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2011 Unsung Heroes – Legal secretary

By: Justin Kern//November 18, 2011//

2011 Unsung Heroes – Legal secretary

By: Justin Kern//November 18, 2011//

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2011 Legal secretary of the year

Keri Kempski
Legal secretary, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC

Between court deadlines, pressing clients and demanding  opposing counsel, it’s expected that everyone on a litigation team might blow their stack from time to time.

Well, nearly everyone.

Legal secretary Keri Kempski has kept her cool for nearly two decades of under-the-gun work at Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC. As a legal assistant to three attorneys on the litigation team and a retired shareholder, Kempski provides an organizational backbone to her team, said litigation attorney Colleen Fielkow.

Kempski’s calm and “completely professional” demeanor is an added benefit, she said.

On any given day, Kempski is the first line of contact for every emergency situation coming into the litigation team, finding the answers or attorneys to put clients at ease and diligently arranging documents that are due on deadline at the courthouse.

Even when the world around her seems to be falling to pieces, Fielkow said, Kempski never cracks.

She credits Kempski’s poise to that of an employee who “lives and breathes client services.”“It’s very stressful here in the office, but her interface with our client, the national counsel, is completely professional,” Fielkow said, “totally amenable to whatever they need. Behind the scenes, you’re scurrying, but her contact with our client is smooth.”—

Justin Kern


Linda Barnhart-Heser,
paralegal/office administrator, Dye, Foley, Krohn & Shannon SC

“Linda has been a legal secretary for our firm, and its predecessors of various names, for over almost 45 years. In addition to handling secretarial duties for two of the three attorneys here (me included), Linda acts as bookkeeper and office manager. Despite having a huge amount of work to do (especially for us attorneys who need things right away), Linda never complains, gets angry or has a bad word to say about anyone. She almost always has a smile on her face, regardless of what is transpiring in her personal life. She is not only hard-working but the most-efficient colleague – regardless of profession – I have ever worked with. I have practiced law for 23 years and, in short, I have never had the honor of having such a capable and competent and caring legal secretary/office manager work with me.”

Mark Hinkston
partner, Dye, Foley, Krohn & Shannon SC

Michele Berg,
legal secretary, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP

“Michele has been my litigation assistant for approximately a year and a half and is always willing to go the extra mile for anything I need. She is very efficient and constantly amazes me that she gets the work done so fast. She knows the intricacies of so many programs … she patiently teaches me with some good humor along the way! She worked in project support for 13 years assisting everyone in the firm on special projects and overflow work. Michele is frequently requested to work on special projects for the firm and is often on call during the weekends. Lawyers feel comfortable depending on Michele no matter what the project because they know she will do an excellent job.”

Barbara Meyers
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP

Dawn Clarke,
legal secretary for trusts and estates group, Quarles & Brady LLP

“I have worked closely with Dawn for the last 16 of her 25 years at Quarles &
Brady and known her for her entire career here. Dawn’s current role is a critical one. In addition to supporting my very busy practice, she also supports a very busy paralegal and still finds time to coordinate the activities of 20 other legal secretaries on the floor as a work counselor. She also leads the Milwaukee office’s Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure efforts for more than a decade. Dawn is extraordinarily organized, loyal and reliable. She always gets projects done in an expeditious and accurate
manner. She is a fair and empathetic person and I regard her as one of my best friends, in and out of the office.”

Paul Tilleman,
supervising attorney, Quarles & Brady LLP

Sue Gray,
executive secretary, Office of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Commissioner

“Sue Gray is a marvel. She edits, fact checks and cite checks draft disciplinary opinions, orders and memos for four busy Supreme Court commissioners and helps the commissioners process petitions for changes in Supreme Court rules. All of these tasks require a keen attention to detail, something that Sue has in spades. Sue’s legal research and writing skills rival those of many attorneys. She is the consummate team player who is always willing to help others. Sue’s efforts have greatly increased the productivity of the entire office. She is intelligent, efficient, dedicated, discrete, tactful and patient. She personifies professionalism.”

Nancy Kopp, Julie Rich and David Runke
commissioners, Wisconsin Supreme Court

Janice Hansen,
legal secretary, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP

“Janice has been with Michael Best & Friedrich for over 25 years. She is the epitome of what a professional legal secretary should be. She performs all of the routine legal secretarial tasks sublimely. She excels at deciphering my handwriting and cryptic notes; maintains my schedule and promptly keeps me posted on meetings, conference calls, etc. Nobody can word process a document as quickly or as well. Jan does all of this while multi-tasking and assisting three attorneys and training on new IP platforms. She is
unfailing reliable, highly productive, efficient and a great team player.”

Robert Johannes
partner, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP

Barbara Herbst,
legal secretary, Godfrey & Kahn SC

“When I started as a new attorney with the firm in the summer of 1969, Barb was
assigned to be my assistant. I quickly discovered how intelligent she was. Barb knew more about process and drafting than I did … After about five years of working together, Barb left the firm to raise her three children. After about 10 years, I finally convinced Barb to consider coming back to Godfrey & Kahn. Barb is very smart and had she chosen to go to law school, she would have made a great attorney. She deals directly with clients, many of whom ask for her first since they know they will get what they need through her. She also reviews all drafts and consistently makes excellent suggestions for improvements.

I can’t think of a more well-rounded, deserving person for this prestigious recognition.”

Peter Sommerhauser
attorney shareholder, Godfrey & Kahn SC

Lynn Herder,
legal secretary, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC

“To the attorneys that she works with, Lynn is a tremendous asset. She approaches every task and challenge with a smile on her face. She is enthusiastic and very conscientious. Lynn consistently goes above and beyond and seeks to assist her attorneys in every way possible. She is extremely trustworthy and highly competent. Lynn has a ‘can do’ attitude and is always ready to take on the next challenge. Her co-workers enjoy working with her because she is always ready to lend a helping hand. Lynn is an exceptional person who cares about her work, yet never seeks recognition.”

Peter Blain, Michael Jankowski, Katie Triska and L. Katie Mason
attorneys, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC

Sue Miles,
legal secretary, Quarles & Brady LLP

“Sue is a fantastic assistant. She always goes above and beyond what is expected
of her. She has canceled vacations for me and other attorneys here. She comes in on the weekend and stays late as needed. Plus, her work is always perfect, and she is fantastic with clients.”

Nicole Druckrey
attorney, Quarles & Brady LLP

Mary Jo Nyenhuis,
executive legal secretary, Wisconsin Judicare Inc.

“Mary Jo Nyenhuis has been a dedicated and hardworking employee at Wisconsin Judicare Inc. since February 1983. In her 28 years of reliable service, no staff attorney or director is aware of a single complaint to have ever crossed her lips. … She has a positive attitude that cannot be matched. Mary Jo has always displayed the utmost kindness in dealing with unpleasant work situations, never curries favor to one attorney over another, and has shone a very bright spot in the Judicare workplace throughout her years of service. Always with a smile on her face, she is ready to face another day of unexpected and timely tasks. Always willing to come in early, stay late or work weekends, she routinely goes above and beyond not only for Wisconsin Judicare but the thousands of low-income clients that we serve every year.”

Beth Ann Richlen
staff attorney, Wisconsin Judicare Inc.

Nydia Ortiz,
legal secretary, Quarles & Brady LLP

“Nydia is an excellent assistant who anticipates what needs to be done before I ask her to do it. She has been employed by Quarles & Brady LLP for many years and always arrives on time, rarely misses work for any reason and is enthusiastic about her job and prospects. She takes care of me and two other attorneys and always can get all of our work done when we need it.”

Thomas John Phillips
partner, Quarles & Brady LLP

Wendy Scheels,
legal secretary, Peterson, Johnson & Murray SC

“In her 21 years at this firm, and with me in particular, Wendy has demonstrated an unselfish willingness to assist all coworkers. She volunteers to come in early, stay late or will sacrifice time off to complete work when necessary and does so with near flawless accuracy. She is always willing to help out with any task to get the job done. She will clear a copy jam, cut her lunch short to cover for another secretary and, when she catches errors of coworkers, will always discreetly ensure that it is corrected.

I could not hope for a more competent or dedicated employee than Wendy.”

William Sachse Jr.
supervising attorney, Peterson, Johnson & Murray SC

Annie Schwartz,
legal secretary, Pellino, Rosen & Mowris SC

“She is an outstanding assistant to me who helps me deal with my clients, does my typing and filing, and keeps me organized and on track. I have worked with her for many years and would not be the lawyer I am today without her assistance. She is amazing with clients and goes beyond her duties to try to help them.”

Gerald Mowris
attorney, Pellino, Rosen & Mowris SC

Donna Simon,
legal secretary/technical liaison, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC

“Where Ms. Simon stands out above and beyond all other legal secretaries I know of is that her clients love her. That is important in our ever-competitive legal marketplace, as she has become an integral part of my practice development efforts. Whether it is making a hotel reservation for a foreign client or tracking me down for an impromptu conference call, Ms. Simon makes the clients feel that they are very important. I believe that this skill of hers helps me retain a greater percent of my clients and helps me obtain new clients. This is an exceptional skill that many attorneys overlook in their legal secretaries, but is truly valuable to the practice of law.”

Robert Misey Jr.
attorney, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC

Joyce Thomas,
legal secretary, Herrling Clark Law Firm Ltd

“Joyce has been my legal secretary for the past 36 years. … She is an important part of my practice, not only for her superior secretarial skills, but also for her knowledge of our practice and her relationship with our clients. I am often bypassed when clients call; they want to talk to Joyce. We have worked together so long she often answers a question before I ask it. I think I am going to have to retire when she does.”

Michael Siddall
president, Herrling Clark Law Firm Ltd.

Rita Thomas,
legal assistant, city of West Bend

“Rita has been the legal assistant for the West Bend City Attorney’s Office since 2000. Prior to that she worked for many years as an administrative professional in other city departments. When she took the position with the city attorney’s office, she had to almost completely reorganize the office and its files. She is an outstanding administrative
professional who exhibits great skills, dedication to her work and works well with others in the office and in the public. Rita is retiring in October after 25-plus years with the city of West Bend. She is truly deserving of this honor.”

Mary Schanning
city attorney, city of West Bend

Amy Winch,
legal assistant to Tim Edwards and Dan McAlvanah, Axley Brynelson LLP

“This nomination is long overdue. Amy has overcome a number of personal obstacles that would make a normal person crumble. Instead of giving up, she has developed into the best legal assistant I have ever had. She has a wonderful personality. My clients love her and praise her regularly. She works hard, and has a focus to detail that is far above others in her field. She is truly special. Amy comes to work with a smile on her face and works with extreme dedication and professionalism.

I respect and admire her more than anyone I have ever met.”

Timothy Edwards
partner, Axley Brynelson LLP

“Amy is an incredibly dedicated, reliable and hardworking legal assistant who has worked for me for most of my career.

She handles an extremely demanding case load from two very busy attorneys … and never complains. She is constantly upbeat and positive, and she is well liked in our office. One more occasions than I can count, she has made corrections to my work to make me look good.

I cannot imagine having a different legal assistant.”

Daniel McAlvanah
attorney,  Axley Brynelson LLP


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