What is the most significant thing you have learned since starting your legal career?
Lawyers are regular people, just like everyone else. In law school, you’re taught that you’re held to a much higher standard than other civilians. And that is true; we are and we should be since the potential for abuse is astronomical. But in learning that, it becomes difficult for law students and newer attorneys to curb those thoughts.
I have learned that when speaking to clients, it’s best to speak to them like you would a friend, but with professionalism, of course. Speaking to clients with a sense of superiority causes the client to become intimidated, which closes the lines of communication. When you treat clients as equals, they are comfortable in your presence, creating a better working relationship, increased communication, and well-grounded trust. The same holds true for jurors. When speaking to a jury, legal jargon and a display of intellectual dominance are ineffective. Jurors don’t understand the law and its terminology like we do. They are often individuals who have no familiarity with the legal system, so it’s important to speak to them on a level they will understand.
Two of the most important parts about being a trial lawyer are ensuring that you have a good relationship with your client, and that jurors like you. If you speak like you’re better than them, you will fail at both.
If I could have tried one famous case, it would be …
To be a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, held by the Allied forces after World War II, to place on trial prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany.
From the creation of the court (actually, a military tribunal), to the establishment of its rules, to the gathering and presentation of the evidence concerning the outbreak of World War II and the atrocities committed by and in the name of the Hitler regime, would be a daunting yet supremely important mission.
And to work alongside a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson, as he took a leave from the Court to lead the prosecution team during the literal “trial of the century” would be fascinating.
If I took one day off in the middle of the week, I would …
First, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t use that day to clean my house. But I might use it to help clean someone else’s home. Catholic Charities has an active In-Home Support program in Waukesha and Milwaukee counties that provides trained and volunteer visitors to people, mostly seniors, who are fairly isolated. These visitors check to see that the refrigerator isn’t empty, help with laundry, maybe do some yardwork, but most important, spend time talking with and listening to the resident.
After many years of living with grandparents and then my elderly father, I grasp the richness of stories that seldom get told. And the healing power of a human connection. So, if I had every Wednesday off, I would join the In-Home Support team, and undoubtedly gain some new friends, and new stories.
If you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere, where would you go?
I’ve travelled all over and, while there are still a million places on Earth that I’d like to experience, I could go to pretty much any one of them at any time. But, outer space? Now, that’s beyond what I could conjure on my own.
There are a few companies actively working to provide commercial spaceflights to “space tourists.” Through Virgin Galactic, a suborbital flight for an individual would cost $250,000, and they have 700 adventurous millionaires signed up so far, for flights that could begin as early as 2016. Meanwhile, the Dutch nonprofit Mars One aspires to establish a permanent human colony on Mars by 2025. It will take an estimated seven months to travel there from earth, and just four people will be sent every two years for their permanent vacation!
I know that a space trip would come at great personal expense, well beyond the financial expense in the case of space tourism. However, saying yes to an opportunity like this would be the price one must pay for a commitment to participate meaningfully in defining the boundaries of the possible.
So, while I’d still like to see Timbuktu, any one of us could get there within a day or two given proper motivation. To travel faster than sound to see the moon, Mars, and outer space? Now that’s where “anywhere” would take me.
What inspired you to attend law school? Tell us about your path to becoming a lawyer.
Pursuing my J.D. degree at Marquette Law School has been an amazing opportunity to bring together my past experiences and passions. My path to Marquette has definitely been varied, taking me from work in journalism to local elected office, and from nonprofit management to local government work.
However, I am a part-time Marquette Law School student not because it was a next logical step in a career path. Rather, I have been inspired by so many others who are working quietly, tirelessly every day to make their communities better. I am entering the legal profession because of individuals in central and northern Wisconsin who are fighting to protect our groundwater, because of Milwaukee homeowners who are speaking up to keep solar on our rooftops, and because of my family – who instilled an appreciation for community, respect for the environment, and a responsibility to play a positive role in our future. As a future legal advocate, I hope to combine the necessary skills, patience, and tenacity to help clients – as well as our broader communities – develop real solutions within our justice system to serve the common good.