The Power of Advocacy

By Benjy Wagner

1.   Advocacy (Noun) \ˈad-və-kə-sē\

Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organization undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research or conducting exit poll or the filing of an amicus brief.  Advocacy – Wikipedia

We are trial lawyers. We are the protectors and guardians of our civil justice system.  We are the ultimate advocates for our individual clients in the courtroom.

We exercise the 7th amendment power to seek and obtain justice for our clients in the courtroom, but this is not where the power, efficacy, and strength of our advocacy ends.  We are advocates for justice, compassion, and equality in our communities. Individually, we take on leadership roles in our respective communities for just causes.  We give back.  We engage. We activate.  We are good neighbors.  Collectively, by doing so, we help our communities shape and define justice.

What we do, and how we act, both in the courtroom and in the community matters, and our conduct in both arenas is not only vital to our civil society, it is also necessary for the sustainability of our profession.  We strive to influence the public debate on civil justice and equality issues through participation in our political system.  We advocate for economic fairness. We believe in social equality and fairness. 

Whether it is speaking to high school students about the Constitution and the three branches of government, participating in a local Rotary Club, serving on a charitable board, or educating our friends and family about how and why the system is working (or failing), we seize such opportunities to infuse our ideals and influence into the fabric of our communities. As a natural consequence, our fellow neighbors and citizens learn who we are, what we do, and why we do it.  A better understanding develops about the driving force behind our collective mission, which is simply to help people and to protect individual legal rights in our civil society.

This is our case. Let’s continue presenting our case to our communities through our power of advocacy.  

We make a real difference in our communities every day. In the short time I have served as your President, I am heartened to relay that the strength of our membership’s contributions in communities across Wisconsin are profound. On a daily basis, from Milwaukee to Wausau to Janesville to Green Bay, we contribute in meaningful ways in our respective neighborhoods and villages.

WAJ members serve on a multitude of diverse philanthropic, political, civic, and charitable boards and committees.   Some of us are little league coaches or members of a volunteer fire department. By virtue of our service within our communities, we inherently advocate for our mission and our principals of justice.

Our profession is one of service. Our commitment to serve others, however, should never end at the close of the business day (or in the odd hours when so many of us catch up on our work).

We must define our profession positively and on our own terms. We each lead busy lives, and it is easy to lose focus on the inner workings of our justice system. We cannot let those who would tilt the civil justice system in their favor define our role inside the courtroom; nor can we let them define our role in our communities. If we seek to deliver justice in the court room, we must also make sure it is delivered outside it as well. Advocacy is, again, our most powerful tool.

Goodwill earned outside the courtroom yields dividends within. Through advocacy and service within our communities, we demonstrate how our advocacy preserves and protects justice in our society. By remembering our duty to harness the power of our profession and our advocacy to bring about greater fairness outside the courtroom, we improve the chances justice can be delivered within.

The continued strength and existence of our justice system depends on our membership. We must continue to utilize and leverage our abilities to make the world a better place. When we operate with these goals in mind, we demonstrate how justice is achieved and maintained. Fighting for justice, compassion and equality improves our communities and makes life better for the next generation.

Wagner, WAJ President and a shareholder at Habush Habush & Rottier, is certified as a Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. In 2016, he was named to the “40 Under 40” list by Milwaukee Business Journal and as a “Leader in the Law,” by the Wisconsin Law Journal.

Wagner’s practice focuses on plaintiff’s tort law. The father of two is active in the community and serves on the boards of Discovery World, Jewish Family Services, Sojourner Family Peace Center, Safe & Sound Inc., a non-profit organization committed to reducing violent crime in Milwaukee, and the Medical College of Wisconsin Neuroscience Center Advisory Board.

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