Since my tenure at Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company dates back almost to its founding, no surprise I’ve got the company mission down. The commitment to making sure Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual remains a reliable source for professional liability insurance for Wisconsin lawyers is in my blood.
For all of us here—board and staff members alike—that mission means more than malpractice coverage. It stands for exceptional service and great practice resources, the kind lawyers in solo and small firm practices can really use. All of it speaks to how Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual actively supports the legal profession in Wisconsin.
Part of Something Bigger
Backing up the profession is a role I value. Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual is part of a support system to do this made possible by our strong, long-standing partnerships with a group of organizations that also stand with Wisconsin lawyers.
The list starts with the State Bar of Wisconsin and a connection as old as our mission. The State Bar created Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual in 1986 and since our inception, lawyers at Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual participate on State Bar committees and interact with their various practice groups. Members attending the annual Bar convention see us every year presenting risk management programs and sharing information at our booth.
County Bar associations are another valued partner. They regularly invite us to bring programs to their monthly member meetings. Last year, Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual staff members made dozens of presentations around the state. These golden opportunities take us into lawyer country where the listening piece is as important as the speaking piece. We meet our mission best by hearing what the practice of law is like right here, right now from those who are doing it.
The partner we have in law faculty at Marquette and UW-Madison is special. Several of them welcome us to the classroom every year to address second- and third-year law students, allowing Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual to catch up with the next wave of newly minted lawyers. We get to talk legal malpractice law and risk prevention with a group that’s about to start or join law practices where such things matter.
The give and take of these partnerships—as we detail elsewhere in this report—really seasons our work and makes Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual part of something bigger than a lawyer’s liability insurer.
Hindsight Not Enough
With support comes connection. That’s important for Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual because we want to understand just how lawyers today represent their profession at a time when information—true or false—moves fast and clients want shortcuts.
For Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual and for our policyholders, hindsight with claims is not enough. Conversations we have with lawyers practicing in small firms or on their own help my colleagues
and I see what kinds of malpractice risks they face. Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual is better for this contact. Besides responding with answers that help lawyers avoid future claims, we get ideas for new seminar programs and resources. There’s also information to be had out there that’s useful in our discussions of the scope of our policy offerings and coverage costs.
Policyholders know that Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual takes every opportunity to learn what’s critical in the profession. Our partnership opportunities are like a portal for us in that regard.
One trend we see through this portal is something that’s been called “the grey tsunami.”
Fewer up-and-coming lawyers to replace those who are retiring. This is true in Wisconsin and nationally, and a particular issue in small towns. For fair and consistent outcomes, people need access to someone trained in the law.
Seminars Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual presents at state and local Bar events often address how lawyers navigate this environment. Our speakers challenge participants’ critical thinking on issues of the law but also explore ways a lawyer can keep her balance while helping clients keep theirs.
Feedback we get from seminars and presentations that happen thanks to our partners is hopeful and helpful. We might hear that a speaker’s take on a topic got the lawyers in the audience to think differently about a practice challenge or client issue. As one person commented, “Your programs always give me something to take back to my practice. Good, practical advice for every lawyer, young and old.”
Speaking of now, this is such an interesting time to be in insurance. And, for that matter, in the legal profession. Self-driving cars are a reality. Those we still drive are more complicated to fix. The Internet of things is at our bidding for good or ill. Anyone can eavesdrop on your life; probably is already. People are inventing, adapting, borrowing and stealing ideas faster than you can think about it.
How is risk evolving? What risks are we insuring? And where do the lawyers come in?
Questions like these engage us at Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual more and more these days. Policyholders also call with their own questions, maybe about a client issue that could put them at risk of a claim or to discuss plans to expand their practice in areas that could affect their liability. It’s a welcome chance to advise an individual policyholder but every conversation tells us more about the world Wisconsin lawyers practice in right now.
A Good Year
Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual and its policyholders both benefit from the mutual concept. When they do well, we do well. But the biggest piece is the lawyers—those we insure and those we don’t. When they share insights about their practice experiences with us, it helps this active, in-the-know liability insurer be better at what we do best.
The fact that over 90 percent of policyholders stay with us year-after-year (enormous in this industry) stands as proof our best is appreciated. We benefit because lawyers know about Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual. They come to our programs and connect with us at Bar events. Future lawyers meet us in their law classes. What we do is valuable and helpful. It contributes to the confidence of lawyers we meet and insure. Our policyholders have few claims after all. And we pay dividends with the surplus, running Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual with steadfast assurance that it has a strong foundation worthy of trust.
Twenty seventeen was a good year for Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual—in terms of business but also in strengthening our links to the profession at every level. It’s a great reason for getting out of the office and one of my favorite parts about this job. The learning never ends. Every claim, every question from a policyholder or lawyer at a seminar sharpens my focus.
As does my work with the amazing professionals on the Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual staff and the committed lawyers who sit on our Board of Directors. All of you are part of making sure this mission-driven insurance company makes good on its vision to provide Wisconsin lawyers with malpractice coverage but also advice on how to avoid needing it.
WILMIC President & CEO