in the comfort of their own home offices.

“We have to learn to compete in the digital world,” Lavery said. “How do we compete? We have to provide something more than just documents. We can compete by being creative and helping clients find solutions they can’t necessarily get online.”

Lavery is excited about the Bar office’s upcoming relocation to its new building on the east side of Cheyenne. He’s also enthusiastic about a series of public service commercials the staff is putting together about lawyers and the legal system. The radio and television ads, dubbed the “Legal Minute,” will educate Wyoming citizens about where to find legal services, how the justice system works, the role of public defenders and other basic topics. They will feature Wyoming lawyers and will run from the fall through the spring.

In addition to tackling home improvement projects, Lavery enjoys golfing in his spare time. He and his wife Ann, who is the clerk of the Third Judicial District Court, have three college-age sons and a daughter who will graduate from high school next spring.

Mary L. Angell is a freelance writer from Cheyenne, Wyoming, and a regular contributor to the Wyoming Lawyer.

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