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Hurley finds his footing in litigation

Stephen Hurley (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Stephen Hurley (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Stephen Hurley likes the idea of performing. Growing up, he wanted to be the next Fred Astaire, but opted instead for a more traditional career in law.

It did not come naturally, however.

“After 10 years of practicing business law, it was painful,” Hurley, an attorney with Hurley, Burish & Stanton SC, Madison, said. “I did a career aptitude test and they told me my strengths were more suitable for another profession, such as the performance arts.”

Hurley instead opted to combine the two and become a litigator. When in a trial, he said he’s very much “in the moment.”

“With litigation, you don’t get bogged down in the same thing over and over again,” he said. “It’s always new and different.”

One big change Hurley has noticed through the years is that fewer cases end in trial.

“People are settling more. Cost is a huge reason,” he said. “I really think that for the system of justice to work, it needs to be accessible to the people.

“When the costs get too high and people decide to settle instead of letting a jury of their peers decide, I don’t know if the legal system is serving its purpose.”

While he handles a variety of cases, Hurley particularly enjoys trying cases against the government. “There’s something very satisfying about it,” he said. “I don’t like bullies and sometimes the government can be a bully.”

Hurley said he appreciates getting to express the performer side of his personality every time he’s in the courtroom.

“I definitely enjoy what I do,” he said.

Wisconsin Law Journal: What was your least-favorite class in law school?
Stephen Hurley: Contracts. The drone of my professor’s voice could extinguish fireworks in mid-burn.

WLJ: What would you have done if you didn’t study law?
Hurley: Dance.

WLJ: What is your greatest accomplishment?
Hurley: Raising my children.

WLJ: What famous person would you like to have drinks with?
Hurley: Carrie Nation. She was one of the people who led the charge for Prohibition. I hope by having drinks with her, we could change her mind and avoid all of what later happened.

WLJ: What activity could you spend hours doing outside of the office?
Hurley: Walking.

WLJ: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Hurley: I do live there: Madison.

WLJ: What was the first concert you ever attended?
Hurley: The Kingston Trio in Chicago around 1963.

WLJ: What is your favorite thing to do in Wisconsin?
Hurley: Try a case in Superior in January.

WLJ: Who do you admire?
Hurley: Those who are kind and patient.

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