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Image polishing germane to a state bar’s mission

Whatever staff time went into former Virginia State Bar President Jon Huddleston’s “Virginia is for Good Lawyers” campaign appears to be a bargain.

The Wisconsin State Bar spent almost $100,000 in 2007 to buy television ads aimed at improving the public image of lawyers. The program started in 2002 and focuses on lawyers performing community service and doing pro bono work, much as does Huddleston’s campaign, which is available on the VSB website and YouTube.

Three lawyers challenged the WSB expenditure as not being germane to its mission of regulating the legal profession and improving the quality of legal services.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the WSB last week in finding that enhancing the image of lawyers is germane to its mission. That was a victory of sorts for the challengers because it reversed a 1996 7th Circuit case that held the WSB could finance non-germane activity with compulsory dues.

Because of the reversal of the 1996 case, the three-judge panel circulated its opinion among the circuit’s other judges. Only one wanted to grant en banc review and hold that promoting the image of lawyers is not germane to the bar’s mission.
By Alan Cooper

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