President’s Message: Good Things in Store for WDC in 2021
President’s Message: Good Things in Store for WDC in 2021
By: Andrew B. Hebl, President, Wisconsin Defense Counsel
It’s been an interesting year to say the least, but it looks like we are finally starting to turn a corner, as more and more vaccination doses get administered. As you know, the WDC Board of Directors had to make the very difficult decision to convert our Spring 2021 conference to an all virtual format, but a survey of the membership reflected that we would not have sufficient in-person attendance to justify the significant financial commitment. We want to make sure that WDC emerges from the pandemic in strong financial condition, and holding the spring conference virtually ensures that we will be able to do so, while we are also confident that we can still provide you with significant value through that format. That said, we fully expect that, by the time of our annual conference in August, we will be seeing each other in person, and I know I speak for all of you when I say how much I am looking forward to that.
In the midst of the pandemic, our Board of Directors decided that we still need to keep working on getting better as an organization, and so we decided to go forward with our strategic planning retreat, which was conducted virtually at the end of February. I am very pleased to report that we had an incredibly positive and productive session, with a number of excellent initiatives that will put WDC in a position to maximize the value that we provide to you as members, as well as to generate membership growth going forward. I would like to share some of these initiatives with you here.
First, we have formed a law school committee. As the demographics of defense lawyers have changed over the years, it has become clear that we need to make a more directed effort at getting on the radar of young and new attorneys about a potential career in civil litigation defense. The committee will be reaching out to our two in-state law schools in the near future in order to offer seminars on what it means to have a career as a defense lawyer, the creation of a law student membership category, and facilitating attendance by law students at our conferences in the future. Not only do we believe this will help us grow our membership over time, but we also believe that it will help our existing members identify potential future candidates for associates at their firms, giving them assurance about the candidates’ genuine interest in pursuing a career as a defense lawyer. To that same end, we are also reaching out to the State Bar’s Young Lawyers Division, in order to present to attorneys who may have already graduated law school but still have an open mind about their long-term career path. It has become clear that this type of outreach is essential for us to maintain and grow.
Second, we are going to make a greater effort to offer CLE programming that focuses on litigation skills training. I personally believe that WDC’s members are among the very best litigators and trial lawyers in Wisconsin. Taking advantage of that skill to allow all of us to continue to grow and improve our abilities as attorneys is a value that I have always looked to WDC for, and we want to leverage that value even more now than ever before. Our intention is for our conference seminars to make litigation skills an even greater focus, and to also offer targeted litigation skills training to young lawyers and law students in separate, stand-alone seminars. We believe that these types of opportunities not only generate value for our existing membership, but will demonstrate to potential new and young lawyers why a membership in WDC is a worthwhile investment for them in a lifelong career as a civil defense lawyer.
Third, we are forming a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force. It has become apparent to our Board that, in order to attract the most talented attorneys into our organization and career path, we need to make clear that WDC is open and welcoming to lawyers (and law students) of all backgrounds. We know that we have work to do in this regard, but we are ready to do it. We know that becoming a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization means that we will be better able to attract law students and lawyers who might not have considered a career in civil litigation defense in the past, or considered membership in WDC. We want to change that. It is our goal for WDC to be seen as the organization where all lawyers go, regardless of background, to pursue the highest quality legal education and camaraderie, so that we will continue to be seen as representing the very best litigators in the state.
These are our principal short term goals coming out of the strategic planning session. We also developed several long-term goals, including reconsidering our conference format to offer more virtual programming in light of the benefits that it clearly offers, making our future conferences more of a destination-type event with opportunities for networking and socializing outside of the seminars, and increasing the involvement of our membership in our various committees and on the Board of Directors. We would also like to leverage our connections to other legal organizations within Wisconsin whenever we have aligned interests. We will be providing periodic updates to you regarding these initiatives. I want to be clear that input from our membership is essential, so please do not hesitate to reach out to me or any other members of the Board of Directors if you would like to discuss any of these ideas further.
I look forward to working with all of you to implement these initiatives. I am as proud as ever of what WDC has done in the past, and even more so of what we have to look forward to this year and in the years to come. Thanks to all of you for your continued support!
Andrew Hebl is a partner in Boardman & Clark’s Litigation Practice Group. He also chairs the firm’s Technology Committee. Andrew’s trial and appellate practice focuses on the representation of insurance companies and their insureds. The cases primarily involve personal injury, property damage, and professional malpractice. Andrew also frequently represents insurance companies in insurance coverage disputes and extra-contractual litigation (bad faith). Finally, Andrew regularly defends municipalities in a wide variety of matters, including major civil rights lawsuits. Andrew is admitted to practice before all Wisconsin state and federal trial and appellate courts and listed in the Best Lawyers in America. He is rated AV-Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell.