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Practice, mock trials keep Lanford busy

By: Jane Pribek//February 16, 2011//

Practice, mock trials keep Lanford busy

By: Jane Pribek//February 16, 2011//

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Rhonda L. Lanford – Habush Habush & Rottier

Photo by Kevin Harnack
Photo by Kevin Harnack

A few years ago, Rhonda L. Lanford volunteered to coach a group of freshmen mock trial students at Madison East High School.

She jokingly told the participants that she’d come back for their sophomore year only if they all returned.

Sure enough, they all did, and Lanford ended up coaching that group through their graduation.

That anecdote says a great deal about the infectious nature of Lanford’s passion for teaching the law.

Lanford, a shareholder at the Madison office of plaintiffs’ personal-injury firm Habush Habush & Rottier, is also passionate about helping the firm’s clients.

She’s been involved in dozens of multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements. “They’ve all involved clients with significant injuries, who really needed our help,” Lanford said. “It’s hard not to be a true believer in the type of work we do here, when you can put a face with every case.”

She leads the firm’s appellate practice group and helps with all the firm’s trial-court matters involving significant writing. She also serves as a resource to the firm’s 39 other attorneys generally, because she’s known and respected among her colleagues for her ability to get answers, be it help with case strategy or legal research.

Lanford additionally teaches Trial Advocacy and coaches Mock Trial at the University of Wisconsin Law School, noting that her firm is extremely supportive of her teaching.

Further, in 2003, Lanford, Ellen K. Berz and Susan R. Steingass founded the law school’s mock trial program.

She has since coached several teams in national competitions, winning the American Association for Justice national mock trial competition in 2010.

Her teaching/coaching is the perfect complement to her practice, Lanford said. Working with budding lawyers keeps her sharp in new developments in the law, and occasionally she can incorporate her practice experience into her teaching.

Berz is one of several mentors Lanford identifies, along with colleagues Steingass and Daniel A. Rottier. They taught her Trial Practice course when she was a student, and later encouraged her to join their firm.

That happened in 1997, when Robert L. Habush was chosen to represent the state in the multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the tobacco manufacturers. Habush selected Lanford for his team, and it was an invaluable learning experience from one of the state’s best trial lawyers.


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