Attorneys offer free legal advice in mobile, MU bus

Attorneys+offer+free+legal+advice+in+mobile%2C+MU+bus

Every month since September, the Mobile Legal Clinic drives to isolated neighborhoods around Milwaukee to offer free legal advice on civil matters.

Michael Gonring, an attorney at Quarles & Brady LLP and Class of ’82 Marquette University Law School alumnus, was the original engineer behind the clinic but could not financially support the venture. Goring took the idea to fellow law school alumni Frank Daily and Julia Ebert who offered to help fund the project through Marquette.

“It is justice on wheels,” Gonring said in an email. “It is another example of Marquette’s significant involvement in helping to provide legal services for the poor. The fact that two Marquette alumni, Frank Daily and Julie Ebert, provide the financial support for it is no accident.”

As part of the Milwaukee Justice Center — a collaborative effort between the Milwaukee Bar Association, Milwaukee County and the Marquette University Law School — the Mobile Legal Clinic is a mobile version of the center. Though the center does not offer actual legal representation and does not consult on criminal matters, it does offer brief legal advice to people on civil matters pro bono.

Current Marquette Law School students and attorneys from Michael Best & Friedrich LLP staff the bus and specialize in civil areas like family matters and landlord-tenant cases. Each client is given about 30 to 45 minutes with attorneys. The staff members run on shifts during a four-hour period.

The Mobile Legal Clinic itself is a Marquette bus split into two offices with roll out furniture. Each office has computers, Ethernet, access to legal information and a few hard copies of legal documents.

The clinic debuted in September and — with the exception of December when the weather related issues canceled the trip — runs once a month. This past Saturday saw the Mobile Legal Clinic’s first trip in 2014. The bus parked outside the Parklawn YMCA and set up inside.

Angela Schultz, the pro bono director of the law school, said there was a good turnout despite the frigid weather.

“About 10 clients have been served each time it has run,” Schultz said. “This Saturday, eight clients received service.”

Though a little more than six months old, the program received considerable local recognition. It was labeled one of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Big Ideas of 2013. Mary Ferwerda, coordinator for the Mobile Legal Clinic and class of 2011 Marquette law school alumna, is proud of the clinic’s work.

“This project has been one of the most enjoyable and exciting things I have ever worked in my career,“ Ferwerda said. “It’s been so enjoyable because of all the different people who collaborate to support and the enthusiasm and willingness to jump in and help.”

Correction: The original headline “MU law students provide free legal advice to poor” was incorrect. Attorneys, not students, are providing legal advice. The Tribune regrets the error.