The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee was founded in 1916 “to do all things necessary for the prevention of injustice.” We are one of the nation’s oldest, continuously operating, public interest law firms.
Each year the Society provides free legal services to 8,000 of Milwaukee’s most vulnerable residents: abused and neglected children, developmentally disabled adults, persons living with HIV/AIDS, battered women, immigrants, elderly, prisoners, mentally ill, physically impaired, unemployed, and homeless – all of whom are too poor to afford legal counsel.
Fighting for Structural Change
In addition to representing individuals and families, the Legal Aid Society also challenges patterns and practices of abusive behavior by large corporations and governmental entities through litigation of class action and major impact cases. Staff lawyers act in these matters as private attorneys general by vindicating constitutional rights or advancing important public interests on behalf of the poor. The Society provides a full range of civil legal services in all state and federal forums, including administrative agencies, trial and appellate courts, and legislative advocacy.
The Society has served as counsel of record or amicus curiae in nearly 140 cases resulting in published opinions by state and federal courts. These decisions have established an important body of case law on the rights of tenants, children, prisoners, mental health patients, and consumers. That legacy has left a lasting mark on national and state jurisprudence affecting the poor.
Offices and Partners
Legal Aid Society staff attorneys meet with clients at ten sites throughout the community, including its conveniently located Downtown office and its quarters in the Children’s Court Center. Staff attorneys conduct regular outreach sessions at St. Benedict’s Community Meal Program, The Gathering Meal Program at St. James Church, Christian Faith Fellowship Church Meal Program, Sixteenth Street Community Health Center, MLK Heritage Clinic, the COA Goldin Center, and Sojourner Truth House for victims of domestic violence.
In the fall of 1916, the Legal Aid Society participated in Milwaukee’s first United Way campaign as one of the original charities supported by the Centralized Budget of Social Agencies. Today, the Society is funded by a broad partnership of public and private sources. These include city, county, state, and federal government agencies, as well as United Way, the Helen Bader Foundation, Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation, Erica P. John Fund, Everyday Philanthropists, Faye McBeath Foundation, Foley Family Foundation, Forest County Potawatomi Community Foundation, Gene and Ruth Posner Foundation, Gesu Parish Endowment, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Herb Kohl Charities, Impact Fund, Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation, Joseph Zilber Family Foundation, M&I Bank, Milwaukee Bar Association Foundation, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, Park Bank Foundation, RBC Dain Rauscher Foundation, Red Granite Advisors LLC, Robert W. Baird Foundation, WE Energies Corporation Foundation, William Stark Jones Foundation, and the Women’s Fund.
Milwaukee’s major law firms and individual lawyers continue to be generous supporters of the Legal Aid Society’s annual fund appeal. Leaders in this group include Foley & Lardner LLP; Rinehart Boerner Van Deuren SC; Cannon & Dunphy SC; Quarles & Brady LLP; Michael Best & Friedrich LLP; Godfrey & Kahn SC; Davis & Kuelthau SC; von Briesen & Roper SC; O’Neil Cannon Hollman DeJong SC; Cook & Franke SC; Gimbel Reilly Guerin & Brown SC; Gillick Wicht Gillick & Graf SC; Stephen M. Fisher & Associates SC; Habush Habush & Rottier SC; Emile Banks & Associates SC; Friebert Finerty & St. John SC; Aiken & Scoptur SC; Mawicke & Goisman SC.; Attorneys Stephen M. Glynn and Katie Walsh.