Inside Track: Karen Bauer: A Natural Leader, Volunteer, Champion for Access to Justice :

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  • Karen Bauer: A Natural Leader, Volunteer, Champion for Access to Justice

    Karen Bauer, Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, will receive the Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year Award at the Fifth Annual Young Lawyers Leadership Conference in Green Bay on March 21. The half-day event is free for all young lawyers.


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    Karen BauerMarch 5, 2014 – Great advocate for public service ... highly sought-after volunteer … champion in the fight for ensuring access to justice for all Wisconsin’s residents … role model for young lawyers. Comments like these have garnered this year’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year Award for Karen Bauer.

    Since law school, Bauer has been dedicated to public service and to serving the bar. She will receive the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year Award, which recognizes a young lawyer who is active in community service, works to strengthen the profession, create better client services, and make the practice of law more rewarding for lawyers.The award will be presented at the Fifth Annual Young Lawyers Leadership Conference (YLLC) on March 21 in Green Bay. The half-day event is free for all young lawyers.

    “The YLD Nominations and Elections Committee received nominations from across the state for the fifth Annual YLD Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year Award,” said Nomination Committee chair Ben Lane.“ The committee was challenged with may qualified candidates. As with the previous winners of this award, Karen is another deserving recipient.”

    An Eye on Public Service

    In her nomination letter, former YLD President Jill Kastner wrote, “Karen is a champion in the fight for ensuring access to justice for all Wisconsin’s residents, regardless of economic status or disability. She is currently a valued staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, providing free civil legal services to Milwaukee’s poor and underserved residents.”

    “Karen has a passion for her work, despite facing constant pressures to provide legal services when funding could disappear,” wrote former YLD President Sherry Coley in her nomination letter. “She tirelessly represents her clients in foreclosure and consumer disputes and works to make sure Wisconsin’s consumer protection laws are upheld. There are always more cases than resources. What always strikes me about Karen is that she has such determination and drive; she tirelessly represents her clients and they are lucky to have her.”

    State Bar Pro Bono Coordinator Jeff Brown recalls, “I first met Karen in her role as a ‘new’ staff attorney at Wisconsin Judicare. Although she was technically a new lawyer, she knew far more than I did. She was a great resource for me on a range of consumer law issues that arose in pro bono matters. At the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, she has been a vital resource for homeowners in one of Wisconsin’s signature responses to the foreclosure crisis, the Milwaukee Foreclosure Mediation Program. As a member of the YLD and the Public Interest Law Section boards, Karen has also been a great advocate for public service work in general and for loan forgiveness as one way to support new lawyers. Karen is obviously a highly sought-after volunteer and for good reason; she is innovative, a pleasure to work with, and she has the intellect to match her seemingly boundless energy.”

    A Natural Leader

    A newly minted lawyer in 2009, Bauer wasted no time becoming active in the State Bar. She was a YLD board member from 2009 to 2013 (a natural transition since she served as the U.W. Law School student liaison to the YLD for three years). She also chaired the Technology Committee and started the YLD Facebook page.

    Coley remembers, “Karen was always willing to help with any YLD project and was especially willing to tackle more difficult projects. Karen used her tech savvy to promote YLD efforts and expand our reach to young lawyers. One of her largest accomplishments during her time on the YLD board was organizing the second Young Lawyers Leadership Conference in Madison. Karen managed to find sponsors, speakers, and participants. Her efforts helped ensure the success of that event.

    In 2012, then State Bar President Jim Brennan appointed Bauer to the Challenges Facing New Lawyers Task Force, which recently released its findings. Coley specifically asked that Karen help with the task force because, "she was more knowledgeable than anyone I knew about loan repayment programs, and she worked for Judicare in Wausau at the time. She knew what it was like to juggle debt and provide legal services to those in need.”

    As her tenure on the YLD came to an end last year, Bauer ramped up her involvement with the Public Interest Law Section. A board member since 2010 with terms as treasurer and secretary already under her belt, she is the chair-elect and begins her term as chair on July 1. She also has been a Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP) volunteer since 2009 and is now a member of the WisLAP Committee.

    Reaches Out to New Lawyers with Student Loan Debt

    Bauer’s mission is to enable every young lawyer to be able to afford to repay their student loans. She recently expanded her practice at Legal Aid to include Student loan defense. Bauer presented her first Student Loan Repayment CLE program at the 2008 State Bar Annual Convention when she was a 3L and has offered the program at the Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference.

    Also as a 3L, she co-authored Career: Financial Help Puts Public Interest Careers in Reach, on the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007 in Wisconsin Lawyer magazine. In 2012, she authored Career: Repaying Law School Debt, in the April issue of Wisconsin Lawyer magazine.

    Community Service and Balance

    In her nomination letter Coley wrote, “When most individuals would find quiet moments to enjoy time alone, Karen still finds time to give back to her community. For years, Karen has volunteered with Operation Santa in Montello. Operation Santa provides toys and food to families with children during the holidays. This community program was started by Karen’s father, Rick, and has become a family tradition as Karen’s husband dons his Santa Claus outfit along with a team of other “Santas” to deliver toys and groceries to needy families in Marquette County.

    “Karen lives every moment of every day, and takes time from her busy schedule to help those who are less fortunate,” says Coley. “She probably never expected to be recognized for these efforts, which is the very reason why she deserves the award. Karen upholds all the ideals that make her a valuable member of the bar.”

    Kastner noted, “Karen is also a new mom, who balances her work life, bar, and community leadership, volunteerism, and a young family. Her dedication and leadership inspires other young lawyers to serve their community and become more involved in the bar.”

    Attend the Young Lawyers Leadership Conference

    Bauer will receive the award at a luncheon preceding the Fifth Annual Young Lawyers Leadership Conference in Green Bay on March 21. The luncheon begins at noon. The Hon. William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge, U.S. District Judge, Eastern District of Wisconsin, will deliver the keynote address. The conference, 2-5 p.m., is free for all young lawyers. Membership in the Young Lawyers Division is automatic for attorneys who are either under 36 years old or in their first five years of practice following admission to the State Bar of Wisconsin. The conference will be submitted to the Board of Bar Examiners for CLE and EPR credits.

    A limited number of rooms are available at the Tundra Lodge at a discounted rate of $129; the special rate expires on March 6.

    Register for the conference.