Tom Pyper never stops learning.
At the start of each case, the commercial litigator spends time educating himself on how the businesses involved work. It’s resulted in a wide knowledge base from which he can draw, but it takes a significant time commitment.
“The challenging part is every time someone comes in I have to say, ‘I don’t know. I can tell you the law, but I don’t know how it applies to you until you tell me how your business works,’” explained Pyper, who leads the energy and public utilities team at Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek SC.
So, if, for example, he’s representing a utility company that wants to put up a wind generation facility, Pyper looks into the technology — how wind turbines work, how they replace coal. Then, he works on breaking that down for a jury.
“He’s got an amazing ability,” said Cindy Buchko, a fellow shareholder and co-chair of the firm’s litigation practice group, “to take extraordinary facts or legal circumstances and distill them to their essence and convey them in a way that someone without the background can understand.”
Pyper said it’s a technique based in practicality.
“People don’t want a lawyer to talk smart to them,” he said. “You’ve got to use examples to explain things. If you fall back on using terms we, as lawyers, are familiar with, you can see their eyes glaze over and they don’t pay attention.”
To get it all done, Pyper admits working way too many nights and weekends.
“He is a person who is rarely not here on a weekend, but he doesn’t necessarily expect that of his colleagues,” Buchko said. “He’s probably the most compassionate person I know. He understands that people’s personal lives are also important. He really respects that boundary.”
It’s a lesson in work-life balance Pyper is more than willing to share, even if he doesn’t apply it to himself.
“It’s probably too late for me,” Pyper said with a laugh. “But when I talk to young lawyers, I tell them, ‘Don’t be like me.’
“I think striking that balance is important, even if I have not been an example of it.”