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  • WisBar News
    September 19, 2017

    Leading by Example: Former President Greg Conway, a Mentor to the Next Generation

    It is with sadness that the State Bar of Wisconsin reports the passing of Past President Gregory B. Conway, on Sept. 15, 2017. For those who knew and worked with him, he was a mentor and professional who led by example.

    Shannon Green

    Sept. 19, 2017 – Greg Conway’s legacy is in the many young lawyers he’s mentored who are now themselves leading the profession, says George Burnett – himself a mentee as well as partner at Conway’s law firm in Green Bay.

    Born in 1944, Conway served as State Bar president from 1984 to 1985 at age 40 – one of the youngest to hold the position. He earned his law degree in 1970 at Marquette University, and, along with Herbert Liebmann III and Thomas M. Olejniczak, founded the Green Bay law firm of Liebmann, Conway, Olejniczak – now known as Conway, Olejniczak & Jerry S.C. Conway retired from the firm in 2016.

    Mentor and Adviser

    Frank Gimbel of Milwaukee, who served as State Bar president in the 1986-1987 term, was president-elect the year Conway served as past president.

    “Greg was unselfish in his willingness to be available to consult on the issues, techniques, and strategies that State Bar presidents need to know,” Gimbel said. Their friendship subsequently grew through the years, both professionally and socially.

    “When he was State Bar president, Greg was looking down the road – finding ways that the bar can help new lawyers coming up who don’t have mentors,” Gimbel said. “That was something we shared in common – a concern for the bar to help those without a guide.”

    Burnett, who himself served as State Bar president in 2003-2004, first got to know Conway after joining Conway, Olejniczak & Jerry in 1985 – in the year Conway served as State Bar president.

    Conway became a mentor to Burnett – and was a mentor to many young lawyers over the years. “His door was always open,” Burnett said. “He had a great talent for training young lawyers, and he delighted in it.”

    And when Burnett considered whether to run for State Bar president-elect in 2003, Conway told him to run. “You’ll make a big mistake if you don’t,” he said.

    The ‘Consummate Preparer’

    As a civil plaintiff’s lawyer, Conway was a “consummate preparer,” Gimbel said. “He did almost nothing extemporaneous or off the cuff. He had a strategic plan for his litigation.”

    “When it comes to the practice of law, he was intense,” Burnett said of Conway. “He had a single-minded focus on the cases at hand and was relentless.”

    In addition to corporate law and injury litigation, Conway had a special affinity for First Amendment cases, frequently representing newspapers.

    Good Advice: ‘Read Your Mail First’

    One piece of advice stuck with Burnett: At the beginning of each workday, read your mail first. “It sounds trivial, but it isn’t. It is good advice,” Burnett said. “It keeps you on top of things.”

    The advice was part of Conway’s continued emphasis on communication. “He understood that we are here to serve people – and if you want to serve people, you need to respond quickly. No phone calls would go unanswered or letters unaddressed.”

    A Leader by Example

    Conway is someone who cannot be replaced, said John Skilton of Madison. Skilton first met Conway when Skilton served as State Bar president in 1995-1996. Advice from Conway made a great difference during his year as president. “It was good advice,” Skilton said. “I followed it.” And from that point, they became colleagues with respect for each other, Skilton said.

    “In my view, he’s a classic example of a lawyer and mentor – someone with so much ability and capacity, that he always had something to contribute,” Skilton said. “He led by example and by his competence.”

    Visitation and Funeral

    Conway’s obituary describes him as an avid golfer and swimmer, who also loved reading books and spending time with family.

    Visitation is 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21, at Ryan Funeral Home, 305 N. 10th St., De Pere, and 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 22, at St. Willebrord Catholic Church, 209 S. Adams St., Green Bay. The funeral is 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 22, at the St. Willebrord Catholic Church.

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