What kind of legal matter do you find most rewarding or personally satisfying?
The legal matters that I find most rewarding fall into three categories. The first category consists of cases involving difficult legal issues or complicated facts. I enjoy putting together the pieces of the puzzle, analyzing the law, and then presenting a logical and persuasive argument to the court. I particularly like planning and preparing summary judgment motions, which I have found to be very effective, especially in federal court.
The second category consists of cases that are about more than money and therefore require a unique approach. Untangling business relationships by negotiating creative solutions falls into this category.
The third type of case I find rewarding is representing lawyers who have run afoul of the ethics rules and who need someone to help them get their careers back on track. These can be complicated or relatively straightforward cases, but either way, I enjoy being able to make a positive difference in someone’s life.
If you won an enormous lottery prize tomorrow, what would you be doing next month?
In the short term, I probably would do the same thing I’d be doing without the money: finishing law school. At least at this point in my life, going to law school has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. Law seems like a natural fit for me, and not even hundreds of millions of dollars could alter that.
To be sure, I’d make some changes. I’d probably buy a new car and a swanky condo, and I’d definitely throw a party. But most of the money would go into investments until I had a better idea of what to do with it.
In the long term, I could see myself using the money in one (or all) of a few different ways. First, I’d start a venture capital company. I worked at a startup company for a brief time, and the excitement and energy always impressed me. I’d love to help creative entrepreneurs get off the ground – and maybe make a return while doing so. Second, I’d establish my own school or college. Third, I’d contribute money to nonprofit organizations, especially those involved with the arts and music. Finally, I’d buy a big piece of land and design my own golf course.
What career memory will still bring a smile to your face 20 years from now?
The memory of writing this article with my colleagues and having it published in the Wisconsin Lawyer definitely will make me smile. I offer this as such a career memory, because for several years some of us at ETF have discussed the problems and issues described in this article and the need for us to somehow address the matter in a positive manner. Because we believe that this article will benefit WRS members, lawyers who represent those members and their spouses, as well as staff here at ETF, I am confident that this memory will bring a smile to my face for a long time. In fact, I am smiling now while writing this paragraph.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There are many rewards about my job at ETF. We have a great mission of providing high-quality benefits and services to our members while safeguarding the integrity of the trust. The Wisconsin Retirement System is one of the best-funded and most well-designed systems in the country so we have a great foundation for our mission. The high-quality benefits and safeguards to the trust already exist so we can focus on the delivery, which I find to be the biggest reward.
I see and hear a lot of gratitude from members for the help we provide in understanding their benefits. Members are often proud to be a part of the system and even amazingly understanding when we are unable to respond quickly to their call or request for information. I work with people who also feel the same, so they are dedicated to helping and work very hard. We are in the midst of a multi-year project that will transform our online service offerings and significantly improve the services we provide to our members.
We have a great mission, great leadership, a strong system, wonderful employees, very appreciative customers, and we will soon have vastly improved tools for delivering service. There are definitely many rewards but helping people is certainly number one on my list.
Who has most inspired you in your legal career?
My parents. Neither of them are lawyers; they both spent their entire careers in public service – my mother as a high school science teacher and my dad as a wildlife biologist with the DNR. They taught me that you give back to your community, you put the greater good before your self-interest, and you treat everyone with respect, regardless of their circumstances. They also taught me to be compassionate, considerate, and inquisitive. These values and characteristics have served me well thus far in my legal profession. I probably don’t thank them enough.
How do you plan to celebrate the Fourth of July?
To me the Fourth of July should always be spent on or near a body of water. When I lived in Boston, my wife and I waited for hours on the bank of the Charles River to see the famous fireworks barrage. Recently we’ve enjoyed playing volleyball on Bradford Beach before viewing the fireworks over the Milwaukee Art Museum. This year we plan to head north with our dog to float on the friendly waters of Lake DeNeveu in Fond du Lac.
There’s just something about seeing the fireworks above reflect on the water below that screams Americana; pair that with brats and hot dogs on the grill and you’re in paradise.