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Labor attorney featured on I-Team unemployment stories named 'Pro Bono Attorney of the Year'

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Posted at 6:01 AM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 07:56:15-04

At the start of the pandemic, when people lost their jobs and had nowhere else to turn, a lot of them contacted our I-Team.

Other agencies and advocates stepped in to help as well. One of them is a Madison labor attorney, Victor Forberger.

You've likely seen in the I-Team's unemployment stories.

The State Bar of Wisconsin just named him as Pro-Bono Attorney of the Year.

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Forberger has volunteered countless hours in the past year and a half helping people who lost their jobs during the pandemic fight for their unemployment benefits.

"My clients actually recommended me for this award to draw awareness to this issue because part of the problem in the legal community is no one has been paying much attention to this unemployment crisis," Forberger said.

Forberger watched as the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development buckled under pressure last spring. Many who couldn't afford representation turned to him for legal help.

Some of his clients with disabilities were denied benefits. He didn't give up until he won their appeals.

He's hoping more attorneys join his efforts.

"This is the kind of situation where us lawyers really are needed. Unemployment is about legal cases. So this is right up the alley of most lawyers, yes it's a new field, new issues. But it's something where they can really do a lot of good."

Another Wisconsin lawyer Rebecca Salawdeh of Wauwatosa received the same honor as Forberger.

"Realizing that the pandemic was having a devastating impact on workers, Salawdeh helped Legal Action of Wisconsin create and launch a free virtual unemployment legal clinic beginning in early April 2020. She then volunteered with the clinic nearly every week during 2020, assisting over 125 workers with their unemployment claims and appeals," according to a release from the State Bar of Wisconsin.

Click here to watch the acceptance speeches.

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