Laura McFarlane proves being a do-gooder isn’t a bad thing.
“She is someone who wants to do good. She really does. It’s genuine passion for serving others. Public service is part of her DNA,” said Patricia Epstein Putney, a shareholder at Bell Moore & Richter in Madison.
That drive is partly what led McFarlane to Oxfam, an international organization dedicated to eradicating poverty throughout the world. The Wisconsin native spent six years at the non-profit group, studying aborad in Germany, India and South Africa before returning home to begin her legal career.
“I had been working so much on these large global issues, but I was very drawn to a local environment and a focus on communities. I realized I was just ready to be in Wisconsin,” said McFarlane, whose practice includes nearly everything except criminal cases, but is beginning to center more and more on civil-litigation defense, family law and non-profit groups.
Her interest in the law was always there. Her father, David McFarlane, is a medical-malpractice attorney at Bell Moore & Richter, where she was a clerk before joining the firm as a lawyer.
Her time at Oxfam, where she helped Ethiopian coffee farmers deal with intellectual-property rights, solidified her enthusiasm.
By the time she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she’d even chosen that as a specialty.
But an experience in Mozambique, where McFarlane helped push for a law allowing women to maintain custody of their children following divorce, led her down another path.
“It helped me grow as a person, to understand how we’re all interconnected and how important it is to have a strong legal system,” McFarlane said.
So, she returned home, where she’s worked to build a better community. Among other things, she has served as a volunteer at the Dane County Bar Association and the Susan G. Komen Foundation board.
“She’s so genuine and genuinely caring,” Epstein Putney said. “As you get further into your career, sometimes you lose sight of that – the passion of why we are lawyers. I’ve had that reawakened in me when I work with Laura. You can’t really be jaded when you’re dealing with her. She’s just an incredibly genuine and well-meaning person, and that rubs off. And it rubs off in a good way. It brings you back to the passion of advocacy we all started with. She’s just a breath of fresh air.”