ewly-sworn members of the Racine County Bar Association, from left: Joshua Blakely, Johnson Bank; Devin Stasek, Foley, Shannon, Powers & Rusch S.C.; Anne Cohen, State Public Defenders Office; Abigail Gilman, Murphy, Johnson & Trampe, S.C.; Alexandra Tillmann, Racine County Finance Department; and Tony Dunn, Habush Habush & Rottier S.C., all of Racine.
Sept. 21, 2016 – Flowers decorate the empty chair, at the table where counsel for the defendants sit. In the jury box wait a half dozen men and women, quiet and expectant.
They are all part of the Racine County Bar Association’s Call of the Calendar.
It is a ceremony that stitches past with future. It honors those who are now history and welcomes new lawyers who will shape that future.
A Long-standing Tradition:
Portions of the Call of the Calendar ceremony are part of a tradition that stretches as far back as 1848 – lawyers new to the Bar Association sign the Bar’s Roll Book. The earliest signatures date from that year – when Wisconsin became a state.
“It’s a long-standing and wonderful tradition,” said Bar member Kelly Mould.
“It helps us keep in touch with each other, and to understand how much the relationships we form actually mean,” said Robert Keller, president of the Bar Association.
This year’s ceremony took place Sept. 8 – it is typically held on a Thursday afternoon in September – held in a full courtroom.
“There was no seating left,” Keller said. “It was very well attended.”
The ceremony is meaningful, quiet, and solemn. This year, eulogies were given by family or close colleagues of the four members who recently passed away: Gerald Crawford, William Dye, Patrick Lloyd, and Robert G. Riegelman.
“They are full of stories, some humorous,” Keller said of the eulogies. “But overall, it’s a really serious affair.”
“We as a Bar Association say goodbye,” Mould said.
Welcoming the FutureWhile the ceremony begins by looking to the past, it ends by looking toward the future: Those seated in the jury box are new members of the Bar – either experienced lawyers joining for the first time, or young lawyers with new positions in the county.
The chief judge – Judge Allan Torhorst – administers a short oath. It isn’t just the new attorneys who stand to take the Bar Association’s oath. Continuing bar members also reaffirm their oath. “We all stand and recite it,” Mould said. It is meaningful, and Mould has made the effort to attend each ceremony since she took the oath in 2012 for the first time.
And after, the newly-sworn sign the historic Roll Book.
“It’s an important thing to do, it’s a special thing for the community,” Mould said. “It’s also our job to make sure the new attorneys understand this tradition.”
Racine attorney Devin Stasek was one of six to take the oath and sign the Roll Book on Sept. 8. An elder law attorney with Foley, Shannon, Powers & Rusch S.C., she joined the firm in 2013, but didn’t have the chance to attend until this year.
“It makes me feel closer to my peers,” Stasek said. “It makes me happy to go down in the book as a little piece of Racine history.”
Madison native Anne Cohen moved to Racine in October to work at the State Public Defenders Office, taking the oath with Stasek. Cohen finds the legal community in Racine a close-knit one that has expanded her networking circle.
The eulogies were thought-provoking for the young attorney. “It’s inspiring to hear all the things they did, and where they came from,” Cohen said. Signing the book, she is now a member of the community. “It’s nice to become part of that tradition.”
Out of the Past
The origin of the Call of the Calendar comes from mid-20th-century tradition, when judges set their own schedules: the twice-yearly meetings of the county’s Circuit Court judges with local lawyers handling cases in their courts. At the beginning of the spring and fall terms, they met to discuss and manage cases on the civil docket – a type of pretrial conference.
“In those days, each circuit court kept its own printed calendar for the term,” said attorney Adrian Schoone, former State Bar president (1983-4). At 80 years of age, he is the second longest-serving member of the Racine County Bar – having been admitted to practice in 1959.
The senior attorneys, he remembers, would gloat over the number of cases they had. The meetings would conclude with an informal gathering of lawyers, where they met the new Bar members, and where they remembered those who were no longer with them.
Schoone remembers attending the first formal Call of the Calendar on April 3, 1961, with Alfred La France (who also served as State Bar president in 1955-56, and was a founding member of the integrated Bar). At the end of the Call, Bar Association members eulogized deceased colleagues.
The eulogies – then and now – are preserved as part of the court record.
In 1976, with law practice changes by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the Call of the Calendar practice ended.
“It came to my attention we had not eulogized lawyers for some time,” Schoone said of that year. He volunteered to lead a committee to restore the ceremony in the late 1990s.
Today, putting together the Call of the Calendar takes Schoone and his secretary 20 hours of work in advance, plus that of other committee members. But such work is important. “I consider what I do,” Schoone said, “to be an honor and a responsibility.”
Its tradition is important as well, Schoone said. “There are few times in life one can show affection and respect for another and his or her family.”
It is meaningful for the families – and the current members. “We’re not just paying homage to the deceased lawyer. We’re paying homage to ourselves,” Schoone said.
And it connects the generations of lawyers with a special kinship, said Keller. “A kinship of pride in what we continue to believe is the most noble profession to which one can be called.”
The above article was Shannon Green is communications writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. She can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6135.written and published by the Wisbar.com Inside Track author Shannon Green.
Adrian Schoone, left, and Robert Keller, right, with the Racine County Bar Association Roll Book – containing signatures dating back to 1848.