Death and money are topics few people relish talking about, but for Catherine Priebe they’re all in a day’s work.
In August 2013, Priebe and attorney Mark Shiller left major firms — Davis and Kuelthau SC and Godfrey and Kahn SC, respectively — to open Certus Legal Group Ltd. The Milwaukee boutique firm focuses on estate and business succession planning.
“We have a lot more flexibility,” Priebe said. “We’re less focused on billable hours and instead focus on meeting clients’ needs and producing the documents that reflect those needs. We have a lot more control over how we work with clients.”
Talking with clients about money and what will happen to a person’s assets after he or she dies can sometimes get “sensitive and emotional,” she said, which is why they wanted a firm specifically focused on those topics.
“These are tough subjects,” Priebe said. “We wanted a less intimidating environment and to really work closely with our clients and get to know them.”
Since the firm opened, Priebe said more than 500 new client files have been opened. They recently opened an office in Madison and another attorney joined Priebe and Shiller in the Milwaukee office at the end of January.
“Estate planning can be daunting, so we break it down into smaller goals. And the same goes with business succession planning and advance tax strategies,” Priebe said. “… I love that estate law is challenging and engaging. I get an emotional satisfaction from helping clients out. Every day is different.”
Wisconsin Law Journal: If you hadn’t become an attorney, what career would you have pursued?
Catherine Priebe: Clinical psychology. One of my majors in college was psychology, in which I have always been interested. That background has served me well in my estate planning practice; especially with respect to listening skills.
WLJ: Who do you admire and why?
Priebe: My mentor, Dianne Cauble. Dianne is kind, generous, brilliant and very funny. I have learned so much from her and continue to aspire to find the balance Dianne achieved between success in her practice and a happy and healthy personal life.
WLJ: Do you have an app that you can’t live without?
Priebe: Not really, although I love the Surface Pro laptop/tablet combinations we use at Certus.
WLJ: What do you miss most about your childhood?
Priebe: Never worrying about time – how I was spending it, how much I had, whether I was wasting it, etc.
WLJ: What activity could you spend hours doing outside of the office?
Priebe: Cooking. I love to cook and am always trying something new; especially ethnic cuisine.
WLJ: What was your first concert?
Priebe: My first big concert was The Police’s Synchronicity Tour in 1984 at the MECCA Arena; unbelievable show. I love live music and have seen quite an eclectic mix of shows over the years.