The burden of student-loan debt continues to loom over thousands of students in Wisconsin. Yet, few attorneys are taking steps to deal with the situation.
Enter Laurie Bigsby, who has practiced in this new area of law for almost three years at Horizons Law Group in Brookfield.
Born and raised in Fond du Lac, she attended Indiana University and Valparaiso University School of Law, where she graduated in 1988. While practicing in Indiana, she served as an officer in the Indiana State Bar Association Family and Juvenile Law Section. Bigsby helped to develop statewide visitation guidelines for use in family law situations, divorces and paternity cases.
When she returned to Wisconsin in 2001, her specialty became helping families with financial matters. She handled Ch. 7 and Ch. 13 bankruptcy cases and probate cases with Horizons. In 2015, she began work in the firm’s student-loan defense practice area.
Bigsby has studied government programs and knows how to get through red tape. Her more than 25 years’ worth of experience in the court system has enabled her to understand and follow legal procedures used in both federal and state courts.
“I enjoy practicing law today because it allows me to help individuals with their financial matters,” she said. “And occasionally I get to fight in court on the application of law to my client’s situation and convince the judge that my position is the correct application of law.”
Michelle Fitzgerald, founder of Horizons Law and an adjunct professor at Marquette University Law School, said it was Bigsby’s passion for helping consumers to find a way out of difficult situations that led her to discover a sort of theme in the bankruptcy work she had been doing for years. She is drawn to working on student loan entanglements that affect both students and the parents who co-sign loan documents.
“Our general bankruptcy procedure does not offer a direct way to address these issues,” Fitzgerald said. “But with Laurie’s zest for knowledge, she researched the few cases and motions in the federal circuit courts and state courts where arguments were being made. That led her to approach me with this area of practice that goes hand-in-hand with the bankruptcy clients she serves.”
Among the changes for the better that Bigsby has seen over the years, she counts courts’ increasing recognition of various valid legal defenses. That, she says, at least gives clients a chance at arriving at amicable resolutions.
“I continue to be impressed with her thirst for knowledge and addressing challenges,” Fitzgerald said. “She truly enjoys fighting for the ‘little person’ and protecting their rights to due process.”