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BottomUp  WisLawNOW Podcast - Podcast Bottom Up A WisLawNOW Podcast


What issues matter most to young lawyers? Where can new lawyers go to find career advice, professional insights, practice tips, and more? Bottom Up is a podcast dedicated to examining today’s legal challenges. Produced by the State Bar of Wisconsin and hosted by Emil Ovbiagele, a young lawyer and founder of a small law firm based in Milwaukee, each episode features frank discussions and relatable stories that highlight the interests and opportunities for attorneys working to establish their practice their way

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Episode 16​​​: Helping Victims of Human Trafficking, a Hidden Crime, with Erika Petty

Simply defined, human trafficking is the exploitation of human beings for someone else's gain, according to Erika Petty, executive director at Milwaukee-based Lotus Legal Clinic, a nonprofit that provides free legal services exclusively to victims of human trafficking.

As you'll discover in Episode 16 of the Bottom Up podcast, produced by the State Bar of Wisconsin, while human trafficking can be simply defined, the complexity of the issue spans the nation and the globe, and hits home right here in Wisconsin.

To close out January, which is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Bottom Up co-host Kristen Hardy sat down with Petty to discuss the complexities of the human trafficking problem.

Along the way, we hear about the different ways in which human traffickers identify vulnerable people or populations and use that to exploit them for financial and other gain.

We hear how victims are forced and coerced to commit crimes and give up all autonomy, making it difficult or impossible to escape, as the victim often depends on their traffickers for survival. We hear how victims are lured with promises into isolated situations, and forced into unpaid labor.

"Trafficking is definitely a hidden crime and there can be red flags, but those red flags are only going to be visible if the victim is engaging in society in a way in which people are looking out for that person," said Petty, noting that traffickers know how to keep victims isolated.
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But Petty also provides hope, and pathways for lawyers and others to help, through the donation of time or resources. Her work and the work of Lotus Legal Clinic involves the enforcement of crime victims' rights, criminal record relief, civil legal services involving housing, credit repair, workplace protections, and other issues. The clinic also helps victims on a pathway to healing.​




Episode 15: Hustle, Humility and 63 years in Law Practice with Litigator Frank Gimbel

In 1963, Frank Gimbel was just three years out of law school when he became an assistant U.S. attorney, serving five years before switching to defense counsel. Gimbel's career as a trial lawyer, spanning six decades, has been chronicled extensively, with many awards to his name. 

But the early days were no walk in the park. Gimbel worked as a tax return preparer, a clothes salesman, and held other side jobs to keep food on the table. These experiences required hustle and humility as Gimbel seasoned himself into one of Wisconsin's most recognized trial lawyers. 

In this episode of Bottom Up, co-hosts Emil Ovbiagele and Kristen Hardy dig deeper into Gimbel's career, which includes a successful prosecution of former Milwaukee organized crime boss Frank Balistrieri and other high-profile cases as a litigator in private practice. Gimbel, former president of the State Bar of Wisconsin (1986-87) and founder of what is now Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP, unveils many qualities and strategies that led to his trial successes. He also discusses how politics and hustle helped forge his path, the conflicts he encountered, the value of respect, and how getting involved can help lawyers build a practice. 

"You generate business by being in the community," Gimbel says. "While the numbers change, the formula for surviving as a lawyer after law school is not different."

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Episode 14​ (Part 2): Solo & Small Firms - Generational Differences in Technology​ and Practice Management​

As younger lawyers enter the profession, how do they collaborate and communicate effectively with older generations, who may collaborate differently? What are the current trends, challenges, and opportunities for solo and small firms in the practice management and technology space? 

These are some of the questions that co-host Emil Ovbiagele and Joe Forward (guest host) explore with guests Erin Ogden and Brent Hoeft. This is the second episode in a two-parter focused on solo and small firms, recorded from the 2023 Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference. Erin Ogden – a partner and co-founder of Ogden Glazer+Schaefer in Madison – dives into smaller firm practice management issues (first 23:19). The pandemic, she says, caused a seismic shift in how law firms operate. In addition, younger generations are entering the profession with a whole new perspective on effective communication through the use of technology. 

​ “The way I manage is not going to be the same as someone who was [born in the 2000s],” Ogden says. “Not in a bad way. Diversification is key. They are coming up with new ideas and new ways of looking at things. In addition, we do a lot of work with [younger clients]. How do I talk to them?" She noted that email may not be a primary form of communication for younger generations. 

In the second segment (starting at 23:20), Brent Hoeft discusses the challenges and opportunities that rapidly evolving technology brings to solo and small firm practice. Hoeft, who started a virtual law practice as a solo practitioner over a decade ago, is the new practice management advisor for the State Bar’s Law Office Management Assistance Program ​(also known as Practice 411™). Hoeft highlights common technology issues, how different generations approach privacy and security (and what that means for law firms), the opportunities to save significant time and money using evolving technology, and how Practice 411 can help as a member benefit.​​

Hoeft highlights common technology issues, how different generations approach privacy and security (and what that means for law firms), the opportunities to save significant time and money using evolving technology, and how Practice 411 can help as a member benefit.

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Episode 14​ (Part 1): Solo & Small Firm Practice in Wisconsin

In this episode, recorded at the 2023 Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference (WSSFC), co-host Emil Ovbiagele​ and guest host Joe Forward speak with Jessica Kramer, a small firm owner based in Madison, and Aiden Tharp, a solo practitioner in Hudson.

Kramer was a co-chair of the conference's substantive law track, and Tharp was a co-chair of the work-life balance/ethics track. The conference theme? Working across different generations of clients, lawyers, and judges. The guests discuss this theme and how they approach it in their own practices. They also discuss the challenges and opportunities for solo and small firms.

For Emil Ovbiagele, this year's winner the of John Lederer Distinguished Service Award, presented at the WSSFC, "solo and small firms are the backbones of our profession and the State Bar."


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Episode 13​: Rural Law Practice with Karina O'Brien

In Episode 13 of the Bottom Up Podcast, produced by the State Bar of Wisconsin, co-hosts Emil Ovbiagele and Kristen Hardy talk with Karina O’Brien, an attorney at Kostner, Koslo & Brovold LLC in Arcadia, Wisconsin. The topic? Rural practice in Wisconsin. The challenges. The opportunities. The shortage of attorneys in rural Wisconsin.

A 2014 U.W. Law School graduate, Karina grew up in Arcadia, located 45 miles south of Eau Claire. She didn’t think she would return to her hometown to live and work, but a local law firm offered her a job out of law school, and her father championed the opportunity as a good start. "Give it a try," Karina recalls him saying. "You can always move on."

Now, almost a decade later, there’s no place Karina would rather be (except maybe skiing). With a sharp wit and good humor, Karina highlights a day in the life of her rural practice, including the sense of community that comes with it. Karina said Arcadia, like many smaller towns in Wisconsin, is a place where the community is rooting for you to succeed, and the support of other attorneys in the TriCounty Bar Association is unmatched.

Amid shortages of attorneys in rural areas – with many older rural attorneys retiring and few to replace them – Kristen, Emil, and Karina explore what can be done to attract attorneys to rural parts of the state. Opportunities abound, and potential solutions emerge, but where do we go from here?


Episode 12​: Navigating New Oopportunities with Confidence: Christa Wittenberg

Milwaukee-based attorney Christa Wittenberg, a 2012 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, never thought she would ever work for a law firm. But plans change.

Now after 9 years with O’Neil, Cannon, Hollman, Dejong & Laing S.C., Wittenberg was recently elected to serve on the firm’s 3-person Board of Directors. In the firm’s 50-year history, she is the first woman to serve in that role. In addition to her commercial litigation practice, Wittenberg will help the firm – which has approximately 40 attorneys – navigate its most important decisions.

​In this episode, co-hosts Emil Ovbiagele and Kristen Hardy chat with Wittenberg about how she got there. She provides a look at law firm structure and governance, and how to navigate new opportunities with confidence.

​A wife, mother, and self-described “yes person,” she also talks about her nonprofit work with Lotus Legal Clinic and how that fits in with her desire to help make the world a better place. And of course, a major theme for all episodes, the trio explores wellness and work-life balance.​​​


Episode 11​: Leading the Legal Profession with Margaret Hickey​​

Fresh off a one-year term as president of the State Bar of Wisconsin, family and elder law attorney Margaret Hickey, of Milwaukee, discusses the importance of leadership, including service to a State Bar membership of more than 25,000 attorneys.

Co-hosts Emil Ovbiagele and Kristen Hardy engage Hickey - the fourth consecutive woman to serve as president - in discussions about the role of State Bar leaders, including the State Bar's Board of Governors, and how leaders tackle issues important to the legal profession.

​Hickey also talks about some of the major (and difficult) issues State Bar leaders tackled this past year, and what the future holds. A 37-year veteran of the legal profession, Hickey uses her own experiences to provide insights for young lawyers navigating their careers.


Episode 10: Building Relationships and Community with Makda Fessahaye

When Makda Fessahaye was age 28, and only five years out of law school, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers appointed her as the top administrator of the Division of Adult Institutions at the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. That was in 2019. "You go for it because when else do you get a gubernatorial appointment," Fessahaye said.

She went on to become the chief human resources officer for the city of Milwaukee, and now serves as associate vice chancellor and chief human resources officer for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In Episode 10 of the Bottom Up Podcast, produced by the State Bar of Wisconsin, co-hosts Emil Ovbiagele and Kristen Hardy talk with Fessahaye about her journey.

She talks about her skills as a relationship-builder, her path into top administrative positions, her father's influence, and the importance of building community.


Episode 9: Nate Cade on Extreme Ownership, from Big Law to Solo Practice

In Episode 9 of the Bottom Up Podcast, produced by the State Bar of Wisconsin, co-hosts Kristen Hardy and Emil Ovbiagele speak with Milwaukee-based attorney Nate Cade, who wakes up at exactly 4:06 a.m. every morning to start his routine. A heavy-hitting litigator who often works on high-profile cases, Cade spent the first 17 years of his career at a large law firm, honing his craft as a trial lawyer and making his own opportunities. One day, about a decade ago, he decided to hang his own shingle. In this episode, we learn why Cade made the decision to go solo after 17 years, the challenges and opportunities of doing so, and what it means to take extreme ownership of your career.


Episode 8: Advocating for the Criminal Justice System

Are you a public defender or prosecutor? A judge? A Wisconsin resident? Thinking about criminal law as a career? The State Bar of Wisconsin's Advocacy Team is advocating for you. In Episode 8 of Bottom Up, a WisLawNOW podcast produced by the State Bar of Wisconsin, guest host Joe Forward speaks with three members of the State Bar’s Advocacy Team – Cale Battles, Lynne Davis, and Devin Martin – about the advocacy work they are doing to increase funding for the criminal justice system and other policy priorities.

Vacant positions in both prosecutor and public defender offices are putting a crisis-level strain on the criminal justice system, which has experienced chronic underfunding for decades. Now the system is at a breaking point. Attracting and retaining lawyers in these critical roles is a serious obstacle because of low starting salaries and stagnant pay progression. Many vacant positions can’t be filled. In this episode, learn about the Advocacy Team, their role in assisting lawyers and the legal profession, and what they are doing to advocate on criminal justice funding.


Episode 7: The Road Less Traveled with In-House Counsel, Larry Whitley

Milwaukee attorney Larry Whitley went straight from law school to an in-house counsel position, working on multi-million dollar deals in real estate right out the gate. In the latest episode of the Bottom Up Podcast, produced by the State Bar of Wisconsin, co-hosts Kristen Hardy and Emil Ovbiagele chat with Whitley about his journey. "There's no right path, just your path," Whitley says.

The Rufus King High School and Marquette University Law School graduate - a former Milwaukee Bucks ball boy and Marquette University Men's Basketball team manager - also discusses giving back to his community, and those who had the biggest influence on his path to the law.


Episode 6: Life, Death, Change & Purpose

In this episode, a near-death experience sparks discussion about self-reflection, making changes, lawyer wellbeing, and finding your purpose. Co-hosts Emil Ovbiagele and Kristen Hardy speak with Joe Forward, communications director at the State Bar of Wisconsin. Joe discusses a recent near-death experience, which he wrote about in Wisconsin Lawyer magazine, and the self-reflection that followed. Many lawyers reached out to Joe after his article appeared, an indication that many identified with the observation that everyone has flaws, but we can always change or recalibrate for the better.


Episode 5: Making Partner, and Refilling Your Cup

A year ago, attorney Rebeca Lopez made partner. It took her almost 10 years, and a lot of work, to become a shareholder at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. In the latest episode of Bottom Up, a WisLawNOW Podcast produced by the State Bar of Wisconsin, Lopez – an employment lawyer who is also the vice president of the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association – shares insights on the secret to her success.


Episode 4: On Being an Entrepreneurial Attorney

Young lawyers and law students, this episode is for you! Co-hosts Emil Ovbiagele and Kristen Hardy join guest Alex Eichhorn, a partner at Tabek Law LLC, based in Milwaukee. All three graduated from Marquette University Law School in 2014, and now have eight years of law practice under their belts. All three are also entrepreneurial lawyers in some form. Emil started his own law practice, on his own terms. Kristen, a former college athlete, is an assistant general counsel at a Fortune 500 company. And Alex has helped his law firm transform itself through new processes and technologies. Each tell stories of the challenges they faced, both in law school and in the first years of practice, and how developing an entrepreneurial mindset is so crucial for young attorneys.


Episode 3 (Part 2): Work-Life Balance and Young Lawyers

In this episode, the second of a two-parter on lawyer well-being and work-life balance, guests and co-hosts dig deeper into the topic of work-life balance and what it really means, what firms and companies are doing, and what they can do to create better workplaces for lawyers, especially young lawyers. Emil Ovbiagele (co-host), a small firm owner in Milwaukee, and Kristen Hardy (co-host), an in-house counsel at a large company, lead the discussion with mid-sized firm partner Ryan Woody and Emily Stedman, senior associate at a large law firm. The panelists also explore the billable hour, and how work-life balance and remote work affect things like diversity, production, and job satisfaction. Tune in!


Episode 3 (Part 1): What Does Work-Life Balance for Young Lawyers Look Like?

What does work-life balance for young lawyers even mean? In this episode, the first in a two-parter on lawyer well-being and work-life balance, four attorneys with different perspectives discuss how work-life balance means different things to different people, depending on your situation. Emil Ovbiagele (co-host), a small firm owner in Milwaukee, and Kristen Hardy (co-host), an in-house counsel at a large company, lead the discussion with mid-sized firm partner Ryan Woody and Emily Stedman, senior associate at a large law firm.


Episode 2: Mentoring and Mentorship. Is there a Generational Divide?

Mentoring and mentorship. Is there a generational divide? What experienced attorneys view as positive mentorship may be different from that of newer and younger attorneys in their first decade of practice. How do we bridge the gap? Co-hosts Emil Ovbiagele and Kristen Hardy explore the topic with guest Syovata Edari, a former criminal trial lawyer who is now an award-winning chocolatier.


Episode 1: Intro to Bottom Up, a WisLawNOW Podcast

Meet Emil Ovbiagele, host of the new WisLawNOW Podcast, Bottom Up, produced by the State Bar of Wisconsin. Emil is the immediate past president of the State Bar of Wisconsin's Young Lawyers Division and founder of OVB Law & Consulting S.C. in Milwaukee. The monthly podcast will focus on issues of interest to young lawyers in Wisconsin and beyond. Tune in!




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