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  • October 20, 2021

    David Krekeler: A 'Lifeline' for Solo and Small-firm Lawyers Amid the Pandemic

    Madison attorney J. David Krekeler stepped up and helped many solo and small-firm lawyers survive the pandemic. He is recipient of the John Lederer Distinguished Service Award.

    Shannon Green

    Madison attorney J. David Krekeler is recipient of the 2021 John Lederer Distinguished Service Award from the State Bar of Wisconsin Solo, Small Firm, & General Practice Section.

    Madison attorney J. David Krekeler is recipient of the 2021 John Lederer Distinguished Service Award from the State Bar of Wisconsin Solo, Small Firm, & General Practice Section.

    Oct. 20, 2021 – Colleagues call J. David Krekeler a “lifeline” – through his leadership, Krekeler helped many of Wisconsin’s solo and small-firm attorneys survive those first uncertain months in 2020 of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even now, he continues to offer leadership and advice.

    “David helped us learn the best practices for surviving a pandemic,” said Superior attorney Johanna Kirk.

    Krekeler, a bankruptcy attorney and founding principal of Krekeler Strother S.C. in Madison, is the 2021 recipient of the John Lederer Distinguished Service Award from the State Bar of Wisconsin Solo, Small Firm, & General Practice Section.

    The Lederer Award recognizes those focused on improving the lives and practices of solo and small-firm attorneys in Wisconsin. The award is given annually to an individual, group, or organization that exhibits the leadership, spirit, and dedication of the late Oregon, Wisconsin, attorney John Lederer.

    “I’m honored,” Krekeler said of receiving the award. “I know a number of the past winners, they are all folks I admire. It’s an incredible privilege to join them.”

    Krekeler will receive the award next week at the virtual State Bar of Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference (WSSFC).

    Helping Lawyers throughout a Career

    Kirk, who nominated Krekeler for the award, writes this about him:

    “If you type his name into the general search of Wisbar.org, you get more than 135 hits. He has presented nearly countless seminars spanning over more than a decade. He regularly contributes to Wisconsin Lawyer magazine (see the Dec. 2020 issue and the July/August 2020 issue), InsideTrack (see video interviews like this one in 2016 and this one in 2019), the Solo/Small Firm & General Practice Section’s Agricultural Law and Rural Practice Blog, and is active on many practice area elists.

    “The Solo & Small Firm Conference would not be what it is without David Krekeler, thanks to his generous contributions of his time, talents, treasures, and wisdom.

    “David’s constant, optimistic spirit and sincere concern for solo and small firm lawyers has inspired so many of us to follow him and volunteer with the State Bar – to write articles, present CLE programs, plan conferences, serve on boards, and make a difference for other lawyers.

    David Krekeler shares an ice cream treat with WSSFC speakers

    Lederer Award recipient David Krekeler (second from right) ​poses with speakers and attendees at the 2018 WSSFC ​during a break in programming. From left: former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, ​Sarah Ruffi, Krekeler, and ​Amy Salberg.

    And then 2020 arrived.

    “In my opinion, over the past year, David has outperformed every attorney in Wisconsin when it comes to serving others. At the 2018 Solo & Small Firm Conference, he presented on a panel discussing, "What You Need to Learn Now to Be Ready for 2023." He warned us for years about the need to incorporate more efficient procedures in our offices. He told us to offer staff work-from-home options. He encouraged us to become comfortable with having clients use our technology and software.

    “Within days after the government COVID shutdown was ordered in March 2020, he hosted virtual programs to answer questions that we solo and small-firm attorneys were asking. He kept us informed on elists about best practices for surviving a pandemic.

    “I would guess that, in his mind, he was just doing what he has always done. But to the rest of us, he has been a lifeline. He kept us calm. He kept us focused. He reminded us that if clients were not coming to see us and courts were shut down, this was a great opportunity to review and test our office procedures for off-site storage, file destruction, and working remotely due to emergency.

    “David did not view COVID-19 as a pandemic that threatened the practice of law or our businesses. He saw it as a challenge – an opportunity to test what he had been telling us to prepare for way back in 2018.

    “He single-handedly walked so many attorneys through the bad days – myself included. He virtually held our hands and asked how he could help.

    “And he keeps doing it. Every. Single. Day.”

    Krekeler on Mentoring

    Krekeler’s dedication to helping his solo and small-firm colleagues comes from his own experience as a young, solo attorney. After three years working with a firm following his graduation from law school in 1979, Krekeler left the job at the firm, got married, and founded his own firm in Madison. “It was a whirlwind two weeks,” he said.

    And he struggled. “I didn’t know how to make money as a lawyer. I had no one to call and ask questions. At that time, the State Bar didn’t have as many resources as it does now,” he recalls. “Everything I did was trial and error – and was mostly error. There were a lot of hard times.”

    He made it through, and after a number of years, created the successful bankruptcy firm he has today. “It didn’t come without hardship, months without a paycheck, all the bad things you can imagine,” he said.

    That’s why now, he has what he calls his “coffee and a bagel program.” It’s a standing offer to his colleagues. “If you have questions, call me. It can be about bankruptcy, practice management, marketing, ethics – anything.”

    David Krekeler and Michael Yang at WSSFC

    David Krekeler pauses for a photo with Madison attorney Michael Yang at the 2018 WSSFC in Wisconsin Dells.

    Because he’s learned that – while one may call it mentoring, “I’m also learning, and also making a friend,” Krekeler said.

    There’s a lot of mentoring, too, that goes on at his favorite event: the annual Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference (WSSFC) from the State Bar. He attended for the first time years ago for its practice management track. “It hooked me,” he said. “I learned so much – I continue to learn so much each year.”

    “There’s a vibe at WSSFC. You see people having fun, making friends, and learning,” Krekeler said. “There’s something you want to do every hour of the day – the problem is prioritizing one over the other.”

    In addition to mentoring and helping his colleagues, Krekeler has another accomplishment: He is now a published author. His book, Bankruptcy, Asked and Answered: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Bankruptcy and Financial Problems, was released Oct. 11 on Amazon.

    “By WSSFC next year, I’ll publish another book – on practice management,” Krekeler said.

    Meanwhile, he continues his practice, his teaching, and his mentoring. “Call me. And remember, I’ll buy the coffee and bagel.”

    Celebrate with David Krekeler at WSSFC

    Krekeler will receive the award next week at the virtual State Bar of Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference.

    Set for Oct. 28-30, 2021, WSSFC will once again be a virtual conference – and will have all the events that make the conference a great one for Wisconsin’s solo and small-firm lawyers.

    Attendees will be able to attend CLE and plenary sessions, browse and meet with exhibitors in the virtual vendor hall, network with colleagues, have a private conversation with a speaker, and enter for a chance to win prizes – all while social distancing at work or home.

    And they can celebrate with Krekeler as he is honored by his colleagues.

    Register via WisBar.org’s Marketplace to reserve your spot. The conference offers up to 16.5 credits from a mix of 14.0 continuing legal education (CLE), 7.5 Ethics and Professional Responsibility (EPR), 6.0 Law Practice Management (LPM), and/or 3.5 Lawyer Understanding and Awareness (LAU) credits. Additionally, attendees will have two opportunities in December to earn additional credit by watching complimentary replays of the breakout sessions.


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