Porchia Lewand’s love of the law started when she was a child and discovered a hero in the fictional judge Amy Gray on the TV show “Judging Amy.”
Lewand said she preferred watching that show to cartoons. She recalls how she would sit transfixed as Gray helped families in juvenile court and did other work to make a difference in her hometown. Her ambition was to be similar to the show’s main character when she grew up.
When she was a sophomore at Marquette University, Lewand worked as an intern in the public defender’s office. That’s when she decided she was ready for a career in law.
“It was my first look into the law and I followed that all the way through college,” she said. “I took as many criminal- and criminology-type classes as I could.”
Lewand is an assistant district attorney in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s domestic-violence unit, a role that gives her an opportunity to help women escape abusive situations.
Lewand has been practicing law for only three years, but her work has resulted in the review of more than 1,000 cases. She has taken 19 of them to trial and is now a leader in the unit.
“I feel like I’m starting to fulfill my purpose in what I want to do with my career by being a DA, especially because I handle domestic violence cases,” she said.
Kristin McGowan, victim/witness advocate in the domestic-violence unit, said Lewand is very thorough and organized in her casework.
“As hard as she works, she honors her home and family life strongly. She is close to both her family as well as her husband’s, and she is all about her son,” McGowan said. “I think that that message is pretty powerful — especially when a lot of the media wants to portray Milwaukee so negatively — crime ridden, polarized, racially divided. I think she is a good testament to the strength of community, the support of family, a good education and a devoted work ethic.”
Growing up in the city of Milwaukee, Lewand saw firsthand not only the harm that domestic violence could cause its victims but also its larger ripple effect.
“When the opportunity came along to join the DA’s office and work on domestic violence, I feel it’s where I can make the most difference,” she said. “And it’s personal to me.”
Lewand has also helped young district attorneys coming through the office in the past two years. She continues to attend training sessions on everything from strangulation cases to techniques for forensically interviewing children.
Despite the improvements of recent decades, Lewand said she still sees a need for more women and people of color in the legal profession.
“I think we just need more representation for the cases we’re prosecuting and defending because this city has a large minority community, but a lot of the attorneys on both sides and the judges are not minorities,” she said. “I need to do whatever I can to break ground and diversify this profession so that it’s more representative of the community that we’re in.”