You teach a field seminar in which you take students and subject-matter experts rafting through the Grand Canyon. What was your most memorable experience of that floating symposium?
Our in-canyon graduation is undoubtedly the highlight of the experience. The instruments and robes may be wet from the largest whitewater, but the excitement is undeniable. By the time they don their hoods, the students have completed their research and spent considerable time together in the backcountry, some of them for the first time. It is a great rush of optimism and hope for the future as students share what the trip has meant to them and what they will take from the experience back to the “Rim World,” into their careers dedicated to the peoples and places we hold dear.
Gregor MacGregor, University of Colorado Law School, Boulder, Colo.
If you could have litigated one famous case, what would it be?
As a history enthusiast, I wish that I could have provided assistance of counsel to pro se criminal defendants such as Saint Joan of Arc and Socrates (though I’m not sure that the ever-questioning gadfly of Athens would have accepted any lawyer’s advice!).
As a literature enthusiast, I wish that I could defend notable characters such as Herman Melville’s Billy Bud, Sailor; Charles Darnay from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities; and characters in Shakespeare’s “problem plays” who were denied due process – Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Isabella in Measure for Measure, and Queen Hermione of Sicily in The Winter’s Tale.
As a comic book and superhero film enthusiast, I wish that I could have been co-counsel with Matt Murdock/Daredevil to defend Peter Parker/Spiderman. It would also be fun to work on cases with Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk.
Peter R. Heyne, State Public Defender's Office, Green Bay
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What is your best advice for new lawyers?
My best advice for new lawyers is to be direct in your communications, set appropriate expectations, and teach people how you want to be treated.
For instance, a lot of lawyers struggle with work-life balance. Yes, we are in demanding organizations serving clients who have pressing needs. However, there are times where certain projects can wait. If you are in fact too busy to take on a priority project, let your requesting attorney know that up front rather than just saying yes or, even worse, “ghosting” them. Often, we feel pressured to say yes for fear of not receiving additional work or potentially ticking off the senior partner but then we’re too busy to get to it. Or we just disappear and don’t respond to emails when the partner is seeking help.
Here’s a real-life example of managing expectations. Recently, I was working with a client who is a junior associate. At the outset, he set expectations with his supervising partner that generally he does not work weekends, unless it’s an urgent project. While many attorneys in my generation (Gen X) would not have done this as a new attorney themselves, they tell me that they greatly respect younger attorneys who are able to set boundaries, keep those with whom they are working informed, and still meet the clients’ needs. It’s a tricky balance but it can be done.
RYP Global LLC, Junction City
What is your favorite place in Wisconsin?
Boulder Junction. I attended and worked at summer camp up there and vacation every summer in Boulder Junction with my family. There is nothing like the smell of the pine trees and the lake views up north!
Godfrey & Kahn, Milwaukee
Cats or dogs? Why?
Cats, hands down.
At heart, I’m just a big cat myself. I’m a Leo, I’m moody, I’m fastidious, and I’m serious about playing.
I take inspiration from our cat. His long bouts of laziness, his bursts of frenetic activity, his habit of dropping everything for a quick bath, his loving nudges.
It’s not all sweetness, this relationship. Our cat has claws and fangs and more than once he’s used them on me.
But that just makes him more human. As a good friend who used to volunteer at the Dane County Humane Society told me, “We all sometimes hurt the one we love, don’t we?”
Most importantly, keeping a cat is good for my writing – and my soul. In the words of Williams S. Burroughs, “My relationships with my cats has saved me from a deadly, pervasive ignorance.”
Jeff M. Brown, Willamette Univ. School of Law 1997, is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6126.
What do you read for fun?
Believe it or not, I love reading the news. And not just world, politics, and business news, I also enjoy reading pop culture and celebrity gossip columns. For some reason, likely due to all the legal and technology reading and writing I do for work, my brain enjoys soaking up all sorts of knowledge. It has not always been this way, as I used to devote all my reading time to case law, legal publications, and other sources that would help me win cases. Somewhere along the way, I realized the importance of maintaining a good work-life balance and making a concerted effort to take time to read for fun.
Christopher C. Shattuck, State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison
Where or when do you get your best ideas?
I’m a big proponent of group brainstorming to tease out questions and solutions. An avid cyclist, I also frequently untangle problems during my morning or evening bike commute. (The smartphone memo system is perfect for this.) However, nothing may ever quite top a moment early in my career when I was having trouble writing a section of code for a web application. That night I dreamed the solution and in the morning, the written code worked perfectly!
Wisconsin State Law Library, Madison