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Farrell fights for disability rights

Wisconsin Law Journal photo/Kevin Harnack

In the fast-changing environment of disability law, Ryan Farrell is ready to vouch for his clients – in and out of court.

Twenty-three days after Farrell landed his job at Disability Rights Wisconsin Inc., a state protection and advocacy group, the federal government passed the health care reform act, putting a quick spin on an already fast-moving area of law and client need.

“This [is a] subject I didn’t learn about and was hardly aware of in law school,” Farrell said. “It turns out I get into this field and it is the center of the national dialogue on the size and scope of the national government, and the plans to help the most needy.

“During my first month, I was writing briefs, going to court frequently, meeting with clients daily, taking on a big case load, all things that can be pretty rare for an attorney starting out these days.”

Farrell has spearheaded an effort to establish outreach to those eligible for federal backing – often people plagued by addiction, mental illness or prior criminal records – by non-attorney agents. The outreach is resulting in 100 new client cases a month in Milwaukee County alone, and Farrell’s department expects to have representatives in every state county by the end of 2013.

“It sounds crazy because I’m an attorney, and I love going to court and I do go to court, but when people can have their issues resolved in a bureaucracy,” he said, “that is so much nicer and easier than dragging clients into the court system.”

What was your most useful law school course?

Lawyering Skills

If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you have done?

Political campaign manager

What can you spend hours doing that’s not law-related?


If you could be a superhero, who would you be?

The Punisher

What profession would you not like to participate in?


What trait do you most like in others?

Sense of adventure

What is the first concert you went to?

Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters

Which living person do you most admire?

Vel Phillips

Who are some of your favorite writers?

Aldo Leopold, Henry David Thoreau

What do you miss most about your childhood?

Complete optimism is acceptable

Do you have any tattoos?


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