President's Message

WDC Journal Edition: Winter 2015
By: Jeff Leavell, President, Wisconsin Defense Counsel

Friends, it is my honor to serve you as the newly- elected President. I am grateful for those who came before me, and all the hard work they invested. I hope to build on those efforts this year with the help of the Board of Directors and you.

We will focus this year on improving what we do best, and what our membership surveys have shown you appreciate. We will continue to survey you, and want your honest evaluation of what we do right, and how we can better serve you. The Board of Directors will be discussing this service focus at every meeting, and your feedback is invaluable to the WDC.

Your recent survey responses show you greatly value WDC Continuing Education presentations. We will continue to work to make sure they are current, smart, and entertaining. Ariella Schreiber is our program director this year. I am confident she will bring us the best. Please let her know what you’d like to hear, and if you want to speak at a conference. I am dedicated to making them fun, too, to make them stand out as memorable programs worth continuing to attend. This summer we incorporated a boat cruise as part of the program. Next summer we will return to the water parks in the Dells, enhancing the appeal to your entire family. We will work to expand the potential for client meet and greet events, like the panel counsel meeting, sensitive to members’ interest in connecting with clients. We are investigating online and webcast possibilities for WDC programming.

WDC is lucky to have the continuing volunteer effort of many of its members. For example, Terry Berres authors the informative “Advance eSheet” to keep us updated weekly. It consistently delivers a helpful

array of selected cases, posts, links, and circuit court decisions of interest to the defense.

We will continue to support and promote our Wisconsin Civil Trial Journal. Its insightful articles and professional appearance provoke thought, and elevate our profile with the judiciary, legislature, andclients. Many thanks to Andrew Hebl’s continuing dedicated editorship. Please submit articles toAndrew that you would like considered for publication.

We have a new Chairperson this year for the Amicus Curiae Committee, Monte Weiss. Please let him know if you have a case headed for appeal, if you think it merits WDC’s involvement to support your position.

Our Young Lawyer Committee is chaired by Danielle Rousset. She will be organizing educational events geared to the new lawyer, with a trial skills luncheon series in planning. She will also be exploring a mentor program to connect newer lawyers with mentors in the practice.

The Board of Directors has been evaluating how and to what extent we participate in the legislative process. Your survey responses revealed you want WDC involved, to keep us all informed and to promote wise legislative initiatives that meet our goals. The Board welcomes your feedback and ideas concerning our legislative involvement. As a member of WDC, you have the ability to shape legislation, so let us hear from you. After thorough consideration, the Board has determined to maintain our active participation through the Hamilton Consulting Group. It provides us valuable lobbying representation and regular updates through the “Political Tidbits” e-newsletter.

We continue to participate with a board member representative on the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council, which ensures us a voice in the legislative process in collaboration with like-minded business and professional associations. Current legislative proposals WDC is promoting include reform to the Collateral Source Rule, sponsorship liability for minor drivers, and the Dog Bite Statute, among others. You can access further information on various legislative proposals and status via the WDC web page, under the heading “Resources,” and then “Tracking Report.”

In addition to providing these valuable services to our current members, the Board will also be looking at long range planning this year. This includes planning for financial stability and membership growth. We are an association of lawyers focused on defense work, and this includes, for example, practitioners in the municipal and employment law arenas, beyond the traditional insurance defense practice. We must reach out to others to grow, and the power of the personal invitation is strong. Each one of us can play a part in growing membership, recruiting new members whose work has them defending Wisconsin’s people and businesses. I urge you to ask other lawyers to join us, attend a conference, and read the Journal, whether they work down the hall or across town from you. Please get the newer lawyers in your office involved. WDC has much to offer.

WDC is poised to continue a strong tradition of leadership and service. I welcome your ideas and your involvement.

Jeff Leavell has been a Wisconsin trial lawyer for over thirty years, with an emphasis on the defense of Wisconsin persons and businesses and insurance coverage. He is a Board-Certified Civil Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and has been so for over fifteen years. He has been selected as a “SuperLawyer” every year since 2006. His law firm, which he founded in 1994, has been recognized since 1995 by Martindale-Hubbell in its Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers as a Most Distinguished Law Practice. He has served on the Board of Governors and is past President of the Racine County Bar Association.

Jeff is a frequent lecturer and author on trial and various law topics, including tort, construction, environmental, and employment law, and insurance coverage for them. He was admitted to the Bar in 1983. He graduated from the University of Chicago, with honors, in 1980, and the University of Wisconsin Law School, J.D., cum laude, in 1983. He was judicial law clerk for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals District IV from 1983-1985. He is the proud father of two Eagle Scouts, both now in college, and is married to attorney Georgia Herrera, whom he met in law school.