Ballenger said she was immediately hooked on the legal profession. She concentrated on that career path in college and has since risen to be an assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County.
“A lot of what I do is really helping people,” she said. “My entire career here at the district attorney’s office, I’ve always been in roles where I’m working hands on with victims of crime and it’s very rewarding when you can get a positive outcome for someone that has been a victim.”
Ballenger is team captain for the General Crimes Unit in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, where she supervises four attorneys and handles the largest caseload within the unit.
She was a clerk for a family law attorney during law school and was even considering specializing in family law. But an internship in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office allowed her to appear on the record on cases. She found she wanted to be a litigator.
“I can’t imagine being an attorney that just sits in their office all the time. Frankly, I’d get a little bored,” she said. “In court you have to think on your feet. You’re constantly dealing with issues coming at you at a very fast pace and it’s that on-your-feet problem solving that I really enjoy doing.”
The job is never boring, she said. Ballenger recently completed a jury trial ending in the conviction of a defendant accused of robbing businesses in Milwaukee. She also recently oversaw the prosecution and conviction of another man who received a 20-year sentence for attempted first-degree intentionalhomicide for stabbing a victim with a knife.
She previously worked in the department’s sensitive crimes unit, where she oversaw the prosecution of complex cases. One involved the conviction of a serial rapist, who was sentenced on 15 felony charges to 155 years in prison.
Megan Carmody, who is a former assistant district attorney who worked with Ballenger, said she has one of the greatest work ethics of any attorney she knows. She said Ballenger was always persistent, hard-working, eloquent and respectful.
“Jess is quick to recognize where there is a disparity or an injustice,” she said. “She wants everything to be the best possible that it can be.”