Tips from a Law School Registrar

This is the seventh in a continuing weekly series of blog posts by Dean Kearney and various members of the Law School administration about the work of Marquette Law School’s Office of Student Affairs. The previous post and links to all prior posts from this series can be found at this link.

As part of this series of blog posts, I thought I might speak directly to our students. Whether you began your journey here knowing a lot about law school or very little, one thing you could be sure of was the need to take classes. Elective courses, the specifics of graduation requirements, how to get a transcript, and many other details relating to your student record all come later. In fact, even registering for classes on your own comes down the road, as all first-year law students are automatically registered. So, while our paths may not cross at the beginning of your law school career, they likely will intersect sooner or later. With that in mind, allow me to share a bit about the role of a law school registrar and how I might be able to help you pursue your goals at Marquette Law School.

In the most basic terms, my primary role as the Marquette Law School Registrar is to build and maintain records. It’s more fun than it sounds. These materials include student information, academic records, and course data. I work collaboratively with colleagues in the Law School’s administration and the faculty to ensure that information about the curriculum is shared with students in a timely and accurate manner. We handle course catalogs, registration materials, dual degree registration, transfer credit, and grade processing and posting.

Along with other members of the Law School’s student affairs team, I meet with students regarding the general mechanics of registering for classes—for example, help with waitlists, enrollment as a graduate assistant or Academic Success Program leader, or any registration that needs faculty approval. I am also always available to meet with students to discuss more general registration questions or plans, especially as they relate to students’ ensuring that they have fulfilled or will soon fulfill their requirements for graduation.

So, now that you know something about my role at the Law School, I want to pass along three tips from my work with students.

First, play the long game when it comes to taking on projects and building out your schedule—there’s no need to overload right away. There are many ways to distinguish yourself in law school—from the doctrinal and skills-based courses you take to the student organizations in which you participate and may help lead. It can be especially fulfilling to participate in a mock trial competition, help edit one of the Law School’s four journals, or complete a supervised fieldwork opportunity.

But you don’t have to do it all—especially right away. Think about classes that can build on each other over time, and intentionally pursue those distinguishing opportunities that make sense for you. Let me encourage you to focus on a couple of opportunities that really interest you rather than spreading yourself too thin and not doing your best. Reach out to your professors, discuss experiences with your classmates and upper-level colleagues, and use the resources available to you to determine what is a good fit for you.

Second, if you have a question, don’t be surprised if our answer, more often than not, is, “We have a form for that.” Whether you want to review your law school application for bar admission purposes, update your records with a name change, or make any number of other requests for information, you can find a variety of forms by clicking here. Part of my work, as well as that of my colleagues Assistant Registrar Stephanie Danz and Student Affairs Office Associate Emma Geiser, is to process these forms in order to get you the information or paperwork that you need. That said, just because there’s a form, this does not mean that there aren’t people here to answer your questions or say a friendly hello when you visit the office, to submit that form or ask questions. For our students’ benefit, we have developed systems, including forms, that we hope make any number of things easy and straightforward for you—but we still want to see you!

Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help. One of the most reassuring things anyone told me in my own journey through higher education was this: “They want you to graduate.” I can now confirm, it’s true. Everyone working here at the Law School is invested in and committed to your success. And we all recognize that no one completes law school alone. From experience, I assure you that it is better to reach out to our office or your professor or someone if something unexpected comes up—before that thing mushrooms. When it comes to registration and graduation issues, for instance, Dean Fodor and I are available to meet with you to come up with a plan together. This is not to suggest that we can wave a magic wand and, say, get you into a fully enrolled class, but we can work with you to explore a bunch of other great options.

As a law student at Marquette, you have a lot of resources both at the Law School and throughout the larger university, which can help you achieve your goals. Marquette Law School’s student affairs team is here to support you throughout your entire journey—from registering you for your first-year classes even before you arrive to certifying your graduation to bar authorities. It’s our job, but it’s much more than that to us.

Continue ReadingTips from a Law School Registrar

Landlords use many different LLCs. A new tool,, connects them.

Most landlords are small, but the largest 1% of networks own more than 40% of rental units.

By John Johnson and Mitchell Henke.

During the late 2010s, companies owned by a single landlord, Curtis Hoff, generated 5% of all evictions filed in Milwaukee despite owning just 0.5% of the rental stock. His properties racked up code violations at a rate three times that of other large landlord operating in the same parts of the city. The annual number of evictions they filed exceeded 90% of their total housing units.

Despite posting these eye-watering numbers, Hoff’s companies largely flew under the radar until a series of investigative articles in the early 2020s brought them to light, just as he was getting out of the business. That’s because Hoff’s properties were distributed among about 20 different limited liability corporations (LLCs), each of which was the official, legal owner of a different small set of properties.

It’s not that Hoff was trying to hide. Each of these companies began with the letter “A,” a practice dating back to the era when the courts heard each day’s eviction cases in alphabetical order. They all had their taxes mailed to the same address on Good Hope Road—an office building with a large “Anchor Properties” sign.

Still, if you searched the city’s property ownership dataset or the court system’s database, you would have no simple way of telling that all these properties were connected. And so, for years, few people figured it out. As the executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee told the Journal Sentinel, “Maybe we’re not connecting the dots like we should be. Nobody’s able to officially track who the problem landlords are.”

To help address this, we’ve built, a website that lets anyone quickly discover the connections between legal property owners that already exist in publicly available data. A user can simply enter the address of any landlord-owned property in the city, and the website will show that parcel’s official owner, the other owners connected to it, and the total list of properties in the “ownership network.” We also include network-level code violation and eviction annualized rates.

Our process works by standardizing owner names, the addresses at which they receive tax bills, and their corporate registration addresses. We then use network analysis software to identify connected owner names. More methodological details are available on the “About” page. All our data sources are public, and we publish the complete code and source data in this public repository. The data updates each weeknight with the latest version of the city’s property ownership database.

Curtis Hoff no longer owns any properties in Milwaukee, but here is what our website might have shown in 2019, if it had existed. Each green triangle shows a different owner name and each orange circle shows a tax bill address. The lines show the number of times each of the two nodes are connected.

network graph showing companies connected to Curtis Hoff

Although Hoff is gone, practically all other large landlords also use multiple companies. For instance, Milwaukee’s largest landlord is Joe Berrada, well-known as the “boulder guy” for his unique style of landscaping. His companies own around 9,000 rental units spread across more than 800 parcels in the City of Milwaukee. Our website identifies over 100 distinct companies associated with Berrada, each of which individually own fewer than 300 units.

Research from many cities shows that landlord size corresponds to different rental practices. Large landlords are much more likely to file evictions. They may also raise rents more aggressively than small landlords. On the other hand, small landlords may employ more discriminatory tenant screening methods than larger, more professional companies. In any case, there is much variation between the behavior of large landlords. As with Curtis Hoff, a handful of companies can account for a greatly disproportionate of eviction cases, for instance. All this means that targeted interventions by housing advocates can be quite successful.

In Milwaukee, we identify about 49,000 landlord-owned parcels in the city containing around 148,000 housing units. This is comparable with the Census Bureau’s estimate of tenant-occupied and vacant housing units. There are about 21,500 distinct owner networks in the data. Of those networks, 15,500 (or 72%) own just a single property. Only about 130 ownership networks own more than 25 rental properties. Nonetheless, those 130-odd networks collectively own more than a fifth of the city’s rental units.

Put another way: the majority of landlords own just 1 or 2 rental units, but the typical tenant rents from a much larger landlord. Our data shows that 44% of rental units are owned by the largest 1% of landlord networks.

bar plot showign landlord network size

We hope this website will be useful to a wide variety of users, including government agencies, community organizations, prospective homebuyers, and tenants; and we are committed to maintaining and improving the project for the foreseeable future.

Continue ReadingLandlords use many different LLCs. A new tool,, connects them.

We All Work in Student Affairs

This is the sixth in a continuing weekly series of blog posts about the work of Marquette Law School’s Office of Student Affairs. The first, second, third, fourth, and fifth can be found at the included links.

The work and responsibilities of a student affairs team look different from university to university and even from law school to law school. Each is organized in a way that makes sense for a particular student body, curriculum, and school.

At Marquette Law School, the Office Student Affairs is responsible for, among other things, orientation programming, the Academic Success Program, registrar services, student organizations, wellness initiatives, disability services, social media, exam administration, and graduation planning; in other words, we cover ground from orientation to graduation. (Dean Kearney’s opening post to this series introduces you to the members of the office—including, well, me—who do this work, along with Associate Dean Nadelle Grossman, who oversees academic affairs and, as my boss, ultimately our whole operation.) Supporting students as they pursue a legal education is at the heart of what we do.

And, in this regard, we are hardly the only ones within Eckstein Hall to do so. So allow me to break from our “regular programming” to note the collaborative work of a number of colleagues—individuals and teams—all of whom support students in their challenges, work, and pursuits. That is to say, their work also directly involves our students’ affairs.

As her title alone implies, Associate Dean for Enrollment and Inclusion and Professor of Law Vada Waters Lindsey wears a seemingly endless array of hats—from overseeing our admissions process to serving as a tax law professor. She leads our inclusion work and also serves as chair of the faculty’s Diversity Committee. In this regard (or these regards) Dean Lindsey holds regular weekly office hours for all interested students, she invites them to have conversations about what they’re experiencing and learning, she listens, and she shares. She is a trusted collaborator and advisor to colleagues and students alike.

As for where to go next, there are a lot of possibilities. The Academic Success Program has a special place in my heart, but it’s not the only place where our students receive skill-building support—far from it. Director of Bar Preparation Katie Pagel and Writing Specialist Darek Ciemniewski (or “Dr. C,” as he is known to our students) stand at the ready to provide students with the individualized tools they need to succeed on everything from a first-year legal-writing assignment to a post-graduation bar exam for students who do not intend to practice in Wisconsin. Whenever I talk with a student who is taking one of Professor Pagel’s classes or working with Dr. C, there is never a shortage of praiseworthy adjectives used to describe the experience.

Keeping with colleagues who meet, as a matter of course and dedication, one-on-one with each of their students, it makes sense to turn next to the Law School’s esteemed Legal Writing Faculty. Each professor of legal writing brings a different style to the classroom, but all offer their students an education in one of the most important skills acquired in law school. In addition to their classroom instruction, they review drafts of students’ work, meet regularly for conferences with individual students, and get to know our students in a particularly close way. They are also often colleagues who notice and reach out when something is wrong, if someone has stopped showing up, or (it’s not all bad) if someone has shown great strides in his or her work.

The teaching librarians and staff of the Eckstein Law Library are a constant, student-focused presence in Eckstein Hall. Our library has no walls, after all. What this means is, among other things, that students always have a friendly face, right there across the Zilber Forum at the Circulation and Reference desks. You’ll also see members of the knowledgeable Law Library team teaching students core skills in Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research and Advanced Legal Research courses; serving as helpful, calming proctors for 1L final exams; and—if you venture across campus—you might even catch some of them at the Marquette Annex, bowling for their—our—winning team, Split Decisions.

When you need to find a lost computer file, when you cannot hear what presenters are saying in the Lubar Center, when a professor needs help setting up a recording, or—prepare yourself for this one—when your computer dies in the middle of an exam, who you gonna call? Why, the Law School’s Media and Technology Group, of course. Located in suite 218, this three-person team doesn’t just fix our tech problems. They also keep things running smoothly in the first place—things that I don’t quite understand and am all the more grateful to the Media and Tech team for not having to.

Marquette Law School’s nationally acclaimed Sports Law Program is more than a series of stellar courses, internships, events, and conferences. It’s a close and caring network of which participating students instantly become a part. The program’s invested leadership, faculty, and alumni help develop Marquette law students into future leaders in the field. But one of the most impressive things about the Sports Law Program is the way that students support and help develop other students. As it happens here, students, too, are in students’ affairs.

Much like the Office of Student Affairs, the Career Planning Center (CPC) and the Office of Public Service (OPS) both have their own programmatic initiatives and services. At our best, the Law School’s various administrative offices act as limbs of the same body, referring students appropriately or making a handoff when the other limb can help a student. It happens often that I talk with a student about deploying (or perhaps I should say employing) the services of the CPC or boosting her confidence in her professional skills by participating in a Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic hosted by OPS.

It might be easy to think that magical elves keep our building humming, the Student Success Program sandwiches coming, and the Zilber Forum configured and reconfigured again in a matter of minutes for various large-scale events. But the Law School’s facilities and events team and the Tory Hill Café’s catering team are behind much of it. This past Friday, I ran into a couple of students who asked if they could still come into Eckstein Hall to study over the weekend, despite there being an admissions event planned. I said, “Of course, this is your law school.” And as I reflect on that moment now, our students’ law school is a place where they want to be not least because of our law school’s facilities team.

Even our “centers,” which might be understood as substantially external facing, are deeply involved in student life. Barely 14 months ago, Dean Kearney welcomed former City of Milwaukee Municipal Court Presiding Judge Derek Mosley, L’95, back to the Law School, as director of the Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education. And former Milwaukee County Circuit Court Chief Judge Mary Triggiano took on the role of director of the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice at just the beginning of this academic year. Each, together with center colleagues, has infused joy, energy, and a wealth of community knowledge into the Law School. Each already is a force in the lives of our students, welcoming them to our Milwaukee community and introducing them to new people, stories, and skills.

I have saved for last an inclusive mention of all of our caring faculty members. Whether full-time or part-time, whether teaching doctrine or focusing on skills, these are the individuals with whom our students spend the most time. But even setting aside the classroom, it’s not at all uncommon to find a faculty member taking the time to attend a student organization’s event, stopping to talk with a table of students in the Zilber Forum, checking up on a student after something has or may have happened, and, yes, letting others know when they believe a student can use a resource or assistance. Those are among the moments and kindnesses that often stick with our graduates, long after they have moved on from Eckstein Hall.

None of us can (or would want to) do the work of supporting students alone. As I hope is plain to see, at Marquette Law School, in one way, or another, we are all concerned with and dedicated to our students’ affairs. As someone who works in the Law School’s Office of Student Affairs, I’m so grateful to be a part of a community where that is the case.

Continue ReadingWe All Work in Student Affairs