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Foley’s new CEO is ready for the challenge

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//May 25, 2011//

Foley’s new CEO is ready for the challenge

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//May 25, 2011//

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WLJ Photo by Kevin Harnack
WLJ Photo by Kevin Harnack

When attorney Jay Rothman attended Harvard Law School in the early 1980s, he had little comprehension of how large firms such as Foley & Lardner LLP functioned.

But on June 1, Rothman will become intimately familiar with the Milwaukee firm’s inner workings, as he takes over as CEO of the large practice.

Soon after graduating law school in 1985, Rothman, 51, joined the Milwaukee office of Foley and has spent the past 25 years carving out a successful mergers and acquisitions and securities law practice.

He also has accumulated the business sense that will assist him in his role as the firm’s next leader; a job the Wausau native said was never on his radar until outgoing CEO Ralf Boer approached him a few years ago about the possibility.

Rothman said he is looking forward to the change, and along with it, the ability to continue practicing law.

On the cusp of his new role, Rothman took time to participate in this week’s Asked & Answered.

Wisconsin Law Journal: If you could develop one CLE course for credit, what would it be about?

Jay Rothman: Since our job as lawyers is to help clients solve problems, I would develop a CLE course focused on practical problem-solving techniques. In resolving a client’s concerns, the application of common sense is sometimes as important as sophisticated legal analysis.

WLJ: What was your least favorite course in law school and why?

Rothman: Property. To this day I’m still not sure if I fully understand the rule against perpetuities.

WLJ: What is your favorite website and why?

Rothman: My favorite website is, of course. Seriously, I think Foley has a terrific website, which is going to be even better soon. The entire Foley site is being redesigned.

WLJ: What is the one luxury item you cannot live without?

Rothman: The navigation system in my car. I save a lot of time not having to stop and ask for directions.

WLJ: What is one thing attorneys should know that they won’t learn in law school?

Rothman: The impact that the law has on the lives of real people. Law is much more than theory and hypotheticals. I didn’t truly appreciate that connection until my first year out of law school, when I clerked for a federal judge and saw how the law actually shapes how we live and work.

WLJ: What is the first concert you went to?

Rothman: Growing up in Wausau, concert-going was not high on my agenda. I guess my first real concert was seeing Jimmy Buffett at Alpine Valley. I followed that by going to see the Grateful Dead perform, which can only be described as one of life’s unique experiences.

WLJ: If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be and why?

Rothman: I’d love to trade places with my kids for a day to get a firsthand perspective on how the next generation views the world.

WLJ: What is your motto?

Rothman: I really don’t have a clever motto. Perhaps that is a developmental need.

WLJ: What is your favorite movie about lawyers and why?

Rothman: The original “Wall Street” movie with Michael Douglas. Although it doesn’t portray a lawyer as a main character, it does illustrate how greed can be both alluring and corrosive. It is a good reminder that the easiest and most lucrative path is often not the right one.

WLJ: If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

Rothman: I probably would have gone into business. I have always been intrigued by people who dedicate their life’s work to building a successful business.

Jack Zemlicka can be reached at [email protected].


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