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 12: Navigating New Opportunities 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!