What was your proudest professional moment?
I believe my proudest professional moment occurred when, after 20 years in the telecommunications industry, I decided to pursue my law degree, a goal that had always been in the background. In 2008, I started my 1L classes with students the age of my children. I was challenged to think, analyze, and communicate differently and develop an entirely new set of professional skills in preparation for this mid-life career change. I’ll never forget signing the roll at the Wisconsin Supreme Court as I took the oath and became a Wisconsin attorney.
After graduation I immersed myself in the legal community in my hometown, became a guardian ad litem, and ultimately accepted a position with Hostak, Henzl & Bichler S.C. I have been awed by watching and working with the fine attorneys in my city and state as they help people through some of the most challenging periods of their lives and facilitate peaceful resolutions.
I learned very quicky how valuable my legal training can be in a myriad of professional opportunities. It was a significant sacrifice but well worth the effort. Proving to myself that I had the ability to make that change and take that risk is, indeed, my proudest professional moment.
Kelly Mould, Johnson Financial Group, Racine.
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What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Helping clients do the things they thought they could not do. Parents of children with disabilities so often feel overwhelmed by the never-ending “to do list.” Children of parents with dementia see no end in sight and no options for relief. Seniors who have been financially exploited feel like they have no one to trust. Victories in these arenas can be hard for people to see or measure. So, when we help obtain the guardianship, or the adult-at-risk injunction, or the desired public benefits, or we sign the new powers of attorney or the special needs trust, it’s an achievement. Clients feel that sense of accomplishment and realize they’re making progress and that they are more powerful than they previously thought. These are great things for which to be a facilitator.
Jessica A. Liebau, Wessels & Liebau LLC, Mequon.
What’s your favorite hidden gem
website or database?
Hands down, my favorite hidden website is https://haveibeenpwned.com/. Although many folks in the law practice management
field frequently use this website, many other folks still
have not heard of or used the site. At this website, you can enter
your email address to see if it has ever been the subject of a
public data breach and obtain information concerning the data
points that were compromised.
Whenever I provide a presentation on data security, I encourage
the audience during the presentation to take out their
phones and see if their email addresses have been compromised.
The last time we had law students visit the State Bar Center, they
were surprised to learn how much information was breached
when their favorite apps were compromised by hackers.
I encourage readers to check their email addresses and contact
Practice411 with any questions that may arise.
Christopher C. Shattuck, Practice411™, State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison.
What inspires you to do ___ or be ___?
I am inspired to be a public defender because I believe that everyone deserves good representation, regardless of how much money they have. The legal system should be accessible to everyone in the public, particularly when someone is accused of a crime. I am also passionate about my work because defense attorneys provide a much-needed check on law enforcement and prosecution to ensure a fair system and to protect the rights of citizens that are guaranteed by our constitution.
Further, I like being a public defender because I am able to help people, most of whom have had a very difficult and devastating upbringing, to navigate a time in their lives when they are scared and often feel alone because of a lack of stable social support. I find that expressing care for them and their case can mean more than anything else I do because they want to feel as though they are truly getting their day in court (although fierce advocacy probably means a lot, too).
Kate Cook, Wisconsin State Public Defender, Eau Claire.
In addition to your legal practice, you breed and raise Vizslas. What’s that about?
During the time I was writing my article for this issue, we had 12 dogs in the house; a 3 year old (pup’s mama), a 16 year old (uncle), and a litter of 10 pups born July 21. Our kennel, Wyldfire Vizslas, is a dream realized after 20 years of owning this zany, affectionate, life-changing breed. They’re called “Velcro Vizslas” and are the aristocratic clowns of the hunting dog world.
Such a large litter was more work than I’d ever imagined but well worth it. The families taking puppies are wonderful and they’ll stay in touch. My world and my heart are bigger. Writing and sending emails in between bursts of pup cleanup and bottle feeding with goat milk during the night every 90 minutes, I learned to let go of what I can’t control. Also, I learned there is nothing like a sleeping puppy to remind me that life is fleeting and so beautiful and that the present moment is all I have.
Rachel K. Monaco, LOTUS Legal Clinic, Richfield.
What’s the most important advice you can give a new lawyer appearing before you?
When brainstorming with my court staff about the most important advice I would give to a new lawyer appearing in my courtroom, my deputy sheriff, Andrew Heisel, brilliantly quipped: “Be prepared to be unprepared.” His response was exactly on point.
The first part, “be prepared,” is one we have heard before: Lawyers should be prepared, know their case inside and out, and present their argument clearly and concisely. The latter half of that response, however, is what I wish I would have been told during my early years as a practicing attorney.
I remember a handful of occasions when I had done to the best of my ability all preparation I could for a particular assignment or case, only to find that a particular witness didn’t show up or that a partner had a question completely out of left field (from my perspective). I can remember feeling my brain turn to mush as it went into fight, flight, or freeze mode. If I had been prepared to be unprepared, I could have at least remained in a calm and receptive mode, utilizing my problem-solving skills in response. So, my best piece of advice is to maintain flexibility and adaptability to rebound quickly from unforeseen circumstances.
Cynthia M. Davis, Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
What was your funniest or oddest experience in a legal context?
After I graduated from law school, I took three private bar cases for the public defender’s office right away while I was interviewing for jobs. Two of them were ultimately dismissed but the third one resulted in a plea with mandatory jail time. The sentencing hearing was scheduled during summer break, so I brought my 10-year-old son, Emerson, to watch the sentencing from the gallery as an educational “bring your kid to work” type experience.
I saw the judge in the hallway before the hearing and introduced my son and told the judge he was going to watch the sentencing hearing. We went into the hearing and my son sat quietly behind me. But before the hearing started, the judge called me and the prosecutor back into chambers and said, “You know you’re going to jail today. Why did you bring your son to see that?” As a baby lawyer, I was completely terrified. I had no idea what the judge was talking about, what I’d done wrong, or why I was to be arrested that day. After a pause, we both realized that the judge thought that I was the defendant to be sentenced.
In hindsight, while I had good intentions, I’m not sure 10 year olds benefit from seeing anyone taken into custody, but I am grateful it wasn’t me he saw that day.
Kate Trudell, Johnson Financial Group, Racine.