Rhinelander attorney gives back
Receives award for work with under-served clients
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
Nick Cirilli likes to stay busy. The 2009 Rhinelander High School alumnus, who graduated second in his class at Western Michigan University Law School in 2015, is an associate attorney at the Rhinelander firm started by his grandfather in 1951, serves on a number of volunteer boards, foundations and professional organizations, and takes on free and reduced cost legal cases for clients who otherwise may not get representation.
“I think that all attorneys have some obligation to do something to help those who can’t afford it,” Cirilli said.”Whether it’s free consultation – free completely, or cutting your rate down for someone. I think we have a duty in this profession to do some of that.”
It’s that sense of duty that was recognized by the Wisconsin Law Foundation, which awarded Cirilli one of three 2018 Belle Case La Follette Awards. The award honors recent law school graduates who represent under-served populations, such as those of modest means and who live in rural areas. He is quick to point out that he doesn’t do pro bono work for the recognition, but is honored to receive the selective award.
“The biggest thing by recognizing that work is that it’s hopefully driving more attorneys to donate their time to continue to provide those services, which,” Cirilli added “is the big reason I get involved in this type of stuff.”
“I think that all attorneys have some obligation to do something to help those who can’t afford it.” Nick Cirilli
There is an “overwhelming need” for those types of services, Cirilli said. Some state bar organizations mandate a number of hours per year that attorneys must donate. The State Bar of Wisconsin members aren’t obligated, but there are organizations, like the non-profit law firm Judicare, Inc., that offer the opportunity for interested attorneys to give back. Judicare takes on specific types of cases, pays attorneys a significantly reduced rate, and the client pays nothing.
“Most of the cases I take through there are landlord-tenant or social security cases,” Cirilli said. “It doesn’t even cover overhead, but the client gets free assistance where they wouldn’t otherwise have it.”
Though attorneys have been given a reputation of just being in it for the money, Cirilli said he hopes that people don’t look at him that way.
“I view our job as not that different from a doctor,” he explained. “If someone has a problem, whether it’s physical or legal, you’re there trying to help them through that and get a good outcome.”
Giving back, in general, is important to Cirilli who goes above providing free legal services. He volunteers within the community, with Headwaters, Inc., the Rhinelander Area Scholarship Foundation and others.
“I think that everyone has a talent set, apart from what their job gives them,” Cirilli said. “So there are many ways to give back.”