Persuade: A Verb.

Beverly Wickstrom, WAJ President and 
a partner with Gingras Thomsen & Wachs, LLP

 

I love Websters’ stately definition: “To move by argument, entreaty or expostulation, to a belief, position, or course of action.”

I would define it more simply: what we, as trial lawyers, do for a living.

Trial lawyers spend a lifetime honing our ability to persuade. We use this skill to help people who have been injured get the medical care they need, recover lost wages and become financially whole. We use the skill to help people who have been wronged find justice. We use persuasion to help level the playing field between people who have been injured and the large corporations and insurance companies which try to deny them justice. Our ability to persuade is what makes the justice system work.

In 2020, an election year, our ability to persuade faces another challenge: convincing voters and people who seek office that our justice system, where everyone has the right to a fair trial by a jury of peers, must be preserved, and that every person or company who injures someone must be held responsible for those injuries. To make this happen, each of us must be willing to talk with friends, relatives, colleagues and people seeking office about  why we do what we do, and the importance of preserving a legal system that will allow us to achieve justice for those who need it.

We must tell the stories of people we have helped who otherwise would have been destitute because someone hurt them. We must talk about the people who have died unnecessarily and the horrors we have helped their families work through. We must let people know what will happen if the civil justice system does not survive the aftermath of the election.

The stakes are high. In Wisconsin, the Collateral Source Rule remains under attack. New immunity laws are being proposed. Every patient’s right to the information needed to give informed consent to medical treatment is being eroded. And it is only a matter of time before the laws being proposed in other states to limit contingency fees and otherwise limit the rights of injured people make their way here. So please speak up. Help voters and politicians understand the issues and the stakes for the people of this state. By using our collective ability to persuade, we will be able to reinvigorate a legal system that truly provides justice for all.

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