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Guiding employers away from trouble

Wisconsin Law Journal photo/Kevin Harnack

Sometimes it’s what an attorney does outside the courtroom that makes the biggest difference.

“We spend a lot of time basically counseling employers on how to stay out of those discrimination and EEOC situations,” said Carmen Couden, who primarily represents employers in court litigation, administrative proceedings and state Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hearings. “Depending on the day, we could spend the whole day counseling or we could spend the whole day in court. Either way, we’re trying to help them get through one way or another.”

Couden said the most challenging aspect of her practice is that so many aspects of business are geared toward employees.

“Anybody can file a charge of discrimination and it has to be investigated and responded to,” said Couden, who recently was promoted to senior counsel.

It’s also frustrating, she said, that companies defending against discrimination can’t recoup legal fees.

“Even when they win,” Couden said, “our clients sort of lose.”

Still, it’s rewarding to help clients find the right path, she said. And Couden appreciates opportunities for pro bono work with the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau and the Milwaukee Bar Association’s Milwaukee Justice Center.

“It’s just another way for me to give back,” she said.

If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what do you think you would have chosen as a career path?

I think probably I would have ended up being a veterinarian. I love animals, and I’m pretty involved with the Humane Society, in terms of donating. And I have my own dogs, and I’ve always had pets.

What is your greatest extravagance?

This one is a tough one for me because I don’t have anything I collect. I can’t point to shoes or purses. This is going to sound silly, but I guess maybe it’s having the premium cable package and having every single channel under the sun, even though I don’t get to watch them.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Wisconsin?

It’s just visiting my parents. They live in Richland Center. That’s just a couple hours drive, so for me that’s my favorite thing to do.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would definitely change, I guess, personal discipline. I would be more disciplined about how I spend my time. There are people I know and I work with who manage to make the most of every workday and their time.

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