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Burkert-Brist leaves lasting impression

By: Corrine Hess//June 12, 2014//

Burkert-Brist leaves lasting impression

By: Corrine Hess//June 12, 2014//

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Monica-Burkert-BristAssistant Attorney General Anne Bensky met Monica Burkert-Brist as opposing counsel on a sexual assault case.

The two sides settled, and, Bensky said, she received an unexpected benefit from the experience: She found a mentor in Burkert-Brist.

The two now are colleagues at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Bensky said, and Burkert-Brist continues to be someone to look up to, not just for Bensky but also for the younger attorneys in the office.

“Even as opposing counsel, Monica was a mentor to me,” Bensky said, “demonstrating how women litigators can zealously represent their client and reach a just resolution through cooperation, creativity and constructive negotiations while never once disparaging me or my client.”

Burkert-Brist said her role as a mentor to attorneys is instinctual rather than deliberate.

“Over time,” she said, “it became clear that there were things I could contribute to their professional development in terms of advice, strategizing, and sharing ideas and war stories. I then made a conscious effort, with the support of my supervisors, to provide leadership and trial support not just to women lawyers, but all the new attorneys in our practice.

“I enjoy collaborating and usually get way more back than I feel I give in terms of the mentoring relationship.”

Burkert-Brist began her career as a legislative aide to then-Assembly Speaker Edward Jackamonis. Through that job, she said, she interacted with attorneys who worked in the Legislative Council and Legislative Reference Bureau and developed a respect and interest for the work they did.

When her husband, Steve, entered law school in 1980, Burkert-Brist said, she realized law was a natural progression for her.

“As an assistant attorney general, it is often my most difficult cases which become the most rewarding ones,” she said. “Any trial lawyer worth their salt will tell you that lawsuits are seldom the best way to resolve disputes but are sometimes the only way to get an opponent’s attention.”

Burkert-Brist said she believes she is a litigator at heart who excels at trial work, particularly jury trials, because she has an outgoing personality and loves getting to know people.

Still, she said, no good trial lawyer wins cases alone, and she credited her colleagues at the Department of Justice.

“I have stayed at DOJ for 20 years,” Burkert-Brist said, “because I have found no finer group of people to work with, in terms of dedication to the people of this state and to the practice of law.”


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