Corner Man

Former cop Ed Harness is empathetic and unintimidated

Published in 2009 Wisconsin Rising Stars magazine

By Jim Walsh on November 16, 2009


When the going gets tough, Ed Harness looks at his hand.

“I can look down and see where I had stitches from somebody who tried to hit me with an axe handle,” says the former military and Milwaukee policeman-turned-bankruptcy attorney, describing an incident from his days on the force. “I hit him in the mouth, and his tooth cut my hand, my finger. Going into dark basements, experiencing near-death, fire scenes, shootings; it puts things in perspective. While helping people with debt problems, it never gets to that level, but sometimes you have to talk people off the ledge a little bit.”

These days more than ever. To be sure, as the economy has tanked and bankruptcy filings have skyrocketed, Harness approaches his work at Harness Law Offices in Milwaukee in much the same way he did when he worked as a civil servant.

“That’s central to how we operate here,” he says. “We take very seriously an obligation to the public and to our clients to inform them and get them good information so they can make good decisions. I’ve had hard economic times, so has the staff, and we empathize with people. We are really squarely against the credit industry and the way they operate their business.”

Not a bad guy to have in your corner against a system that can make even an honest taxpayer feel like a loser.

“I tell people that their family economic decision is no different than a business economic decision,” says Harness. “They deserve to have the protection just as much as General Motors or Chrysler or any of the big companies. But for some reason, personal bankruptcy has been allowed to be framed as some sort of moral decision, when it’s not. It’s an economic decision.”

Harness played baseball in college for Cal Poly Pomona, got interested in law when he took a few business law classes, but ran out of tuition money. In the army for six years, he became an MP, got married and divorced, and moved to Milwaukee to be close to his children. In Milwaukee, he became a police officer while attending Concordia College and then went on to law school at Marquette University.

Harness’ Web site,, is a valuable tool for reeling Midwesterners, as is Harness himself. “I think I have a certain demeanor; a certain calmness, confidence, I guess, [that can assist] in interactions with clients, opposing counsel, the day-to-day workings of being a lawyer,” he says. “Having experienced things as a police officer, I probably am not as intimidated. I have a higher level of tolerance for conflict and frustration that I see in people, and I think that helps me in my position as a mediator as well.

“I learned early on in my police career that it’s certainly easier to talk your way out of things.”

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