Our Story

WILL was founded to ride to the sound of the guns – to go into battle to protect the freedom of Wisconsinites. In this perennial “battleground state,” this means making sure that the rights of workers and families are defended in our beloved state’s courts of law and public opinion.

Before the formation of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (“WILL”) in 2011, conservatives and libertarians in Wisconsin were severely outnumbered in the legal arena. One report estimated that the left could call upon the services of five public-interest law firms with estimated annual budgets of $7 million. Those forces were opposed by only one conservative organization with a part-time lawyer and a budget of less than $60,000. 



After our first decade, we have become one of the largest state-based litigation centers in the country, with a lengthy string of victories in state and federal court. In addition, we are now the most active and influential free market policy organization in the state of Wisconsin. These groups are commonly known as “think tanks” – and we certainly believe that thought is important. But reflection must lead to action, and based on our litigation, policy output, and ability to move the needle, we might more accurately be called a “do tank.”

Through litigation, education, and participation in public discourse, WILL advances the public interest in the rule of law, individual liberty, constitutional government, and a robust civil society. We do so in partnership with like-minded individuals and organizations who are committed to conservative principles and a government bound to serving the people, as our nation’s founders intended.

WILL works for a Wisconsin in which businesses and workers are flourishing due to greater economic freedom and more widespread opportunity; in which every family, regardless of their zip code, has a choice among several great options in how to best educate their children; in which civil society is flourishing due to a restoration of the separation of powers and a balance between states and federal governments; and in which the First Amendment is affirmed in law, with freedom of speech and exercise of religion protected for all.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It has to be fought for and defended by each generation.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan’s famous aphorism isn’t just the reason that WILL was founded. It’s a call to action for each one of us. Some call it a prophetic statement, but this is to ignore the long historical record that makes it so clearly true. Indeed, who could have imagined that – only a generation after the Gipper’s stand for freedom, which led to the downfall of Soviet communism – polls would show widespread support for socialism among today’s young Americans?

The deeper lesson to be learned here is that we can’t rely on politicians to do all the work. When political winds seem to be in freedom’s favor, we must increase our efforts to solidify gains in the courts and in the public square. When we find ourselves on the wrong side of the election results, the battle remains the same. Whether we’re on offense or defense, litigation remains the tip of the spear in the fight against government overreach and corruption.

The fact is that the courts remain the frontline in the battle for Wisconsin’s families, workers, and business owners. And because WILL has no political litmus test for its clients and its collaborators, we are free to make the case based on the Constitution and our client’s best interests.