Bernice Smith, Pro Se; Charles Von Simson, UW-Madison Law

Bernice Smith lost her daughter to a failed dialysis procedure. No lawyer would seek justice for her medical malpractice claim because her daughter’s lengthy illness lowered expectations of a big payday. But Bernice wasn’t interested in money. She was interested in finding out what had happened to her daughter and in making the people responsible acknowledge their mistakes. So she sued them on her own, and after a two-year fight, forced a favorable settlement. The experience of learning to navigate court procedures and collect the evidence needed to prove her case left Bernice inspired and happy that no lawyer had taken her case.

Charles Von Simpson is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Law. He serves as a supervising attorney in the Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, which assigns law students to work with entrepreneurs and inventors to develop and protect products and their businesses. Charles is also an entrepreneur, most recently as the founder of, a legal pricing tool that lets lawyers and clients collaborate on specific legal tasks for fixed fees.

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