Renee Nawrocki, current president of the Association of Women Lawyers, poses for a photo in March 2019 with Judge Maria S. Lazar, Waukesha County Circuit Court, at the organization’s annual Women Judges’ Night. “In my role as AWL’s 2018-19 director of special events, I helped organize and execute AWL’s signature event. Judge Lazar was a speaker for this event,” she said.
May 19, 2021 – Meet Renee Nawrocki, president of the Association for Women Lawyers (AWL), an organization that promotes the welfare, interests, and professional development of lawyers who are women. While most members are from southeast Wisconsin, the organization welcomes members from across the state.
This profile is part of an ongoing series introducing you to the leaders of Wisconsin law-related organizations that serve diverse communities.
Nawrocki is with Petrie + Pettit S.C. in Milwaukee, practicing in estate planning, probate and trust administration, guardianship, and family law, and she is the 2020-21 AWL president.
- Association of Women Lawyers position: President, 2020-21
- Law School: Marquette 2010
- Firm/company: Petrie + Pettit S.C., Milwaukee, practicing in estate planning, probate and trust administration, guardianship, and family law
- Favorite Exercise: Yoga
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Wauwatosa, and I have been a resident of Wauwatosa my entire life. My family, including my parents and two of my three siblings, also reside in Wauwatosa.
What was your path to legal profession?
As I began my undergraduate studies at Marquette University, my sister was starting her 2L year at Marquette University Law School. She shared her law school experiences with me, and each semester, she invited me to attend several of her law school classes.
During my sister’s first years of practice, I was inspired by her ability to assist so many members of our community using her legal skills and expertise. The positive impact that she made in her clients’ lives contributed to my decision to attend Marquette University Law School and join the legal profession.
As a young lawyer, what challenges did you face in your development as a lawyer?
One challenge that many new attorneys face is establishing credibility in the eyes of their clients and their more experienced colleagues. Although I was a bit older when I graduated law school, I recall feeling the constant need to demonstrate my value, knowledge, and skill to my clients and my colleagues.
To overcome this challenge, I spent extra time and effort to ensure that I was the most prepared person on the conference call, in the settlement conference, or in the hearing.
With time, I have learned that being as prepared as possible is the best way to develop confidence in yourself and provide credibility to my clients and my colleagues.
Renee Nawrocki holds daughter Kinley, 3, as her husband, Kevin, holds their son, Keegan, 6, on the day of AWL’s When There Are 9k Run/Walk earlier this year. “My family joined me outside for a photo finish to show their support of my involvement in AWL,” Nawrocki said.
How has your career evolved since you became a lawyer?
When I graduated from law school, I envisioned exclusively practicing in the area of family law.
Initially, my legal career focused on representing individuals through the court process in both divorce and paternity matters, and on acting as adversary or collaborative counsel for my family law clients and as guardian ad litem for minor children. Additionally, I assisted families in resolving legal disputes in my family law mediation practice.
Today, I continue to assist families in resolving legal custody, physical placement, or financial disputes in my mediation practice. However, I have expanded the areas of my legal practice and now focus on assisting my clients in the areas of estate planning, probate and trust administration, and adult and minor guardianships.
How did you get involved with AWL?
I’ve been a member since 2008. As a law student, I joined AWL’s student chapter at Marquette University Law School. When I entered the legal profession, my employer, Milwaukee attorney Diane S. Diel, encouraged me to get more involved in the organization. Diane was a founding member of AWL and had served as its first president. Diane later was the fifth woman to serve as president of the State Bar of Wisconsin, in 2008-09.
The genesis of the AWL was a small group of women lawyers who met during the early 1970s. At that time, there were few women lawyers practicing in Milwaukee – perhaps 25 to 30 in total. They held meetings at the American City Bank, where the Milwaukee Bar Association held its meetings, and they met in each other’s homes. The first meeting notice is dated Feb. 3, 1975, and the meeting was a cocktail party for women interested in participating in a group called “Lawyers Association for Women.”
Diane connected me with members of the AWL board, and I began serving in a leadership role within the organization. Through her own AWL involvement, Diane demonstrated how AWL would not only make a positive impact in my personal and professional growth, but also provide opportunities to improve our legal profession and give back to members of the community. I am grateful to Diane and my colleagues at Petrie + Pettit S.C. for supporting my involvement with AWL, as the organization continues to enrich both my life and my practice.
How does membership in AWL help its members?
AWL promotes the professional development of women lawyers by creating meaningful, relevant opportunities for members to network with one another and to improve their legal skills. Through my involvement in AWL, I have developed personal and professional relationships; and this network of unconditional support has given me the confidence to expand the areas of my legal practice.
AWL’s membership is comprised of hundreds of attorneys working in varying areas of the law and places of employment. Through AWL, I have connected with attorneys outside of my practice areas and physical location, allowing me to build a trusted referral network of attorneys and mentors, resulting in an increase in my overall caseload and legal expertise.
About the Association of Women Lawyers
- Number of members: Approximately 440. Most members are from southeast Wisconsin.
- Primary mission:
- to promote the welfare, interests and professional development of lawyers who are women;
- to promote the legal interests of women generally;
- to maintain the honor and integrity of the legal profession; and
- to advance justice for all individuals.
- How to learn more: visit associationforwomenlawyers.org and facebook.com/AssociationforWomenLawyers
What excites you about AWL?
I get particularly excited about AWL’s signature event, our annual Women Judges’ Night event, typically held each spring, which celebrates and honors women in the judiciary.
Each year, this event brings together approximately 300 attorneys and judges from around the state for a memorable opportunity to network with colleagues and to honor the women of the judiciary who have impacted our legal landscape. Women Judges’ Night also provides an opportunity to support women law students who have decided to join our legal profession, as proceeds from this event benefit the AWL Foundation’s scholarship program.
For over 20 years, the AWL Foundation’s scholarships have provided more than $160,000 in financial assistance to over 70 students working to complete their legal education.
This year, we were unable to gather in person to honor women in the judiciary with our traditional Women Judges’ Night event. Alternatively, AWL planned the When There Are 9k Run/Walk event (visit AWL’s Facebook page to see photos). During the week of March 15, 2021, 240 individuals participated in this event, honoring women judges and remembering the esteemed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s contributions to the legal profession. Proceeds from this event will benefit the AWL Foundation’s scholarship program for female law students attending the Marquette and U.W. law schools.
If I could pick a superpower …
I would pick the ability to live without needing to sleep. If I never had to sleep, just imagine all the tasks I could accomplish each day and throughout my lifetime.
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