Home Rule Begins At Home

In Wisconsin, the Home Rule Amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution grants cities and villages the power to determine their local affairs and government, subject only to the constitution itself and uniform legislative enactments of statewide concern.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court has recognized that the Home Rule Amendment serves not only to empower cities and villages, but also to curtail the power of the state legislature to act within the sphere of local affairs.  Van Gilder v. City of Madison, 267 N.W. 25 (1936).  The job of defining the proper province of constitutional home rule authority (i.e., what constitutes a matter of “local affairs and government” or a matter of “statewide concern”) falls to the courts and, not surprisingly, it is no easy task.  Given the concurrent interest of state and local government in many governmental functions, one may argue that such functions cannot be so classified except by arbitrary reasoning.

Notwithstanding the difficulty in defining its exact reach, local home rule is worth preserving and worth defending. 

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Counselor at Risk: Does Specialization Threaten the Attorney’s Function as Counselor?

Many law firm shingles still read “Attorneys and Counselors at Law.”  Each term carries with it a distinct meaning and independent importance in the legal profession.  Do we risk marginalizing the counselor role as we strive to achieve efficiencies in the delivery of legal services through specialization?  And if so, why does it matter?

Lawyers are trained to analyze the law and to prepare legal documents; however, in order to provide effective legal advice, and in order to exercise their highest and best use in our justice system, lawyers must possess much more than technical knowledge and skills.  Lawyers must also be able to fulfill their roles as counselors.  This requires that they be able to craft creative solutions, sustain client morale during difficult times, and to offer wisdom and sound judgment, not just knowledge.  (See, e.g., Anthony L. Cochran, They Don’t Call Us “Counselor” For Nothing.)

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