If you could pick a superpower, what would it be?
Tough question. I have weighed the various superpowers out there, such as the ability to communicate with squirrels, the ability to remove my arm and club people with it, the ability to generate seismic waves equal to my blood-alcohol content, or the ability to turn any part of my body into an animal, mineral, or vegetable. (I kid you not; there are actual comic book characters with these superpowers.)
But in the end, despite the allure of being able to remove my arm and club people with it, I would have to go with the ability to teleport. No commute. I could visit my family in Illinois whenever I wanted, including my baby niece. Trips around the world for even a day or a meal would be a snap. And assuming I could teleport my wife along with me, it would eliminate the major source of our familial disputes – our mutual lack of faith in the other’s ability to drive. Hopefully she is not mad I said that, or I may find myself teleported to the couch tonight.
If you could get free tickets to any event, what would it be?
Brandon Evans, Kendricks, Bordeau, Adamini, Greenlee & Keefe P.C., Marquette, Mich.
For the same reason my wedding photos were taken at Lambeau Field, I would say tickets to a Super Bowl in which the Packers are playing. I’ve come close. I was at the Packers versus Bears NFC Championship game in 2011. My Facebook posts from before and after the game read:
“Packers score, Amie and I cheer, and Bears fan behind us accidently on purpose spills beer on Amie and my seats. He apologizes while smiling. I say no problem, pull Bears towel out of my pocket (towel given out at gate), show him towel, and happily wipe up beer. He stopped smiling!”
“This week our expected baby is supposed to start hearing. Today baby will hear the Packers stomp the Bears. And for baby’s entire life, baby will hear about this epic game followed by a ‘you know you were at that game.’”
Five months later, we named him Clay. I would have answered this question by saying tickets to the NBA Finals, but a happy wife is a happy life.
What are the top two or three unconventional lessons you’ve learned about law practice (so far)?
The law works best as a team sport, not solely a solitary endeavor. Law practice attracts Type A personalities and competitive types, myself included. We are at our best as competitors when we work as a team, serving and supporting each other, working collaboratively and cooperatively.
Continuing the sports metaphor, it is best to be a “good sport” in competing against others in litigation. We are here to serve our clients and ultimately do our jobs. We can and should vigorously compete on our field of play but at the end of the game, shake hands and leave it on the field. Opposing counsel have been good to me. I’ve been sent flowers by opposing counsel, and I’ve been taken to lunch by opposing counsel and their clients. These good working relationships lead to fair and productive competition.
For me, the sports metaphors end when it comes to the analytical and creative aspects of law practice. The longer I’ve been in practice, the more I see it is an art. In expressing complicated legal concepts and responding to opponents’ arguments we should start with a blank canvas to paint our own picture for the court.
I like to deconstruct my opponent’s arguments, and ask “why” more. In doing so, sometimes you find they are not arguing over the right thing. You don’t have to accept their premises or the structure they have chosen for their argument. Effective analysis often begins with breaking it down and starting from the beginning.
Who has most inspired you in your legal career?
Mike Modl. He is a Madison attorney and a fine man who practices law at a level that is beyond my grasp. I also have an attorney friend in Arizona who has practiced law for 50 years. He has been my mentor for almost 20 years, and I am fortunate to call him a friend. He is engaging, wise and, when necessary, assertive. He has been a strong advocate for me when I have been forced to hold my ground and reject questionable behavior that has no place in our profession. Above all, he has taught me that integrity and compassion are more important than your “book of business” or the accolades you think you are receiving. Now, that is a good mentor.
What gives you professional satisfaction?
It has been a privilege to be able to work with my father, who has been an attorney since 1958, and to be able to continue to represent many of the same families that he had the privilege to serve. Being able to represent multiple generations of families over decades through estate planning has resulted in deep, trusting relationships with many clients and their descendants. Getting to know the children and grandchildren of clients and the ability to use our legal and practical skills to help these families stay together through tough times following the death of a family member makes “work” bigger and more satisfying than just navigating the legal process. It can be difficult when a client of many years or decades passes, but if we are able to perform in a way that makes the survivors’ lives a bit easier, while limiting family conflict, that is a great feeling and a positive outcome.