As a new lawyer, Bruce Huibregtse’s first file was defending a claim from a plaintiff who slipped on a banana peel.
“I thought the firm was playing a joke on me,” Huibregtse said with a chuckle. “I gave the file back and said, ‘Give me a real case.’”
But the case was real and it became his first trial.
“We won on liability,” he said.
It was a memorable start to Huibregtse’s 33-year complex civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution practice.
Not long after, Huibregtse was tapped to assist with the defense of a steel manufacturer in a class-action product-liability case brought by area residents when a bridge spanning the Mississippi River in Prairie du Chien was under repair. His client prevailed on summary judgment.
In February 2004, Huibregtse became managing partner of his then-125-year-old firm.
Among his first major accomplishments in the role was to shepherd a move across the Capitol Square in Madison.
Huibregtse in 2007 turned his focus to overseeing the creation of a branch office in Milwaukee. That office has since grown to nine lawyers.
The most recent challenge, which he’s still tackling, is guiding some of the firm’s most senior lawyers into the final stages of their careers, while ensuring that newer lawyers are ready to step into leadership positions.
This includes his own transition back to the full-time practice of law in February, when he steps down from the top spot.
“I think it’s important to have fresh ideas and recognize the perspective of younger lawyers,” he said.
Even before starting to practice law, Huibregtse became a volunteer for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Dane County. He has served on its board including as president, and as a “big” on numerous occasions. He’s also recruited many others to volunteer.
Among them is Dane County Circuit Court Judge John Markson, a former law partner.
“Bruce is very active in his practice, his family and the community,” Markson said. “He brings to each an attention that is really quite remarkable.
“He’s an absolutely solid lawyer. When you give him a matter, you know it’s going to be handled well.”