Dec. 1, 2023 – A striking addition to the lobby at the State Bar of Wisconsin Center in Madison is a monument to both access to justice and the dedication and impact of rural and small-town lawyers.

After the State Bar Board of Governors’ meeting on Friday, Dec. 1, board members, State Bar leaders, attorneys, and community members gathered in the rotunda of the State Bar Center for the unveiling of a medallion donated by the late Myron LaRowe, a former State Bar president, and his law partner, James Gerlach.

LaRowe, who died in March, and Gerlach commissioned the medallion in 1976. The medallion, originally titled “Lady Justice,” was prominently displayed on the building owned by LaRowe & Gerlach S.C. in Reedsburg for more than 45 years.

LaRowe and Gerlach recently gifted the medallion to the Wisconsin Law Foundation, the charitable arm of the State Bar, to be displayed at the State Bar Center in Madison.

Standing Tall

Standing over 6 feet tall and carved from California red oak, the medallion depicts a blindfolded lady justice holding the scales of justice in one hand and a sword in the other.

LaRowe, who served several terms on the Board of Governors and as State Bar President in 1980-81, told State Bar Executive Director Larry Martin last year that he and Gerlach planned to donate the medallion to the Wisconsin Law Foundation.

LaRowe and Gerlach S.C. was winding down, as lawyers in the firm either retired or moved on to other jobs.

“Today is about honoring and celebrating the contributions of small-town attorneys, who are part of the backbone of the communities they serve,” Martin said to open the unveiling ceremony.

Gerlach and Rosemary LaRowe, Myron’s widow, then unveiled the medallion to a round of applause.

‘An Honor and a Privilege’

After the unveiling, Gerlach told the crowd an anecdote to demonstrate what the medallion meant to the community that the law firm served for nearly 50 years.

Gerlach said that last year, he and LaRowe asked a retired carpenter in Reedsburg to repair the bottom of the medallion. The carpenter spent 10 hours on the job but wouldn’t let Gerlach and LaRowe pay him.

“He said that it was an honor and a privilege to work on something that was so significant to the community,” Gerlach said.

Medallion Will Inspire Lawyers

Judge Joe Troy, president of the Wisconsin Law Foundation and former Chief Judge of the Outagamie Circuit Court, told the crowd that the medallion’s installation at the State Bar Center would serve an important purpose.

“We live in an era where the public is bombarded with images of lawyers and the justice system that are not flattering,” Troy said. “But Jim and Myron – for almost 50 years – presented anyone who traveled down Main Street in Reedsburg with a strong and beautiful image of the essence of justice.

“Any lawyer now who comes into this building and looks at that will be inspired by it,” Troy said. “They will be reminded of what the justice system is all about.”

‘Lady Justice Is Going to Be Denied’

Former Governor and State Bar member Tommy Thompson also spoke at the ceremony.

Thompson, who hails from Elroy in Juneau County, said that LaRowe and Gerlach “exemplified the rural practice of law in Wisconsin.”

Thompson bemoaned the dearth of lawyers practicing in greater Wisconsin. Ideally, he said, LaRowe and Gerlach’s firm would have continued, and the medallion would still be mounted on the firm’s building in Reedsburg.

“We’re losing something very important to rural Wisconsin – namely, lawyers,” Thompson said. “We’re having a very difficult time finding lawyers to go to rural Wisconsin.”

If the problem isn’t addressed, Thompson warned, “Lady Justice is going to be denied.”