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Best of 2010


Wisconsin’s Legal Community

Welcome to the Wisconsin Law Journal’s second annual “Best Of” section. I realize that when we toss the word “best” around we are making a bold statement about something that is very subjective. We freely acknowledge that this is not, nor was it intended to be, a statistically valid review of the best our state’s legal community has to offer.

We asked you, in an online survey, about your opinions on a variety of different areas, some serious, some lighthearted. We received responses from lawyers, judges, paralegals, legal secretaries and others.

This being our second “Best Of” section, we were surprised by the amount of repeat winners in various categories, including Best Supreme Court Justice, Best Mediator, Best Circuit Court Judge and Best Rainmaker. You can read about all of our repeat victors in the following pages.

In addition to some of those straightforward categories, we also asked about some lighter ones, such as Best Lawyer to Round out a Foursome in Golf or Best Lawyer to Sit Next to at a Legal Event. The responses were varied, and showed that we can all have some fun, even while working hard.

Our winners came from all areas of the state, and ranged the gamut from the larger firms – like Quarles & Brady – to small firms and solo practitioners.

I hope you enjoy reading this section and learning a bit more about those identified as the best in Wisconsin. And, if you disagree with the results, make sure you take the time to cast your own votes next year!

Ann Richmond,
Wisconsin Law Journal

Best Rainmaker

Robert L. Habush, Habush, Habush & Rottier S.C.

ImageIf it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

For the second year in a row, readers have overwhelmingly chosen Robert L. Habush as the state’s best rainmaker – and he says, for the most part, he’s just stuck to his tried-and-true marketing methods over the past year, to regain that honor.

In early 2009, he told Wisconsin Law Journal he built his then- 12-office plaintiffs’ personal injury firm by garnering big-money verdicts that generate publicity. Add into the mix exceptional legal talent from across the state. Repeat the process. A little advertising helps, too.

Since then, the firm has added another office in West Bend. And it has expanded its Web presence by shifting some of its advertising dollars to JSOnline.

“I’m not doing anything dramatically different. It’s just a product of reputation, built on success in court, which brings in cases, and marketing,” he says.

At 74, Habush still works full-time and has no plans to retire. “I love what I do, I’m still good at it, and I don’t like golf very much,” he says. Looking ahead, two significant jury trials are on his calendar, set for April and November.

He also makes the time to serve as the firm’s marketing manager – and he maintains that his firm will never hire a nonlawyer marketing professional. “To succeed at marketing in any business, you have to understand the business, and after 49 years of doing this, I think I understand it pretty well.”

Apparently our readers whole-heartedly agree.

ImageBest Courthouse

Dane County Courthouse

Located at 215 S Hamilton St.,in Madison, the Dane County Courthouse is the second largest and quite possibly the “greenest” courthouse in Wisconsin. The 10-story, $44 million, flatiron building is the result of 15 years of debate, negotiation, and planning. The building was constructed using many recycled and environmentally friendly materials. The sandstone color and triangular, flatiron shape of the Dane County Courthouse help the building to blend with Madison’s downtown. This is the first new courthouse built in Dane County since 1957, when the City-County Building was completed. (Information from wicourts.gov.)

Best Lawyer-Turned-Politician

Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee

ImageWhatever your politics may be, it’s difficult to find personal fault with a public official who intervenes in a domestic dispute to aid a woman and her infant granddaughter, and suffers head injuries, broken teeth and a shattered hand with permanent nerve damage as a result.

Milwaukee’s Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett made national headlines for his heroism last summer.

Since Barrett and his family were leaving the Wisconsin State Fair when the attack occurred, the incident spurred the production of T-shirts proclaiming, “Our Mayor Ain’t No Cream Puff.”

In November, Barrett, mayor since 2004, announced his bid for governor in 2010.

The Barrett Campaign lawyer, Gregory T. Everts of the Madison branch of Quarles & Brady LLP, says, “Tom has a very strong moral compass and people can tell that. He is not afraid to risk himself, personally or politically, to stand up for or do the right thing. He is smart, he works hard, and he is committed to helping people. He has a great sense of humor. These are qualities that make Tom an outstanding attorney and political leader.”

“He’s clearly the best candidate we have running, and in these uncertain times, it’s important we back the right person,” adds attorney T. Anthony Zielinski, of the Law Office of T. Anthony Zielinski in Milwaukee. “I think the critical thinking skills he acquired in law school have served him well in his current role as politician. Plus, he’s just a decent, all-around good guy.”

If elected, Barrett will succeed one of the runners-up for the distinction of Wisconsin Law Journal’s “Best Lawyer-Turned-Politician,” Gov. Jim Doyle. The other runner-up is Sen. Russ Feingold.

Best Circuit Court Judge

Hon. John J. DiMotto, Milwaukee County Circuit Court

ImageJudge John J. DiMotto says he owes it to the people to be prepared and do the best he can. “The courtroom is the place where people need to come when a dispute must be resolved.”

And while he’s gratified to be named the best circuit court judge in the state, DiMotto adds, “I think I can look at the entire judiciary, and I really believe it holds the same view about what we should be doing.”

Since joining the bench in 1990, Judge DiMotto has sat in every division of the court except the juvenile division in Wauwatosa.

But that is about to change. After four years hearing the civil/probate calendar, DiMotto will be transferring to the one division in which he has never been, either as a judge, or as an attorney.

“I’d like to say, whenever I do reti
re, that I had the opportunity to serve in every judicial division.”

DiMotto is well-known by attorneys to have detailed outlines of relevant case law at his fingertips, to quickly resolve any thorny legal issues that arise. And that won’t be any different, even though he will be switching to a new and very different area of the law.

“I’m already working on my outlines and checklists, so I can hit the ground running,” he says. He also spent two days this winter tracking a juvenile court commissioner to learn the procedures, an experience he called “eye-opening.”

Best Supreme Court Justice

ImageHon. Shirley S. Abrahamson, Wisconsin Supreme Court

One year ago, Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson was making her final campaign push for her fourth term on the bench.

The longest tenured member of the court easily won re-election and at 76, it could be her last.

But that does not mean members of the legal community are finished casting their ballots.

For the second year in a row, Abrahamson was named Best Supreme Court Justice by a convincing margin over her colleagues.

“I am honored and pleased to have this vote of confidence,” she said.

But mostly, Abrahamson is just happy to focus on the job she has held since 1976, when she was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court in Wisconsin.

In her 14 years as Chief Justice, Abrahamson has been the lead administrator for the Wisconsin court system. She regularly visits local courts and last year completed a tour of all 72 counties.

In more than three decades on the bench, she participated in upwards of 3,500 cases, and authored in excess of 450 majority opinions.

That does not include the thousands of petitions for review, which in recent years have included several relating to the issue of judicial recusal.

Abrahamson has long been a proponent of meaningful public financing for judicial elections.

“I will continue to work to maintain the independence and integrity of the judicial system,” she said.

Best Court of Appeals Judge

Hon. Richard S. Brown, Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District II

ImageThe longest-serving Court of Appeals judge is still the attorneys’ favorite.

Of the 16 judges on the court, only Brown and Judge Charles P. Dykman (Dist. IV), who is retiring this year, have been on the court since its inception back in 1978.

Currently the chief judge of the court, Brown graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1971, and practiced for two years as an assistant district attorney in Racine County. After that, he practiced civil litigation in Oshkosh until joining the court.

As chief judge, Brown is currently investigating the equalization of the court’s caseload. Currently, cases are transferred between districts only when one district’s load becomes excessive and the court falls behind. Brown is looking at a variety of models, looking at making transfers systematic, instead of only in emergencies.
Brown said he was honored to be named the best appellate judge in the state, and added, “We strive to do our very best to get out decisions that are timely, easy to read, and of benefit to the bench and bar.”

Best U.S. District Court Judge

ImageHon. Barbara B. Crabb, Western District of Wisconsin

Soon after being voted the best U.S. District Court Judge in Wisconsin last year, Barbara B. Crabb announced her plans to take senior status.
While she is still waiting to move into semi-retirement, her legal peers are in no hurry to see her go.

For the second consecutive year, Crabb was named the state’s top federal judge.

“Chalk it up to people not being in federal court much,” she joked.

Levity aside, Crabb said she is “flattered” to be recognized again after almost 40 years on the bench.

After spending eight years as a U.S. magistrate judge, she was appointed to the newly created Western District Court judgeship in 1979.

And though she hopes to assume senior status this summer, pending the appointment of at least one new judge, Crabb, 69, has no intention of slowing down.

“It is my intention to continue to handle cases,” she said. “The nice thing about it will be I can also help out in other districts as the need arises.”

Since her longtime colleague on the bench, John C. Shabaz took senior status at the start of 2009, Crabb has been extremely busy.
But despite an increase in her caseload, Crabb takes the same approach today that she did when she joined the bench.

Best Law-Related Web Site


State Bar of Wisconsin

Launched in 1995, and redesigned in 2003, the State Bar’s Web site underwent its second major revision last summer, helping it to remain the most popular law-related Web site among attorneys in the state.

A major change was the addition of timely news coverage. Reports of recent opinions from the appellate courts are now frequently added to the site the same day they are released.

Format changes also enable news stories to remain available longer on the front page before being archived.

The Bar also released InsideTrack, an electronic newsletter, in February, to provide news to the membership as quickly as possible.

The updated site is also easier to navigate, via a site map on the bottom of the home page. At the top is a header to highlight Fastcase, and prominent links are provided to Wisconsin Lawyer magazine, as well as Rotunda Report, which contains capitol news reports from the Bar’s government relations program.

Another improvement is the addition of “Upcoming State Bar Events,” which provides information on CLE programs, seminars, and conventions. Recently released publications are also highlighted.

Best to Fill Out a Foursome in Golf

ImageLon E. Roberts, Ruder Ware LLSC

The game of golf is often frustrating and cruel.

But it is less so when Lon A. Roberts is part of a foursome.

The business attorney always carries a casual demeanor along with his clubs onto the course.
“I don’t take the game seriously and more than anything, I enjoy the company and not thinking about the office for a couple hours,” he said.

Though he doesn’t consider himself an “avid” golfer, Roberts said he tries to get out once a week during the golf season.

He also has never sunk a hole-in-one, but came within a quarter-inch on a par-3 at the prestigious Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania.

“It sure impressed a lot of people,” he joked.

But for every Jack Nicklaus-like shot, there are plenty that fail to find the green, which is why Roberts likes to support his game with a good conversation.

He chats up playing partn
ers on everything from airplanes to politics to football, so it is no surprise Roberts was also named as a Best Lawyer to sit next to an event.

“I have a wide range of interests and always like to learn something new,” he said. “Plus, my wife has the same kind of inquiring mind.”

When it comes to talking about work, Roberts always prefers to get the professional talk out of the way early.

And when playing golf with a group of non lawyers, there is a surefire way to cut the tension.
“Any intimidation disappears as soon as I hit the ball,” Roberts said.

Best Legal Blog

Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog


This year, the most popular legal blog was the Marquette Law School Faculty Blog, a collaborative effort of the law school’s faculty.

Begun in September 2008, five faculty members edit the blog: Bruce E. Boyden; Richard M. Esenberg; Edward A. Fallone; Michael M. O’Hear; and Jessica E. Slavin.

More than two dozen other faculty members contribute, and the site also has posts from an Alum Blogger of the Month, and a Student Blogger of the month.

O’Hear, who teaches criminal law, mostly posts about criminal cases from the Seventh Circuit, but also those from the U.S. Supreme Court. He also highlights law review articles by fellow members of the faculty.

“It’s been a lot of fun, and I think very successful,” O’Hear said. “There are about a half dozen other law faculty blogs, but ours has the most content and the most frequent posting. It has a good readership, and good comments from readers.”

Fellow editor Richard Esenberg, who also has his own blog at http://www.sharkandshepherd.blogspot.com/, posts frequently on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, campaign finance regulation, and law and religion.
“I’m glad to know someone’s reading it,” Esenberg says.

Slavin teaches legal writing, appellate advocacy, and refugee law at Marquette, and does pro bono immigration work. Her posts typically discuss those issues.

Boyden generally posts about copyright law, and Fallone’s posts are all over the map.

Best Dressed Male & Female


James D. Friedman, Quarles & Brady LLP, Milwaukee

Amalia L. Todryk proves that lawyers can be fashionistas, too.

“I love fashion so I just try to keep it interesting and fun at work,” says Todryk. Among her favorite pieces are dresses and boots, and she favors patterns over solids.

She’s happy to have found a home at the Milwaukee headquarters of Quarles & Brady LLP, one of the few large law firms in the state that has a business-casual dress policy, and specifically doesn’t require women to wear nylons. Todryck hasn’t owned a pair in years, she says with great relief.

She’s also found a practice niche that coincides well with her passion for fashion. “When it’s a client that calls for the dark suit, I’m definitely in the dark suit. But otherwise, because there’s a very human element to what we do, people seem to enjoy your personality showing through with what you’re wearing, and it’s a way to express yourself.”

She loves online shopping for items from her favorite designers, Tory Burch and Diane von Furstenberg. She also enjoys visiting the local boutiques and taking shopping roadtrips to Northbrook and Chicago.

As for her colleague James D. Friedman, he says his favorite clothing stores are Roger Stevens across the street from his firm in the lobby of the Pfister Hotel, and Mark Berman & Son in Mequon.

Friedman says it pays to get to know the employees. At Roger Stevens, Dave Schertz “takes perfect care of me. He knows what I like.”

Best Law Office View

Foley & Lardner LLP, Milwaukee

The beautiful view from the Foley & Lardner’s offices in the U.S. Bank Building was voted best law office view by our readers for the second year in a row. The firm has space on 18 of the building’s 40 floors. The firm completed a major renovation in 2007, including conference rooms facing north along the windows on floors 33-39 and a conference center on the top floor.

Best Pro Bono Effort

Wisconsin Innocence Project, University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison

Last November, the Wisconsin Innocence Project secured its 13th exoneration since its establishment in 1999, with the release of Forest Shomberg. Shomberg had already served over six years in prison for a sexual assault he didn’t commit. New DNA evidence and newly developed scientific research on faulty eyewitness identification were the basis of the Dane County Court overturning the conviction.

Just a few months earlier, the Innocence Project’s 12th exoneration was the release of Robert Lee Stinson. Stinson had been convicted of homicide in 1985, but new forensic analysis of bite-mark evidence and new exculpatory DNA evidence resulted in the conviction being set aside.

Law students in this clinical program for the University of Wisconsin sometimes utilize cutting-edge DNA technology to seek exonerations of the wrongly convicted, while in other cases they use traditional investigation. Through this work, they learn how the criminal justice system works, and how it can sometimes go awry. The students gain insight into how a wrongful conviction can occur, and how it might have been prevented.

In recent years, the Project has also aided exonorees with their reintegration into society.

“We’re pleased and proud to have successfully freed more than a dozen wrongly convicted individuals, working primarily with law students on a limited budget,” said Professor Keith A. Findley, who serves as co-director of the Innocence Project along with Professor John Pray. “We’re gratified that the lessons learned from these cases have contributed to reforms of the criminal justice system that improve its reliability, to help convict the truly guilty and protect
the innocent.”

Best Rainmaker

Robert L. Habush
Habush Habush & Rottier S.C., Milwaukee

2nd: Mark Bradley
Ruder Ware LLSC, Wausau

3rd: David G. Walsh
Foley & Lardner LLP, Madison

Best Mediator

William A. Jennaro
Cook & Franke S.C., Milwaukee

2nd: Hon. Patrick L. Snyder
Waukesha County Circuit Court

3rd: Joseph D. McDevitt
McDevitt Mediation Services, Wauwatosa

Best Supreme Court Justice

Hon. Shirley S. Abrahamson, Chief Justice

2nd: Hon. Ann Walsh Bradley

3rd: Hon. David T. Prosser Jr.

Best Court of Appeals Judge

Hon. Richard S. Brown, Chief Judge, District II

2nd: Hon. Ralph Adam Fine, D
istrict I

3rd: Hon. Patricia S. Curley, District I

Best Circuit Court Judge

Hon. John J. DiMotto
Milwaukee County Circuit Court

2nd: Hon. Richard J. Sankovitz
Milwaukee County Circuit Court

3rd: Hon. John Markson
Dane County Circuit Court

3rd: Hon. Ralph Ramirez
Waukesha County Circuit Court (tie)

Best U.S. District Court Judge

Hon. Barbara B. Crabb
Western District of Wisconsin

2nd: Hon. Lynn S. Adelman
Eastern District of Wisconsin

3rd: Hon. William C. Griesbach
Eastern District of Wisconsin

Best Courtroom Clerk

Dawn Luck, Dodge County Circuit Court. Dawn works for Judge Andrew Bissonnette, but also for the other three judges in Dodge County.

Linda Kokemueller, Branch 42, Milwaukee County Circuit Court

Mary Sumner, Milwaukee County Circuit Court
(Jean DiMotto’s Clerk)

Kathleen Tenuta, Kenosha County Circuit Court

Best Bailiff

Deputy Steve Schmidt
Deputy Schmidt works at the courtroom in the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex (which is part of the probate courts), he deals with the Ch. 51 mental health commitment hearings.

Dave Kohler, Kenosha County, Branch 4,

Judge Anthony Milisauskas

Scott Oelke, Columbia County

Pat Ryan, Kenosha County

Richard Helms, Ozaukee County

Tina Nodolf, Wisconsin Supreme Court Marshal

Best Courthouse

Dane County Courthouse

2nd: Brown County Courthouse

3rd: Milwaukee County Courthouse and Waukesha County Courthouse (tie)

Best Legal Organization

State Bar of Wisconsin

With about 15,845 members in Wisconsin, it is the largest legal organization in the state. The group was organized as the Wisconsin Bar Association in 1878. In 1956 the Supreme Court made membership mandatory for attorneys practicing in the state and renamed it the State Bar of Wisconsin.

The group has 26 sections based on the law practice interests of its members. It also maintains more than two dozen committees dedicated to everything from Lawyer Dispute Resolution to the Unauthorized Practice of Law.

2nd: Wisconsin Association for Justice

3rd: Association for Women Lawyers, Milwaukee Bar Association, Wisconsin Association for Justice
(3-way tie)

Best Law Professor

Daniel D. Blinka
Marquette University Law School

2nd: Ralph Anzivino
Marquette University Law School

3rd: Ralph M. Cagle
University of Wisconsin Law School

Best Law Event

Annual Convention
State Bar of Wisconsin

Each May, the State Bar of Wisconsin hold its annual convention attracting about 1,000 attorneys for three days of continuing legal education programs and events. The event also features the swearing in of the new State Bar president each year.

2nd: Judges’ Night
Milwaukee Bar Association

3rd: Women Judges’ Night
Association for Women Lawyers

Best Pro Bono Effort

Wisconsin Innocence Project
University of Wisconsin Law School

2nd: Volunteer Lawyer Project,
Legal Action of Wisconsin Inc.

3rd: Milwaukee Justice Center
Milwaukee Bar Association

Best Law Office View

Foley & Lardner LLP, Milwaukee

2nd: Quarles & Brady LLP, Milwaukee

3rd: Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Milwaukee
Ruder Ware LLSC, Wausau (tie)

Best In-State Off-Site Retreat Spot

American Club, Kohler

For the second year in a row, if you are looking for a place to hold that off-site retreat, readers say the American Club in Kohler is the place to be. It was originally built in 1918 as a boarding house for immigrants working in the Kohler Co. factory. In 1981 it was renovated by the Kohler Co. and today it is a luxury resort hotel.

2nd: Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells
Lambeau Field in Green Bay (tie)

Best Law-Related Web Site

State Bar of Wisconsin

2nd: CCAP, (http://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl)
3rd: Wisconsin Law Journal, (www.wislawjournal.com)

Best Legal Blog

Marquette Law School Faculty Blog

2nd: Ann Althouse, (http://althouse.blogspot.com)
3rd: John DiMotto’s Bench & Bar Experiences,

Best Annual CLE Program

Annual Convention
State Bar of Wisconsin

2nd: WI Solo and Small Firm Conference

3rd: AAML — Divorce Wisconsin Style

Best Lawyer-Turned-Politician

Mayor Tom Barrett

2nd: Sen. Russ Feingold
3rd: Gov. Jim Doyle

Best Lawyer to Fill Out a Foursome in Golf

Lon Roberts
Ruder Ware LLSC, Wausau

2nd: James D. Friedman
Quarles & Brady, Milwaukee

Patrick Knight
Gimbel, Reilly Guerin & Brown LLP, Milwaukee

Peter Bockhorst
Bockhorst Law Offices LLC, Milwaukee

Hon. Terence Evans
United States Court of Appeals, Milwaukee (tie)

Best Lawyer to Sit Next to at a Law Event

Mike Guerin
Gimbel Reilly Guerin & Brown LLP, Milwaukee

Gregg Herman
Loeb & Herman SC, Milwaukee

Gerald O’Brien
Anderson, O’Brien, Bertz, Skrenes & Golla, Stevens Point

Don Jackson
Milwaukee County District Attorneys Office, Milwaukee

Karen Zimmermann
Karen G. Zimmermann Law Office, Milwaukee

Five-way tie for first place! These law folks are fun to be around.

Best Place for Lunch with a Client

Wisconsin Club, Milwaukee

For the second consecutive year, our readers said the best place for lunch with a client is the Wisconsin Club, an elegant French Second Empire-style mansion across the street from the Milwaukee County Courthouse. The 160-year-old mansion was originally the home of Alexander Mitchell, a powerful figure in Milwaukee’s banking and insurance industries. The Wisconsin Club offers a choice of formal dining in the first-floor Mitchell Room or casual dining at Alexander’s sports bar and grill downstairs.

2nd: Mason Street Grill, Madison Club (tie)

Best Place for a High-Powered Dinner

Bacchus, Milwaukee

Also a repeat winner, Bartolotta’s Bacchus is a sleek and stylish restaurant, located in the historic Cudahy Tower on East Wells in Milwaukee. Bacchus offers fine dining with an emphasis on fresh seafood, handmade pastas, and grilled meats.

2nd: L’Etoile, Madison

3rd: Magnus, Madison,
Mo’s Steak House, Milwaukee,
Mason Street Grill, Milwaukee (tie)

Best Lawyer Hangout

Wisconsin Club, Milwaukee

Once again, lawyers turned to Alexander Mitchell’s historic mansion located across the street from the Milwaukee Courthouse as the place to be.

2nd: Miller Park, Milwaukee

3rd: Brocach, Madison

Best Place to Get a Power Suit

Roger Stevens, 428 East Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee

Conveniently located in the lobby of the Pfister Hotel, 428 East Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, Roger Stevens has a full-service tailor shop, with custom-made shirts, suits, jackets and accessories. Our best dress male attorney, James Friedman of Quarles & Brady, shops at Roger Stevens.

2nd: Macy’s
Harley’s, Shorewood
Jos. A Bank (tie)

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