Lawyers in Legislature

By Attorney Gregg Herman
November 10, 2014

Frequently, I hear people criticize lawyers for the some of the existing laws in this state. While lawyers can certainly be blamed for many things, statutes are not one of them.

According to a story in today’s Wisconsin Law Journal, there will be a record low number of lawyers in the new legislature: 17. That is out of 133 representatives and senators. The story does not reveal how many (if any) have ever practiced law.

Here is an amazing quote from the article: “…others said attorneys should be represented, much in the same fashion farmers, business people and doctors serve in the Legislature.”

Really? Yes, if the legislature is making butter. But they are passing laws. Maybe having a law school education would be helpful!

A number of years ago, I developed an idea for a statute in Wisconsin for an automatic stay provision in divorce (today’s Wis. Stats. ยง767.117). After getting the necessary approvals from the State Bar of Wisconsin Family Law Section, I met, along with the State Bar lobbyist, with the chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. After carefully explaining to him how the proposed bill would improve the divorce process, I was told by the state bar lobbyist that the legislator had not understood anything which I explained to him.

“But he is chair of the Judiciary Committee,” I said. To which she responded “So what. He is not a lawyer.”

Having testified on a number of occasions on family law related proposed legislation, I can vouch for the importance of lawyers. I have been continually amazed by the lack of probative questions from legislators.

So while people can be angry at lawyers for a number of things (see my posts of lawyer discipline), state statutes are not in that category. It is not uncommon for laws which are poorly thought out (e.g., WUMPA) or even counter productive (once again, in many respects, e.g., WUMPA). No wonder.

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman, LLC in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.