Before she chose the law, Elisabeth Shea joined the Peace Corps in West Africa and earned a master’s degree in agricultural and applied economics.
“I decided I wanted to work more directly with businesses,” she said, “and that law would allow me to do that.”
She now advises municipalities on such topics as zoning, land use, real estate, ordinances and contracts. Shea also helps businesses draft, negotiate and review contracts.
“I enjoy working with policymakers, whether they’re government policymakers or business policymakers,” she said. “They’re the people with the ideas, who have a goal.”
And, along the way, she keeps learning. That was the case when she helped a community try to acquire a blighted property through eminent domain.
“We faced issues that no one here had faced before — how to deal with lien holders on the property and environmental contamination issues that hadn’t yet been decided by a court,” Shea said. “So there was a lot of finding our way, even guessing at times.”
It helps to have a network of attorneys through the Dane County Bar Association
“I don’t necessarily think you need to be an experienced attorney to have a leadership position within the bar association,” Shea said. “You just have to have the enthusiasm and the interest and the drive to be involved.”
Shea’s last day at Stafford Rosenbaum was Sept. 4. She recently joined the Legislative Reference Bureau as a legislative attorney.
What is the single best part about being an attorney?
I think it is just having a unique set of skills to help people solve their problems. I think it adds a lot of value to organizations and individuals’ lives. I think lawyers get a bad rap, but I think they do a lot of good.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Sleeping in because I have a 1-year-old daughter, and she is a very early riser.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Wisconsin?
Anything outdoors, like walking or skiing in the woods. I like to go fly fishing with my dad, or canoe.
What is your greatest fear?
That somebody learns what my greatest fear is.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would need less sleep.
Which living person do you most admire?
My parents. It’s because they just live life with the perfect mix of enthusiasm, curiosity, compassion and wit.
What would you say if your children were interested in becoming lawyers?
I would say, ‘Go for it,’ because I think law school is a fascinating, mind-opening education. And then there’s many things you can do as a lawyer, so she wouldn’t be narrowing her options. She would be expanding her options.