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Richlen seeks justice for low-income clients

WLJ Photo by Kevin Harnack

Attorney Beth Ann Richlen knows she can’t win them all.

But losses are especially hard to take, the Wisconsin Judicare Inc. attorney said, when it means a low-income client might lose shelter or medical care that will be critical to his or her health.

“We eat a lot of chocolate around here,” said Richlen, 30. “But the negative outcomes really do motivate us to fight harder in the next case for a positive outcome.”

Richlen concentrates in federally subsidized housing and other public benefits law for low-income clients. Because many of her clients are vulnerable, the victories are extremely rewarding, she said.

“Sometimes my work subsidizes the roofs over peoples’ heads for as long as for 10 years,” she said. “That means a lot to my elderly clients, on fixed incomes, who might otherwise be homeless.”

Richlen also writes grants and creates new programs. She’s overseeing the development of an online representation project with the 10th Judicial District and the State Bar’s Legal Assistance Committee so pro bono attorneys can advise Judicare-eligible clients from anywhere.

The pioneering program, scheduled to commence this fall, will yield advice from leaders in particular practice fields to countless low-income people who would otherwise be navigating the legal system solo.

— Jane Pribek

What was your most useful law school course?

Lawyering Skills. It was an amazing opportunity to meet lawyers from across the state and dabble in various areas of law.

What is the best part of being an attorney?

Using your profession for the greater good

How many countries have you visited? Which ones?

I was a French major and an exchange student in Belgium when I was 18, and we traveled all over Europe and Northern Africa.

What is your most prized possession?

My Subaru. It’s my North Woods accessory; I could not get up the hill to my house in winter without it.

What is your greatest fear?

Another budget year like this one and more cuts to legal-services programs

What profession would you not like to participate in?

A phlebotomist. I don’t like blood.

Which living person do you most admire?

Any lawyer who uses their profession to benefit people who can’t afford a lawyer

What is the first concert you went to?

George Clinton and Parliament at the Riverside in Milwaukee. The Riverside is a place where people sit for concerts, but at this one, everyone was dancing and it was a very eclectic crowd.

What is your most treasured possession?

It’s not actually mine, but our family owns a home in Wautoma that belonged to our grandparents. It’s an old-fashioned A-frame built by my grandfather and one of his friends, where we all go to spend time together.

Where would you like to live?

Milwaukee, where my extended family members all live

How would your mother describe you in one word?


What are you craving right now?

The fruit plate special at the Mint Café (in Wausau)

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