Working harder for Wisconsin veterans

Veterans Memorial ParkAs a part of our ongoing effort to improve the delivery of civil legal services for Wisconsin residents in need, the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission has begun working with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, Army OneSource, and our other stakeholders to develop additional legal resources for assisting our veterans. This effort will be led by Commission member Jeff Unger, who also serves as Transition Assistance Advisor with the Wisconsin National Guard.

The Commission will be relying on this new working group to develop recommendations for specific resources that should be created or expanded by the Commission or others in Wisconsin.

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Equal justice award winners

At the 2015 Wisconsin Equal Justice Conference, six awards were announced for outstanding contributions in the areas of civil justice, public interest law and pro bono work. The award winners were announced by the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Legal Assistance Committee and Public Interest Law Section. Formal presentation of the awards will take place during the Member Recognition Celebration at the State Bar’s Annual Meeting & Conference on June 25 in Lake Geneva.

Andy DeClercq
Andy DeClercq

Andy DeClercq, with Boardman & Clark LLP, Madison, was awarded the Pro Bono Attorney of the Year award. Colleagues described DeClercq as a “quiet, unsung advocate for the rights of others. He does not seek accolades for himself, but is more than deserving of them. His continued commitment to pro bono so early in his career is a testament to his character.” DeClercq has accepted several pro bono appointments by the District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in prisoner civil rights cases, which involved a large time commitment.

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Provider spotlight: Kids Matter

Kids MatterKids Matter Inc. was founded in 2000 to help abused and neglected youth in the greater Milwaukee area. It is a small agency with a big mission.

Kids Matter is the only legal services agency providing non-GAL civil legal services within the child welfare system and for informal kinship families in Wisconsin. In addition to providing direct legal services for children and families, Kids Matter provides free legal information to the public and technical advice to attorneys and professionals. In an effort to keep up with growing demand, the Kids Matter website includes a guide to legal guardianship that has been used by caregivers in all 72 Wisconsin counties. As youth turn to the web for information first, Kids Matter has also developed “know your rights” guides for youth in foster care.

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Avoiding compassion fatigue

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Keeping Legal Minds Intact: Mitigating Compassion Fatigue

By Linda Albert*, LCSW, CSAC

This is an excerpt of an article published in The Wisconsin Defender magazine, Winter/Spring 2009. It is reprinted with permission.

What is compassion fatigue?

There are several different terms often used to refer to the same phenomenon; to name a few: compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress, second hand shock and secondary stress reaction. Compassion fatigue is defined as the cumulative physical, emotional and psychological effects of being continually exposed to traumatic stories or events when working in a helping capacity. It has been studied extensively in social workers, nurses, doctors and therapists who work with victims of trauma. Recently researchers have begun to examine the impact upon legal professionals including lawyers doing criminal law or family law and judges. Compassion fatigue involves a cluster of symptoms such as, but not limited to, sleep disturbance, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, a sense of futility or pessimism about people, lethargy, isolation and irritability. The development of compassion fatigue involves neurophysiology and is best addressed from both the neurobiological and the social psychological research and perspectives.

Who is most at risk?

Levin et al (2003) found that attorneys and judges who work in the field of criminal or family law are considered at higher risk of developing compassion fatigue compared to those who work in other areas of the law.

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Pro bono standard bearers

Wisconsin Pro Bono Honor Society

The Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission is pleased to announce the 398 members of the 2014 Wisconsin Pro Bono Honor Society. Each of these outstanding lawyers provided at least 50 hours of free or substantially reduced fee pro bono legal services in 2014 to benefit persons of limit means. Their service represents a combined contribution of at least 19,900 hours of pro bono legal help for people in need. This is the second year for this …

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Wisconsin equal justice conference recap

M1027-WEJC-logo-webThe Wisconsin Equal Justice Conference is an education forum for advocates on access to justice issues related to low-income and disadvantaged clients. More than 120 people attended this year’s biennial conference in Milwaukee on March 6, 2015. Sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin Legal Assistance Committee and Public Interest Law Section, as well as the Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission, the conference offered a variety of presentations on topics of interest to attorneys who do pro bono work or are employed in public service. Here is a short summary of the conference sessions. Conference materials are available online (login may be required).

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