Earl Munson to Receive the Wisconsin Law Foundation’s Highest Award

The Wisconsin Law Foundation, an arm of the State Bar of Wisconsin, has announced that Boardman Clark’s Earl Munson will be honored with its highest award, the Charles L. Goldberg Distinguished Service Award.  The award recognizes State Bar members who have a long-standing record of service to the legal profession and the public.  Earl will receive the award along with Judge Carl Ashley of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court at a celebratory event on October 10, 2019 in Madison.

Earl’s recognition stems from achievements and contributions made during his more than 50 years of service to the legal profession as a trial attorney.  These achievements and contributions include an extensive résumé of complex and impactful casework, as well as a renowned commitment to providing pro bono services and promoting the importance of pro bono services to his fellow legal professionals.

“I cannot think of another member of the State Bar more deserving of this award than Earl Munson,” said Michael May, City Attorney for City of Madison and one of Earl’s nominators.  “Earl is one of the most dedicated lawyers I know, and he has made significant contributions to the Bar and to the community through his pro bono publico work. He is not just a great lawyer, he is a real gentleman.”

Earl’s career began in the United States Navy, where he tried cases in the U.S. Court of Military Appeals.  He later served as Assistant District Attorney for Dane County and he was twice appointed as a Special Prosecutor for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, by Attorney General Bronson LaFollette in 1966 and by Attorney General Robert Warren in 1968. It was in 1965 that Earl joined the ranks of private practice with a focus on business litigation. In his private practice, he has represented clients across the country and acted as lead counsel in some of the most complex matters a litigator can face.  In addition to his casework, Earl has served the legal community through his work with many of the mainstay institutions of his legal community—including the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the Wisconsin State Bar and the Dane County Bar Association—for which he has served stints in various leadership and committee roles.  Earl’s efforts on this front are ongoing, and, as of June 1, 2019, he was named as the President of the Senior Lawyers Division of the State Bar. 

One of the most defining characteristics of Earl’s practice is his unparalleled dedication to providing pro bono services and his efforts to promote their value to others in the legal profession. Earl has been pro bono counsel for individuals in contested cases throughout his career, including cases ranging from domestic abuse and child custody, to prisoners’ rights. His commitment to pro bono work reflects his conviction that pro bono work should be considered a paramount responsibility for attorneys—not an occasional act of charity.  As he wrote in a letter to the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors:


“Pro bono legal service is an obligation. … It is not just good; it is not icing on the cake; it is essential to the health and welfare of our legal system.  Too many lawyers fail to distinguish between pro bono legal services on the one hand and public service or charitable service on the other.”


Ultimately, Earl is receiving the Charles L. Goldberg Distinguished Service Award in large part because of the impression he has made on his peers throughout his career.  It make sense, then, that his impact is perhaps best summarized by another of his esteemed nominators, Attorney Lawrence Bensky:


“[Earl] is a model of civility … All lawyers, especially new lawyers, who observed Earl in court, depositions, negotiations, and all other phases of the law, saw how to represent clients while upholding the principles of civility, honesty, and respect our legal system seeks to achieve. Earl zealously represented his clients; even more, he zealously represented the best of the legal system. … He would be an outstanding recipient of the Charles L. Goldberg Distinguished Service Award.”


A list of prior recipients of the Charles L. Goldberg Distinguished Service Award can be found here.  

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