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Howell strikes the right life balance

By: Justin Kern//June 25, 2013//

Howell strikes the right life balance

By: Justin Kern//June 25, 2013//

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howellBobbi Howell measures her career success in terms of the many close, sustained support networks she has formed.

Her legal career has included nearly 25 years in the distribution and finance practice at Foley & Lardner LLP, and she said the steadfast theme of her life in law has been that she was never on her own.

“It has been nice, but not easy,” Howell said, “when you can combine the personal aspects of your life and the work that makes them go together rather than against.”

Howell, a partner and co-chairwoman in the firm’s Madison office, said she promotes recruitment and scholarship programs for financially disadvantaged attorneys so, over time, there isn’t such a disparity at the highest tiers of law. For years, she has been an informal mentor for women, working with them on a legal path that includes community outreach and time with family outside of the office.

Achieving that individual work-life balance, she said, would be far more difficult if not for the understanding of her colleagues at the firm.

For Howell, the balance has been essential. Bobbi and her husband, Chris, have three sons, and two were diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes.

Part of being there for her boys meant getting active with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, first by raising money and later as board president. She’s now an ex officio member, in charge of keeping other former board members involved. Her sons, now in their teens to early 20s, and her husband still are involved in raising money.

Howell said there never was a doubt among her legal peers that her children’s emergencies came first. Those same colleagues, she said, also knew she would provide solid representation for her food production, automotive supply and other clients.

One of those longtime peers, Bill Conley, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin, saw firsthand how Howell found balance. Prior to his judgeship, Conley and Howell worked together at Foley for about 20 years, and he said her legal work and attention to her sons enmeshed in remarkable ways.

“Everyone has a different path,” Conley said, “and I have no doubt that the middle of the night for Bobbi includes making all of these things work, whether it’s putting tape on her son’s hockey stick or writing a newsletter for diabetes or a brief for a client.

“But she does it with a great deal of grace and aplomb, and it’s always a pleasure to be around her.”


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