Inside Track: Up North: Young Lawyers Find Their Way to Wausau:

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  • Up North: Young Lawyers Find Their Way to Wausau

    Lawyers are finding positions in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, thanks in part to the Greater Wisconsin Initiative Bus tour – but more are needed.

    Shannon Green

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    2017 group photo

    The 2017 Greater Wisconsin Initiative Bus Tour, just before leaving Madison for the Northwoods in September.

    Oct. 4, 2017 – Beth Ann Richlen of Wisconsin Judicare in Wausau is doing all she can to encourage more lawyers to practice in northern Wisconsin.

    “We definitely need more lawyers in the Northwoods,” said Richlen.

    Attorneys, judges, and local officials in the rural parts of Wisconsin are saying the same thing: Vital legal needs are going unmet due to a lack of lawyers.

    The Greater Wisconsin Initiative Bus Tour 2017

    Richlen was one of several legal employers to meet this year’s participants in the State Bar of Wisconsin Greater Wisconsin Initiative Bus Tour, which visited Ashland, Bayfield, and Barron counties on Sept. 15 and 16.

    The tour, initiated in 2016, takes lawyers into areas of Wisconsin where access to justice is jeopardized. It introduces them to local attorneys, judges, and community leaders, and gives them a sampling of what it is like to live in these areas.

    Her message to the participants was: “We’re hiring – we’re happy to train you.”

    She is hoping some will respond. “I want to do anything within my power to get them in our door – or someone else’s as soon as possible.”

    Mike Windle, a 2L at U.W. Law School who participated in the 2017 tour last month, said he will seek internship opportunities next summer that involve exploring small-town life and practice. The tour, he said “really opened my eyes to opportunities I would not have otherwise known were available.”

    Paige Resch

    Paige Resch stands under the umbrella display in downtown Wausau.

    Success Story

    A 2016 tour participant found her opportunity: Paige Resch, who participated in the tour as a 3L at the U.W. Law School, started working at Wisconsin Judicare in Wausau in July. She joins 2016 tour participant Will Baynard – and they are now coworkers as well as colleagues.

    Resch, an Appleton native, was interested in rural practice. She had spent her 2L summer as an intern in Medford. “I always thought it would be ideal to work where I like to vacation,” she said.

    org sgreen wisbar Shannon Green is communications writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. She can be reached by org sgreen wisbar email or by phone at (608) 250-6135.

    The 2016 tour, which visited Rhinelander and Marinette, reassured her that many northern communities are looking for young lawyers. “Each city had a lot going on for it that you don’t necessarily hear about in Madison,” Resch said.

    When it came time to apply, she found the opportunity in Wausau. Plus, she already knew two people she’d be working with – Richlen and Baynard – after meeting them on last year’s tour.

    Resch is now Wisconsin Judicare’s newest attorney, working in the Elder Rights Project with Baynard.

    “It’s a great place to start as an attorney,” Resch said. “Wisconsin Judicare invests a lot in their newer and younger attorneys, and there are plenty of training opportunities.”

    Resch encourages those interested in exploring rural opportunities to sign up for next year’s tour in the fall. “And keep making connections and exploring these areas in Wisconsin,” she said. “The more you see of northern Wisconsin, the more you can picture yourself working there.”

    The 2018 tour will explore yet another area of Wisconsin.

    “Although we don’t have any firm plans yet, people have already requested that we come to their areas,” said Amy Ferguson, member of the working group that planned and coordinated both bus tours. “We are considering every area of the state that needs more lawyers as a potential destination, and we’re open to suggestions.”