Washington Evening Journal

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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 18, 2017
You are Here: Finding our way in Washington

‘Perry Mason’ inspired Lerner to become attorney

By David Hotle | Jun 27, 2014
Jennifer Lerner

Jennifer Lerner recently took over the position of Assistant Washington County Attorney.
Born and raised in Lake Forest, Ill., she graduated from Lake Forest High School. She attended Grinnell College for undergraduate work in biology. After beginning the curriculum she decided to change her major to political science. After graduation, she attended law school at Drake University.
Lerner’s first job was with child support recovery in Clinton. She went on to become an assistant county attorney for Clinton County. She said that she was there for a long time until her daughter, Rachel, was born. After that, she worked at Muscatine Legal Services. Her husband, Alan Ostergren, became the county attorney for Muscatine County.  Due to Muscatine Legal Services providing defense work, there became a conflict of interest. She moved on to Washington County.

What brings you to Washington County?
I wanted to be a full-time assistant county attorney again. I really enjoy doing the prosecution side of criminal law. My daughter is older now, so we figured it would be perfect. My in-laws actually live with us, so she has grandparents close by if any emergencies happen. We thought this would be a perfect time and there was a job opening here in Washington County.

Since you have been here, what do you think?
I have been very impressed. I love your historic downtown. It is wonderful just walking around and looking. Everyone is friendly. The courthouse staff has been wonderful — from the county employees to the state employees. Everyone has been very nice. Your board of supervisors also has really impressed me — that you have somebody every day in the morning here. I am impressed because it is important so the citizens can talk to their elected officials. I am truly impressed by that.

What is your favorite thing about Washington County?
The people – No. 1. They have been friendly. I also like that you care about the history of the city of Washington and in essence, the county because of the courthouse. This building is on the historical registry. That impresses me. Obviously, the community cares enough about its history and its past to really highlight that.

How did you decide to go into law?
I wanted to be Perry Mason. I would watch “Perry Mason” with my father. It always seemed amazing because every time Perry Mason’s client was innocent and it was the guy in the back of the courtroom who had done it. I thought “Wow, that must be really what it is like.” Of course, as a child that is what you think. When I started, I interned at the Polk County Attorney’s Office in law school and I started dealing more with law enforcement and criminal defendants. I decided that prosecution was more appealing to me.

Tell me something about being an attorney most people wouldn’t know.
It is not like Law and Order or CSI. We don’t have magical pieces of evidence fall into our lap or that police officer magically finds. It is a lot of hard work by law enforcement. We also don’t have fancy suits like they do on “Law and Order.” I will never look as good as the women on “Law and Order. “

What are some of your hobbies?
I have a dog and a cat, so we walk the dog. I like to swim. I knit and things like that. I like to do crafts and hobbies with my daughter.

What are your plans for the future?
I hope that Larry (Brock) will continue to allow me to be an assistant county attorney here. I hope to become more involved in the community, because it seems like a lovely community. Unfortunately I can’t live in the county because my husband is the Muscatine county attorney, so we have to remain in Muscatine County. That is a requirement. I hope to spend many happy years here.

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