Erin Wiseman has always had an infatuation with the courtroom.
As a child, when her father was the county clerk in Shelby County, he would take her to the courtroom, where every once in a while she would see a judge.
“Of course, I wanted to be president of the United States, so Dad told me the only way I could be president was to get my law degree,” she said.
Wiseman has been a partner at Brydon, Swearengen & England PC in Jefferson City since 2007, along with a myriad of roles in the community — a member of the Jefferson City Council representing the 3rd Ward since 2016, legal counsel for the Missouri Jaycees, Second Chance Scholarship Committee co-chair for Zonta of Jefferson City, a member of the Patriots Day parade committee and more.
A self-described nerd, she said the organization skills she brings to the table have been shaped by her legal background.
“Oftentimes, I can be a better asset for an organization behind a computer,” Wiseman said. “You need someone in an organization who can sit behind a computer and do things because it’s not something everyone can do.”
When Wiseman attended law school at present-day Western State University Cooley Law School and was asked to write about why she loved the law, it came down to impacting the lives of families: Children grow up to run governments, have jobs and pay taxes, so if she can give them security and opportunity, that will positively impact their future.
“When we can give those kids the best opportunity to succeed, we’re giving our future the best opportunity,” she said. “When I represent a parent, that’s what I’m doing is fighting for the best interest of the children.”
As someone who works in family law — which covers such topics as adoption, divorce and child custody — the work can be challenging. Some of the most emotional cases can be with families affected by drug addiction, she said, because of the ripple effect it leaves in the lives of those involved.
“It’s really hard to make them understand what they’re doing is not only impacting their lives and health, but they’re impacting everyone around them,” Wiseman said. “Even if they say children aren’t around drug use, it creates larger issues as well.”
Navigating the law system can be just as difficult, and it’s something she wants to use to help people get to a healthier environment — whether that means landing on an agreement for a co-parenting household, settling a divorce with few assets or finding a better environment for a child. Sometimes, the legal action in itself is a wake-up call for those involved.
“I want to do the best job I can for people because, frankly, the legal system isn’t easy to navigate on your own,” she said. “Hopefully, it’s an eye-opener. At the end of the day, I hope everyone becomes better and the kids are safe.”
Wiseman has a passion for helping people holistically, whether it’s propelling women’s success through Zonta’s Second Chance Scholarship or providing better infrastructure for citizens through the City Council. Beyond the “pretty, glittery stuff” like large campaigns and annual events, there are hard-working people helping with education programs, keeping sewer systems and roads in shape, and ultimately making a better Jefferson City possible.
In addition to the national goal of ending human trafficking, she said, seeing the lives of those impacted by Zonta’s Second Chance scholarship can be extremely rewarding. The scholarship is awarded annually to women who couldn’t attend school or non-traditional students to help them succeed. Wiseman has seen the scholarship given to young mothers and survivors of genocide — and seen them become nurses, educators and scientists.
“Calling to tell some of the people that they had won was the best feeling,” she said. “They’re working so hard but have just never had the opportunities to be able to pay for it. If we can provide a little bit of money for someone so they can graduate — that’s so rewarding.”
Wiseman doesn’t get much sleep among handling cases, organizing events for local chapters and, recently, navigating the law in “a post-COVID world.” But she enjoys how the law can be applied to many peoples’ circumstances.
“It feeds that passion for me to learn new things,” she said. “I like to ask how we can apply this or make it work for this person. I’m enjoying the heck out of it.”