It is increasingly rare for attorneys to spend their entire careers with one firm, but don’t tell Peter Sommerhauser.
The corporate lawyer joined the Milwaukee office of Godfrey & Kahn SC in 1969, soon after he graduated from Northwestern University Law School.
In his 42 years with the firm, Sommerhauser has evolved his practice to include advising corporations, executives and owners on financial and business decisions, as well as a healthy workload of mergers and acquisitions.
While the transactional side of corporate practice has taken a hit during the recession, Sommerhauser said, he has kept busy helping businesses structure succession and financing plans.
Outside of his practice, Sommerhauser is an active member of several boards including the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the Penfield Children’s Center and Gilda’s Club.
The veteran attorney took time to reflect on his dedicated career in this week’s Asked & Answered.
Wisconsin Law Journal: If you could develop one CLE course for credit, what would it be about?
Peter Sommerhauser: The course that I would develop for CLE credit would be instruction on self-discipline to produce quality work at all times. Teach attorneys that quality generally produces good economic results in the long-term.
WLJ: What was your least favorite course in law school and why?
Sommerhauser: My least favorite course in law school was administrative law. The whole subject area was not very interesting and, for the most part, dealt with problems and processes that were not business related.
WLJ: What is your favorite website and why?
Sommerhauser: My favorite website is wsj.com as, throughout the day, one can have access to important news developments and financial information relative to many clients and their businesses.
WLJ: What is the one luxury item you cannot live without?
Sommerhauser: My Blackberry is the one luxury item I cannot live without. I’m on it probably 22 hours a day.
Sommerhauser: Attorneys should know that law school will not teach them the skill of listening. Additionally, attorneys must learn they are not the decision makers and, accordingly, should fully communicate the benefits, as well as the risks, to allow the client to come to his or her own conclusion.
WLJ: What is the first concert you went to?
Sommerhauser: The Everly Brothers in early 1960s. I grew up in a smaller town where there was not a big concert venue. I finally attended the show at the auditorium and everyone figured out early that they weren’t singing. I walked away thinking that was the norm for concerts.
WLJ: If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be and why?
Sommerhauser: Trading places with either Warren Buffet or Bill Gates would be interesting, as both individuals have excellent insight into not only their own successful ventures, but the business world in general. Because of their business acumen, they have attained financial success and are in a position on a global basis to help those less fortunate. They have the ability to make a major impact in health care and education in the United States and the world.
WLJ: What is your motto?
Sommerhauser: ‘Be the most prepared’ would be my motto.
WLJ: What is your favorite movie about lawyers or the law and why?
Sommerhauser: ‘My Cousin Vinny.’ It illustrates the success of a novice lawyer under most difficult circumstances, and is very funny.
WLJ: If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
Sommerhauser: I gave very serious consideration during law school to becoming a college professor and, in fact, did teach at the college level after law school. I always thought I might go back to teaching, but am quite certain that nothing could exceed the satisfaction and pleasure that the practice of law has provided to me.
Jack Zemlicka can be reached at [email protected].