What is the most memorable trip you ever took?
In 1986, I spent a college semester studying abroad in London. From there a group traveled to the Soviet Union during break, visiting Leningrad and Moscow. I have many memories of that trip – lavish rooms in the Hermitage, brides in their wedding gowns placing flowers at World War II memorials, Lenin’s preserved body in his tomb, the rudeness of bartenders and taxi drivers who had no interest in serving us, propaganda posters all over, armed soldiers marching in Red Square, churches converted into museums.
We were required to be on a structured tour with scheduled visits to various museums, but a couple of times friends and I would ditch the planned tours and head off on our own. My favorite side excursion involved figuring out how to ride the subway (reading signs written in Cyrillic) to get to the public swimming pool located where the cathedral once stood. Men and women were split into different sections of the pool, and the bathing suits and flower-decorated swim caps looked like they were from the 1950s or 1960s. The trip was an eye-opener for a young person from the United States, and recent events in eastern Europe have brought back many thoughts of it.
Margo S. Kirchner, Wisconsin Justice Initiative, Milwaukee.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love solving problems and reaching collaborative solutions. I have been fortunate to practice in environmental law because it exists in a dynamic setting that requires creative and collaborative approaches. The laws written in the 1970s, much less the 1870s, do not always address the problems of today. Sometimes it requires changes in the statutes, such as laws that allow point sources to get credit for curbing non-point pollution. Sometimes it requires the administrative agencies to read existing statutes broadly rather than narrowly, such as the net environmental benefit language in the wetlands law discussed in my article in this issue. Sometimes it requires that all three levels of government be brought to bear in solving a land use matter – whether that is a stormwater issue or the siting of a solar farm. It’s not easy, but the governmental-affairs nature of environmental law provides a dynamic legal platform from which to find real solutions to the challenges of the natural environment. When that happens, it is very rewarding.
Paul G. Kent, Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, Madison.
You’re a very busy person. What do you do simply for pure fun?
The return of the Brewers to town opens one of my favorite opportunities – attending games with friends. The games provide a block of time to catch up on what has happened since we were last together and to enjoy the game while doing so. I initially bought a weekend package so my godchildren could get the bobbleheads distributed at many of the games, and now I have quite a bobblehead collection myself.
Before the pandemic, I presented at several institutes for middle and high school teachers of civics, history, and government on topics related to U.S. history and the Constitution. The institutes were mainly attended by teachers from Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Because I lived in the South during many of the significant events of the civil rights era, I have vivid recollections of conversations at our home at a time my father drove people to work during the Montgomery bus boycott. I always added time to my travels to the institutes to visit related historic sites. I hope to be able to resume those trips soon.
Lindsey D. Draper, Wauwatosa.
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What book are you reading for fun?
I’m reading a book on work-life balance recommended by Bookriot.com, Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone, by Sarah Jaffe. Anyone extolling a love of work – maybe you hear that, too – puzzles me. Tell me you love your job and what I hear is a teenager gushing over their favorite pop star, and I’m not a fan.
However, I understand the passion of a lawyer in the library who exclaimed, “I love the law,” as she researched an issue for a client. She cackled with glee, and I loved her for that. It is fun to find the answer. I didn’t understand the lawyer who dropped dead at the office at age 95. If I could have said anything to him in that moment, I would have said, “What are you doing here?” Which is why I say aim for more than a work-life balance. Value your work, but tip the scales toward life itself, that’s the secret.
Genevieve Zook, U.W. Law Library, Madison.
What is your best advice for lawyers new to litigation?
You should ask yourself, “Am I curious?” If you love to read about new ideas, to ponder lessons of history, to see the gray between black and white, then you are on the right track. The best trial lawyers have in common a curious mind because it enables them to piece together events and motives into a compelling narrative.
Ralph A. Weber, Weber Advising LLC, Milwaukee.
What is the most challenging or rewarding part of your job?
At Wisconsin Wetlands Association, we like to talk about protecting and restoring wetlands to solve problems. It’s rewarding to be working with farmers, local governments, emergency managers, state program managers, policy makers, and others to explore wetlands as solutions to the issues they care about. The work is certainly complex.
With the majority of Wisconsin’s wetlands in private ownership, people’s ideas on how they should be used or managed are as diverse as the wetlands themselves. It takes a lot of time and patience to understand everyone’s perspectives and to identify common ground. But once those pathways become clear, positive and unexpected things can happen ... barriers dissolve and complex issues become less intractable. It’s exciting to be working so collaboratively to improve wetland policies and practices in Wisconsin, and we’re eager to expand these collaborations in the coming years.
Erin O’Brien, Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Madison.
What is your favorite place in Wisconsin?
Any time I have my feet in the water and mud of a wetland, that wetland becomes my favorite place. Wisconsin is home to an incredible diversity of landscapes and the wetlands they contain – deep sphagnum bogs, spring-fed seeps, wild-rice beds, beaver-created sloughs, waterfowl-producing marshes, broad gallery floodplain forests, grass and sedge meadows, ephemeral headwater ponds, coastal ridge-and-swale wetlands, and many more. Every wetland is unique, and each exhibits beauty in its own way. When you work for Wisconsin’s diverse wetland resources, the exploration and discovery of new favorite places never ends. I invite you all to “get your feet wet” in a wetland soon.
Tracy Hames, Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Madison.
What is your favorite place in Wisconsin?
My favorite place in Wisconsin would have to be the tennis courts I grew up at in Madison. If you play tennis, you know there is nothing that quite compares to the crack of a new can of balls on a fall day. Not only are the courts a place where I made lifelong friends and spent countless hours goofing around with my family, but also they are a place where I learned important life lessons that still serve me to this day. I quickly learned that it is impossible to win every point, but real growth comes from what you do in the aftermath of a loss. I also learned how to work and succeed both individually and as a team member, which has aided me immensely in my legal career. Regardless of the size of your firm, you can be an asset as first, second, or even third chair. On the tennis courts, I learned that sometimes what’s best for the team means playing a supporting role and not necessarily being the star of the show.
Brianna J. Meyer, Gimbel Reilly Guerin & Brown LLP, Milwaukee.
What is your best advice for new lawyers?
When I was a young associate, one of my mentors told me, “A good lawyer knows what he knows; a great lawyer knows what he doesn’t know.” A lawyer has a responsibility to be competent. To be competent, you can study or you can find someone to teach you. Understand yourself and how you best learn, and either make use of vast information at your fingertips or network and find someone willing to teach you.
Matthew M. Beier, Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co., Madison.