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New head of Ruder Ware shares how he got there

Stewart Etten (Photo submitted by Ruder Ware LLSC)

Stewart Etten (Photo submitted by Ruder Ware LLSC)

Stewart Etten, the newly elected president of Ruder Ware LLSC, Wausau, shifts easily between the business and legal worlds.

He went to University of Wisconsin Law School with the intention of going into business, but decided to stick with law and now specializes in business transactions.

He does well in both areas of work, such as when he left a private law practice in the mid-2000s to work as general counsel at River Valley Bank in Wausau.

“I say that’s where I got my MBA,” Etten said. “I definitely use my experience in business to help my clients. I know what they are going through and that helps a lot.”

Now that he’s added the firm’s presidency to his duties, Etten still maintains his full practice, relying heavily on the firm’s chief operating officer.

“I mainly focus on the administrative end and long-term thinking,” he said.

And through it all, he juggles the changing worlds of business and law.

“Anything commercial related: banking, mergers, acquisitions,” Etten said, “there have been a lot of changes in those areas in recent years related to the fiscal crisis, especially with lending and it’s important to keep up with it all.”

Wisconsin Law Journal: What was your least-favorite course in law school?
Stewart Etten: Civil procedure. It was too rules orientated.

WLJ: What is one of the challenges facing lawyers today?
Etten: It’s hard to get a chance to think about anything anymore. Everything is so immediate and people expect your response time to be immediate, too. You really don’t get a lot of time to think things through because the answers are wanted so quickly.

WLJ: When looking to the future, what do you see?
Etten: I’m just the fifth president in the law firm’s 93-year history. One of my biggest jobs is to expand and grow the firm. I feel like I really need to move the firm forward and not let my predecessors down.

WLJ: What was your favorite toy as a child?
Etten: My bike because of the mobility it provided.

WLJ: What famous person you would most like to have a drink with?
Etten: Bill Gates or Steve Jobs because of the significant changes they have brought to the world.

WLJ: What is your favorite thing to do in Wisconsin?
Etten: Being on the water

WLJ: What is your most prized possession?
Etten: My family

WLJ: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Etten: Work on my patience


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