Julie and Mark Darnieder are a mother and son pair of Marquette lawyers who are Marquette Law School Legal Clinic volunteers.
In 2003, Julie helped establish Marquette’s legal clinic. Shortly after retiring from her private practice, Julie became involved with the Association of Women Lawyers. She says she had always been involved with pro bono work, so when someone in the group proposed the idea of a legal clinic, she signed up to help. The group went to Marquette Law School to secure malpractice insurance. Julie then started volunteering at the House of Peace as an early version of the Marquette legal clinic.
The clinic locations have expanded since she started and now include the Milwaukee County Veteran’s Service Office, where Julie and Mark often volunteer together.
Mark says the Veteran’s Service Office is different than the other legal clinics. “It’s wonderful being able to serve veterans who served us. Many are down on their luck because often things haven’t worked out for them post military.”
“The pace can be slower, which can be nice,” adds Julie. “You know every person who walks in the door has served our country. Through working there, you see how difficult the bureaucratic process often is for veterans.”
“People appreciate the opportunity to be heard, even if we can’t aways provide a solution,” says Julie.
“We give veteran clients a roadmap because often you can’t see them through the entire process. Some people don’t know how to navigate the paperwork, so we start them on that path. It can give them confidence and that’s rewarding,” says Mark.
Mark says he often thinks about how difficult the system is for people who don’t understand it. “There can be so many barriers and roadblocks.”
This is why he feels pro bono work is so important.
“While helping others, you’re reminded that many are not as fortunate as you. It gets you out of your comfort zone. It shows what the world is like for so many who don’t have representation. It also humbles attorneys and keeps their head in a good place.”
Julie agrees, saying, “We have a unique position in society. It’s important to use our skills to better the community. This is one way to do it. It keeps you honest and reminds you how fortunate you are.”
“It puts students into the practice of law as soon as their first year of law school,” adds Julie.
Marquette’s culture and reputation were what drew Julie to attend Marquette Law School as a law student. She graduated in 1978. Mark, who graduated in 2013, was drawn to the school in part because both his parents are Marquette lawyers, although he says they never pushed on him the idea of becoming a lawyer.
With his own children, Mark says he’ll take the same approach his parents did.