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Communication makes all the difference for Topinka

Ralph Topinka (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Ralph Topinka (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

At first glance, working in TV and radio and practicing law may not appear similar, but to Ralph Topinka, who has done both, the common threads are clear.

“Both careers involve effective communication,” said Topinka, a shareholder in the health law section of von Briesen & Roper SC’s office in Madison. “If you do it right, everything’s great, but if you don’t, it can become a mess.”

After graduating college, Topinka went to Green Bay where he worked at a radio and TV station for two years. He then moved to Madison so his wife could finish college.

“I had thought about attending law school and then my dad recommended I do it and I always listened to my dad,” Topinka said. “I also turned out to be the runner-up for a radio job so it seemed like a good time to make the change.”

Once out of law school, Topinka worked in general litigation, but soon developed an affinity for working with health-care providers.

“When I started out, there was no such thing as healthcare law,” said Topinka, who has more than 30 years of experience representing hospitals, health-care systems and other health-care providers. “I evolved with the ever-changing industry.”

And his communication skills have made that possible.

“Whether you’re talking to a judge or to an audience, you have to be clear about what message you are sending,” Topinka said.

Wisconsin Law Journal: What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Ralph Topinka: Personally, that’s easy: helping raise three great kids who are now great adults. Professionally, I believe my greatest achievement has been participating as a member of a team that has improved the services patients have received from clients I have had the privilege of representing. That has been the most rewarding part of my career.

WLJ: If you could be a superhero, who would you be?
Topinka: Spider-Man

WLJ: What famous person you would most like to have a drink with?
Topinka: Abraham Lincoln

WLJ: What was your least-favorite course in law school?
Topinka: Probably commercial law. I took it during my last semester of school. The fact that the professor was going through some personal turmoil, coupled with the normal last-semester-of-anything malaise, may have contributed to both my and the professor’s lack of interest in the subject.

WLJ: What is your favorite thing to do in Wisconsin?
Topinka: There are so many things I like to do, but if I have to pick one, I would say biking through the country.

WLJ: Finish the statement “Happiness is …”
Topinka: relishing the moment.

WLJ: What do you miss most about your childhood?
Topinka: Playing baseball almost every day during the summer, usually for most of the day.

WLJ: What word or phrase do you tend to overuse?
Topinka: You can’t print it.

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