Sally Merrell, von Briesen & Roper SC
Law degree received from: University of Virginia School of Law, 1980
Growing up as the youngest in a family of five taught Sally Merrell the value of compromise. It’s something that comes in handy, she said, in her work as a shareholder and chairperson of von Briesen & Roper SC’s Trusts and Estate section in Milwaukee.
“That helped me realize that you can’t always win and that you need to compromise, which is something I’ve found useful in my work,” Merrell said.
Merrell provides guidance and feedback to the firm’s dozen professionals that provide business succession planning, estate and trust administration, estate planning, charitable gift planning and private foundation work.
“Sally creates a collaborative environment in which all are encouraged to learn from the experiences of their colleagues,” said Randall Crocker, president and CEO of von Briesen & Roper.
Her respectful and thoughtful approach to leadership makes Merrell an outstanding mentor, he said, for other attorneys at the firm.
“As a mentor, Sally is committed to encouraging the growth and advancement of the attorneys and paralegals she works with,” Crocker said. “She respects the expertise of others and values the skills each attorney brings to the team.”
Merrell encourages those she mentors to go with their gut, she said.
“I tell young attorneys they need to trust their instincts — they’re good,” Merrell said. “I also remind them that a legal career is a marathon, not a sprint, so plan carefully.”
Part of that marathon is working to stay up-to-date on the ever-changing area of trusts and estate law, she said, as well as current events that may affect the practice. It’s a continual challenge, Merrell said, but one she embraces.
Through her work, Merrell focuses on providing clients with practical and strategic solutions to their legal needs, often with the idea that compromise is necessary. One of her additional strengths, Crocker said, is Merrell always keeps in mind the sensitive nature of the topics and decisions involved in trusts and estate planning and administration.
Outside of the office, Merrell finds time to use her professional skills to help nonprofits, including Lake Park Friends, the Donors Forum of Wisconsin and the Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee.
“It’s rewarding to have your professional life, values and volunteer work overlap,” she said, “and you can make a difference.”