Forseths Provides Legal Services – Waupaca County Post
Lawyers launch rural access to justice
By Robert Cloud
Amanda Forseth worked as a paralegal at Werner, Johnson and Hendrickson law firm in New London when she was working on a case involving the conviction of an elderly woman’s house.
âAt that point, I realized that if people didn’t have affordable access to justice, there wasn’t much they could do,â Forseth recalled.
Forseth, who had already obtained a master’s degree in sociology from Western Michigan University in 2014, began attending Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. She graduated in 2020.
“I took and passed the bar exam with a 2 week old boy and a 2.5 year old boy,” said Amanda Forseth.
Insured to practice law at the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Madison on September 2, Amanda and her husband, Robert Forseth, have a law firm in Waupaca called Rural Access to Justice (RAJ).
RAJ provides legal services to individuals and families with incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty line.
This works out to $ 78,000 for a four-person household or $ 38,280 for an individual.
While defendants in a criminal case have the right to counsel and can be represented free of charge by a public defender, Robert Forseth noted that people in civil cases are not guaranteed legal representation.
RAJ handles family matters, landlord-tenant disputes, evictions, criminal defense, Medicaid and Social Security appeals, small claims, inheritance issues, and real estate transactions.
The nonprofit firm also helps other nonprofit groups with their legal needs.
Fees for RAJ’s legal services are available on a declining basis.
RAJ provides discounted legal representation to clients whose needs are not met by existing programs and who do not otherwise have access to an affordable lawyer.
Robert Forseth described RAJ as low bono rather than pro bono.
While Judicare and Legal Action Wisconsin are federally funded, nonprofit legal aid programs that tend to focus on urban areas, RAJ receives no federal funding and relies on fees and donations from clients, said Robert Forseth.
Lawyers needed in rural counties
Robert Forseth points to a growing shortage of avocados in rural areas.
A report from the Greater Wisconsin Initiative found that nearly 50% of state attorneys live in the seven most populous cities.
“Only around 17% of lawyers consider themselves to be ‘rural’ lawyers,” according to the report.
The Greater Wisconsin Initiative also found that the average age of lawyers practicing in rural counties often exceeds 60 years.
“Current trends indicate that as these lawyers reach retirement age they are not being replaced, potentially leaving these residents with problems accessing justice,” the report said.
The Forseths currently practice in Waupaca, Waushara, Portage, and Shawano counties. However, they plan to expand their reach.
For more information, call 715-602-9755 or visit ruraljustice.org.