Courtroom TV shows such as “The Young Lawyers” gave Mancoske a sense of what lawyers could do in an altruistic way.
Mancoske’s brother, Ronald, inspired her and their eight siblings in Manitowoc to give their best to others with good deeds such as helping nuns provide aid to migrant workers who were mired in the grueling work of collecting farm produce.
Mancoske saw her greatest opportunity to do good come in the form of obtaining a law degree from St. Louis University in 1983.
Not long after, she was supporting laid-off and returning Chrysler workers who had been struggling with bankruptcies and credit troubles for four years. From there, she spent a decade at Legal Services of Northeastern Wisconsin, where she gained experiences with domestic violence and child-protective cases. Those experiences have proved extremely valuable in the past 18 years that she has been out on her own.
“I try to give families perspective. It’s about them. For some attorneys, it’s about them … winning a case,” she said. “For me, it’s not about winning a case, it’s about protecting children.”
Cynthia Vopal, Brown County assistant district attorney, said Mancoske is at her best when a decision may have the most uncertain results. With hold-open waiver-consent decrees, certain 16- or 17-year olds are given options to go through juvenile or adult courts. Making it a point to be honest rather than “sugar coating” how a case may play out, Mancoske spends extra time with teenagers to make sure that they end up better off in the long term.
“For some kids, she’s smart enough to see the kid will never make this deal … and they’re better off in juvenile court. Some attorneys wouldn’t go that extra mile. They’d see a deal and take it, knowing full well that kid won’t make it,” Vopal said.
In recent years, Mancoske said, she’s seen services outside of confinement decline for children and teenagers, especially girls who often cannot benefit from the same range of services given to boys.
Aside from her work with children, Mancoske draws on her experiences to help lawyers who are trying to set out as solo practitioners and who can’t benefit from having a pool of legal professionals surrounding them, as can be found at many larger firms.
“There are so many people starting out — hanging their own shingle — and I think it’s my sense of responsibility to help younger people. In turn, they know different stuff than I do,” she said.