Article by James Romesko
THE STATISTICS PROVE IT: More and more people need lawyers these days. They're splitting from their spouses, getting scalded in industrial accidents, going after shysters of all sorts and just trying to see justice done.
In just one year, the number of cases in Milwaukee County Family Court skyrocketed 24.4 percent - from 15,169 divorce, paternity and custody cases in 1988 to 18,869 last year, according to records in the Clerk of Courts Office.
Civil cases, too (which include large and small claims, personal injury suits and garnishments), jumped 7 percent in Milwaukee County last year - to 81,212 cases.
With these numbers, the chance of your needing an attorney sometime in your life are very good. But where do you go for good legal advice?
Milwaukee Magazine's second best lawyers survey (we did our first in 1985) is designed to recognize legal talent and serve as a guide for readers seeking an attorney. We recognize that there are numerous excellent attorneys in the Yellow Pages who don't appear on these pages; the following men and women were most often cited for their exemplary performances.
David Erne, president of the Milwaukee Bar Association, suggests that people in need of an attorney seek out other lawyers for advice. To whom would that attorney go if he needed legal advice outside his specialty?
Erne also suggests that people consult the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, which rates lawyers on an A-B-C scale and offers biographical sketches of attorneys. (The directory is available at the Central Library.)
The Milwaukee Magazine survey results are based on a polling of several hundred Milwaukee-area attorneys as well as numerous follow-up interviews. As might be expected, we got many of the same names that surfaced in our 1985 poll, but dozens of new ones were brought to our attention - men and women who've gained the respect of their peers in recent years.
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Several well-known attorneys received nearly the same number of votes from their peers, although William Cannon (Cannon & Dunphy S.C.) landed on top. A former partner with the Habush firm, Cannon and his partner, Patrick Dunphy, recently made headlines for the $17.2 million judgment they won for three Manitowoc burn victims.
The 42 year old Cannon, whose first four years as a lawyer were spent representing insurance companies in personal injury cases, won the largest malpractice award against the United States in 1982 when he "uncovered and unraveled the mess" of a former Air Force surgeon who came to Milwaukee and left a women in a coma after he reversed the lines on a heart-lung machine. The case was featured on 60 minutes.