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Lawton & Cates’ Stegall switches sides

David Stegall (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

David Stegall (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

David Stegall enjoys being in the courtroom, but it took him awhile to get there.

Stegall, a litigation specialist at Lawton & Cates SC, Madison, spent six years as an Army cavalry officer before deciding to go to law school.

“I signed up for an ROTC class because it sounded like fun while attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and just fell in love with it,” he said. “But in the back of my head, I always wanted to be a lawyer and I was in a long-distance relationship with my girlfriend – who is now my wife – and knew that if we wanted to get married, I would have to switch gears.”

Stegall attended Marquette University Law School and interned with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office.

“I just loved it and it made me want to be in the courtroom,” he said of his time with the DA. “I even got to try a case – under a senior lawyer– while still a student.”

After graduation, Stegall joined the DA’s office fulltime and enjoyed being in court, but after a while the work began to take a toll and he wondered what it would be like working as a defense attorney.

“In Milwaukee, it seemed like whatever we were doing wasn’t making a dent,” Stegall said. “You try a gang case, but then another gang comes in to take its place.

“I wanted to feel like I was making a difference and to help someone, so I crossed over to the other side of the courtroom.”

Today, Stegall handles a variety of cases: from fighting parking tickets to defending a client against felony robbery charges. He estimated that nine out of 10 cases never reach trial, but he still spends a lot of time in court.

“It may not go all the way to trial, but we’ll have motions hearings and there will be other times in court,” Stegall said. “There’s more of a chance of a criminal case going to trial than a civil case so I still am getting my time in court.”

Wisconsin Law Journal: What was your favorite class in law school?
David Stegall: Constitution and Criminal Investigations taught by Professor Dan Blinka at Marquette. The cases were always interesting to me and Professor Blinka is an amazing teacher.

WLJ: What career would you have pursued if you hadn’t become an attorney?
Stegall: In a former life, I was an Army cavalry officer. When I left active duty I went to law school to become a lawyer. If law school wasn’t an option I probably would have remained in the Army. I met some of the best people during my time on active duty.

WLJ: What was the first concert you attended?
Stegall: Robert Plant at Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee. I was probably 14 at the time.

WLJ: What app can’t you live without?
Stegall: It’s not an app, but I am highly dependent on Microsoft Outlook.

WLJ: Who is someone famous you would love to have drinks with?
Stegall: Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band. I have really enjoyed his music the last 20 years and I am sure he has some good stories to tell.

WLJ: What do you miss most about your childhood?
Stegall: Playing sports. I try to stay active now, but sadly it just isn’t the same.

WLJ: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Stegall: Currently, I would pick Austin, Texas. Very similar to Madison, but the weather is a lot better.

WLJ: If you could pick one super power, what would it be?
Stegall: Mindreading. If nothing else, it would certainly assist me during trial.

WLJ: What could you spend hours doing outside of work?
Stegall: I would spend as much time as possible with my wife and two boys. If they were busy, I would be out rock climbing somewhere.

WLJ: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Stegall: I could take more time to appreciate the small things in life.


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