Terese Halfmann has had a successful career as a personal-injury lawyer working on medical-malpractice and nursing-home abuse and neglect cases in no small part because of her extensive first-hand experience in health care.
Halfmann didn’t start in her professional career as a lawyer. Both her undergraduate and Master’s degrees were in nursing. She first put her education to use working as a registered nurse, followed by time spent managing an intensive-care unit. Eventually, she started teaching nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Although she has traded in her scrubs for business attire, Halfmann said her work is now greatly benefited by the time she spent in the health-care industry, especially her experience as a head nurse in an intensive-care unit.
Halfmann became interested in the legal field once she began teaching nursing students. She was doing so in the late 1970s and early 1980s, at a time when lawmakers were proposing various changes to the industry, such as different qualifications for nurses and different staffing requirements.
Because her lectures were heavy on legislation, “I simply got more interested in that legal process,” she said.
Halfmann added that she represents plaintiffs in these cases because that work lets her put her nursing experience to use.
“That’s my background,” she said, “to help people who’ve been injured.”
Once Halfmann got into the field, she specialized mainly in medical-malpractice cases. But for the last decade or so, she has taken on cases dealing almost exclusively with nursing-home neglect and abuse.
She attributes the shift partly to there being greater numbers of elderly people alive today than in many previous decades.
For the last two years at Hupy and Abraham, Halfmann has spearheaded the development of the firm’s nursing home abuse and negligence practice. What started out with just Halfmann and a paralegal has expanded to include two other attorneys, a legal assistant, a paralegal and a nurse, who helps the team review the large number of records it works with.
Halfmann noted the legal profession has become much more inclusive of women over the years. Still, she said, there is room for improvement, especially in the way the profession accommodates both younger women and men who have children.
Even so, Halfmann likes the progress that law firms have made since she entered the field in the 1980s.
“I think we’re a long way from where we were,” she said.