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In-house hasn’t been boring for Rexnord’s Whaley

Patricia M. Whaley

Patricia M. Whaley

After three years in private practice as a litigator, Patricia M. Whaley told her colleagues she was leaving to go in-house. The universal response was she’d be bored because she wouldn’t get to go to court.

How wrong they were, says Whaley, now Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary for Rexnord LLC in Milwaukee.

“It’s been anything but dull,” she said. “I love the triage aspect of it. Unlike being in a law firm, here you have to gather the facts and figure out what the legal issues are, and you have to do it pretty quickly. We don’t have the time or resources to drill as deeply as the law firms do when we hire outside counsel, for the issues with higher exposure.

“I love the fast pace of my job, and the wide variety of issues I handle as general counsel. And, as a global company, we’re constantly learning about new issues in various parts of the world.”

Rexnord operates as a multiplatform industrial company, manufacturing and marketing power transmission and water management products.

Whaley joined the company in 1989 as its litigation manager, and was promoted to general counsel in 2002. She now heads its team of five lawyers and two paralegals.

Rexnord now employs approximately 5,800 worldwide and has been in existence since the 1890s. Whaley calls it “a Milwaukee institution.”

“We’re one of the few remaining global manufacturing companies headquartered in Milwaukee and we’re proud of that.”

Likewise, she says the community takes pride in Rexnord.

That became most evident to her in late 2006, when a propane gas explosion killed three and injured dozens of other workers at the Falk Corp. in Milwaukee, a division of Rexnord. The most sensitive, high-stakes litigation resulting from the blast has been settled to everyone’s satisfaction, with just a few smaller claims still pending.

“I was really proud to be a part of the team that worked through all the serious issues that were presented, and very proud to be part of the Canal Street plant and work with those employees, who were really a wonderful group of people,” she says. “The community really rallied to support us, too.”

The future looks bright for Rexnord. Two years ago, the company filed Form S-1 with the SEC announcing its intention to become publicly traded. While the weak economy has put that plan on hold, Whaley anticipates it will be put back into action once the recovery’s effects are more widely felt.

She is married to attorney Kevin Whaley, and they have three daughters.

Employer: Rexnord LLC, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary

Education: J.D., University of Wisconsin, 1986

Professional affiliations: Whitefish Bay Advocates for    Education, board of directors; Rexnord Foundation, board of directors; women’s soccer recreational player and aficionado

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