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Marquette University Alumni Association

Law School Award Recipients

Howard B. Eisenberg Service Award

Ellen McCarty EscaleraELLEN McCARTY ESCALERA, LAW '02


Ellen Escalera has built her career on helping people who need an advocate: those most vulnerable to being ignored and neglected, those with limited English proficiency or disabilities and those without health care.

“I appreciate the opportunity to help people — those who, without an advocate, would be unable to access the benefits they’re entitled to,” she says. “I welcome the opportunity to preserve their legal rights to those benefits. It deepens my commitment.”

Ellen is a staff attorney for Disability Rights Wisconsin, a private nonprofit organization founded in 1977 to ensure the rights of state citizens with disabilities through individual advocacy and system change.

Ellen served on the board of directors for UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence, an organization to which she offered legal services before joining Disability Rights Wisconsin in 2007. UNIDOS provides services to victims of domestic violence in Dane County, Wis., and 23 other counties.

Entering the legal field as a paralegal with Legal Action of Wisconsin, Ellen gained experience representing clients in public-benefit denials, assisting staff attorneys, and advising recently released inmates on issues related to barriers to employment and driver’s license restoration. She did so while attending Marquette Law School at night, earning her degree in 2002.

Ellen understood the need for advocacy long before her law career. She was a licensed bilingual social worker at Milwaukee’s Sixteenth Street Community Health Center, where she worked for eight years as an advocate for Spanish-speaking clients on a variety of health care issues. She was a bilingual social worker at Penfield’s Children’s Center, a partner of Marquette’s College of Education, assisting developmentally delayed children and their families with health care access issues and service coordination.

“At the end of the day,” says Ellen, “if I have made someone’s struggle less burdensome, then I feel I have succeeded professionally.”

Fun facts: Ellen’s mother was influential in convincing Ellen that obtaining a law degree as a non-traditional student was not a crazy idea. Today, Ellen’s relationship with Marquette continues. She participates in meetings of the Coalition for Access to Legal Resources and volunteers with other Law School alumni at Repairers of the Breach, a support center for people who are homeless.