The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Campus attorney Harry Hertel stepping away after 41 years

Hertel will keep running his private practice but will stop representing students through the university after this school year
Hertel working on drafting legal documents. (Photo from Hertel Law)

After 41 years of representing students in cases ranging from underage drinking violations and disputes with landlords amongst other legal problems involving students, Harry Hertel is stepping away from representing students to dedicate more time to his family.

Hertel wasn’t even sure if he wanted to practice law but after a mock trial was held at the University of Wisconsin law school where his brother was studying to be a lawyer, he was convinced that this was just the right career path for him. 

Fresh from Carroll University with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and minors in German and religious studies, Hertel was working in Madison in 1973. When he set foot in the courtroom to watch his brother’s mock trial case, he knew this was the path for him.

“When I was there to watch it I thought, ‘This is really neat, it’s just like watching Perry Mason,’” Hertel said. “So why don’t I apply to take the LSAT and see if I get in, sure enough, I got a small scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School.”

Hertel graduated from law school in 1976 and learned a great deal not just in school, but also from working as a law clerk, where he learned how to give legal advice and prepare arguments and statements before going into the courtroom. 

His journey out of law school before coming to represent students at the university is a long, complex journey that had him litigating in Merrill, Wisconsin fresh out of law school. He worked in Merrill for five years representing individuals accused of homicide, as well as personal injury claims and family law work. 

Hertel sought opportunities elsewhere which brought him to the Chippewa Valley on recommendation from friends and acquaintances from law school. 

“I had friends from law school who were working in the Chippewa Valley as attorneys and judges,” Hertel said. “The judge who was working in Chippewa Falls that I went to law school with recommended me to a firm in Eau Claire and I got hired to practice here.” 

After four years of working at that firm, Hertel and two other attorneys started their firm, Hertel Law, where they have practiced ever since 1992. While the firm has trimmed down to a smaller office, Hertel steadily kept practicing criminal cases and personal injury claims. 

Hertel’s involvement in representing students at the university began during the 1981-82 school year after an attorney at the university quit. Hertel responded to an advertisement in the paper for the job, seeing it as a way to make extra income for his growing family and meet new people. 

While he’s stepping away from representing students after this school year, Hertel hopes students still utilize the service of seeking legal advice if and when they need it. 

“Hopefully there aren’t too many students who need to utilize the service,” Hertel said. “But if they do, they schedule an appointment and fill out a small form describing their case and talk about their case for 15 minutes or so.” 

Most of these cases were primarily centered around underage drinking offenses and landlord tenancy issues, the former of which Hertel has seen an uptick of underage drinking offenses due to what he describes as “the trifecta” of getting a conviction. The trifecta being underage drinking, using a fake ID and entering a bar as a minor.

“Students would get false IDs from the internet and then take them to the bars on Water Street,” Hertel said. “They would then get into the bar and would later be discovered by a bouncer to have a fake ID, being underage, and being on the premises of an establishment that serves alcohol and have them reported to local police and get them ticketed for all three.” 

Hertel says that students who are convicted of these offenses should come to the office and get their fines reduced as much as possible for these offenses while also discouraging students from purchasing fake IDs as much as possible. 

In Hertel’s time as campus attorney, he never lost a case regarding landlord and tenant concerns. He said in these cases, it comes down to the reputation landlords have against students, as well as the legality of concerns being brought to him. 

“It’s a lot easier for me when a student comes in and raises a concern about a landlord and I know them and they’re either a straight shooter or they’re ripping you off in terms of your lease agreement or something of that variety,” Hertel said. 

This streak of success makes it feel that much sweeter for Hertel in retrospect because it helps give students who came in and initially felt disempowered by their landlords. 

Hertel’s representation gave students a sense of ease in cases involving landlords or any criminal charges against students free of charge. 

With Hertel’s time at the university coming to a close, he has firmly enjoyed his time assisting students with any issues for them and students across Hertel’s time have given back in return. 

“I enjoyed being there and I think there was a sense of helping,” Hertel said. “Students would come back and be thankful and appreciative, sometimes even leaving a small gift for me which I never expected.” 

Receiving help from Hertel was key for students facing legal issues, as looking to preserve their record for job opportunities and pursuing their education was the overall goal and anything Hertel did to help students keep their record clean so they could achieve their dreams made the job for him that more satisfying.

For students who are interested in going into the legal realm and becoming an attorney, Hertel gave some advice to those interested in any legal career.

“Be well-rounded and don’t become too consumed with the grades you get,” Hertel said. “I didn’t get the greatest grades while in law school but I became the Wisconsin President of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and am on the board of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Justice.”

“If you have personal and people skills and have things you enjoy doing and practicing, keep those in mind because if you enjoy what you practice in law, you stay yourself as an attorney and can best represent your client,” Hertel said.

Something that he’s going to miss about his job helping students is the legal aides that he’s worked with and also the student helpers that have assisted him throughout the years, along with the magnitude of students who have thanked Hertel for his work in helping resolve issues.

“Every year I get a copy of the evaluation of my services from students and the choices range from poor to excellent,” Hertel said. “Almost uniformly were they good or excellent in terms of their appreciation of me as an attorney and the service offered by the university.” 

After his time with the university concludes at the end of the school year, Hertel looks forward to having his Tuesday evenings free from consulting with students and being a season ticket holder for the Minnesota Wild, along with spending more time with his four children and eight grandchildren. 

While Hertel is stepping away from his responsibilities helping students at the university, he’s continuing his private practice of helping settle personal injury claims and criminal cases. 

Congratulations to Harry Hertel on his 41 years of representing and helping students in court. 

Mikalofsky can be reached at [email protected]

Story continues below advertisement
Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *