It’s difficult not to like Brian Butler.
“Except, maybe, if you’re opposing counsel when he’s really kicking butt,” said Aly Lynch, a law librarian with the Madison firm Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, where Butler is a managing partner.
It’s a welcome comment for a man who joined the firm as an associate almost 40 years ago.
“When we stop seeking, we’re dead,” said the 68-year-old Madison resident. “And I’m still seeking. These days I’m trying to develop more of a practice in mediation and arbitration, but I have very much enjoyed working with my clients and I have enjoyed fighting lawsuits.
“For me, it’s not the opponent,” Butler continued. “I don’t consider it a fight with another lawyer or the other side. It’s about persuading a jury or a judge that they should adopt your view of the case. That’s the challenge. And the great satisfaction is in succeeding in doing it.”
Butler attributes his success to some carefully chosen words, persuasive arguments and a bit of theater. And, of course, his wife of 26 years, Carolyn, receives credit.
“I think she sanded off some rough edges,” he said. “I have a tendency to be sarcastic. I have a tendency to be a troublemaker. And she calls me on it.”
Outside the office, Butler is active with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Dane County.
Butler and his wife became involved with their “littles,” because they wanted to stay involved with young people after their own children grew up. Now their littles are growing up, too. Butler’s Little Brother, who was 8 years old when they met, recently joined the Air Force.
Their relationship, along with the Butlers’ bond with their Little Brother’s biological sister, have been a welcome diversion from what Butler described as a worthwhile but unexpectedly “political” undertaking volunteering with the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison. Butler has helped raise $1 million for the center.
Butler said he appreciated the challenges, such as tackling disagreements about how to organize and run the center, and saw them as a chance to maintain his courtroom skills.
“The skills I’ve developed as a lawyer, of making the point persuasively, come in handy,” he said. “It’s also helped being able to make a joke at the appropriate time to lighten things up a bit.”