On Thursday, May 19, 2005, the Hennepin County Bar Association awarded its 2005 Professionalism Award to Bill Wernz, Minneapolis trial partner and the firm's ethics partner, “for exemplifying the pursuit of the practice of law as a profession, including a spirit of public service and promotion of the highest level of competence, integrity and ethical conduct.”
Bill's accomplishments and contributions to the advancement of professionalism are widely recognized. A former college religion professor, Bill received his law degree from Notre Dame in 1977. From 1985 until 1992 served as the director of the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility. He joined Dorsey in 1992, and has focused his practice on representation of lawyers, law firms and judges in professional discipline and liability matters, in addition serving as the firm's ethics partner.
Bill has written countless articles on legal ethics, professionalism, attorney discipline and other ethics subjects, and spends many hours each year speaking to groups about legal ethics and professionalism.
In 2002, in the wake of the corporate governance scandals and in the footsteps of the American Bar Association's Ethics 2000 Initiative, Bill chaired the Minnesota State Bar Association's Task Force on the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Under his leadership, the task force undertook the monumental task of reviewing and evaluating each of Minnesota's Rules of Professional Conduct, along with the Comments to the Rules, in light of the proposed amendments to the ABA Model Rules. The work of the task forces represented the first major overhaul of Minnesota's lawyer professional conduct rules in twenty years. After the task force sbumitted its recommendations, Bill argued for their adoption at a hearing before the Minnesota Supreme Court.