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The Wisconsin Business Law Initiative
Jonathan Lipson, a UW-Madison law professor, is trying to correct a major misconception about his place of employment. Lipson claims that the school’s law school is not anti-business, and that it works tirelessly to help the disenfranchised and the wrongly accused.
“There’s this idea that we’re focused only on the rights of criminal defendants, or that we have really strong left-leaning or anti-market politics,” he said. “When people outside think about the law school, I don’t think business law is what comes to mind.”
Lipson is a business law professor who is hoping that the Wisconsin Business Law Initiative helps to change this. The initiative was launched last month by Lipson under the direction of Law School Dean Margaret Raymond.
The program’s goal is to raise the public profile of business law by targeted programs, outreach, and networking opportunities according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
“One of the things lawyers and clients in particular constantly express frustration with is people graduating from law schools not adequately trained in business law,” Lipson said. “We’re very definitely committed to improving that.”
The initiative has become a welcome sign for lawyers of companies all across the state as well. Jerome D. Okarma is the vice president and general counsel for Johnson Controls, which is based in Milwaukee and is a $44 billion operation across 125 countries.
“I’m all for it,” Okarma said. “We’ve made efforts in this direction in the past as general counsels, and we believe it would be a benefit to the law school, to companies and to the students themselves.”
The former executive vice president and former general manager of Harley-Davidson, Gail A. Lione, had the following to say about the initiative,
“Clients really want their law firms to understand their business,” she said. “The reality is that most of your clients (as a lawyer) are businesses, whether it’s a for-profit business or a not-for-profit. Most of them have a balance sheet, whether they’re big or little, and it’s just about equipping law students with some basic understanding of that. This initiative is a good one, but it is not the only direction the law school has. It’s critical that law schools remember their primary objective is to help develop good lawyers, and to not have them go into niche areas too soon. You really do want a well-rounded and versatile law student graduating.”
The initiative will also offer better training for students while also directly helping businesses.
“At some point, we’re just going to survey the major corporation counsel offices in Wisconsin about what their legal needs are — what keeps them up at night,” Lipson said, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. “We could then very easily organize a series of programs to meet those needs. You don’t want to compete with the private lawyers, but if somebody here is already working on that problem (in research), we could connect up that person with the company.”