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Hartley gets tougher with every challenge

By: JESSICA STEPHEN//June 12, 2014//

Hartley gets tougher with every challenge

By: JESSICA STEPHEN//June 12, 2014//

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Hartley-JillJill Hartley’s typical response to difficult situations has prompted a colleague to coin a new phrase.

“One of my partners always accuses me of bright side-ism. I always look on the bright side,” said Hartley, a mother of two and a shareholder with The Previant Law Firm SC, Milwaukee. “I look at it as, ‘I didn’t have it so bad.’”

Hartley focuses on labor law, representing employees in discrimination and wrongful-termination cases. But when a senior partner has too many big cases and asks for help, Hartley volunteers. When colleagues want to talk strategy, she’s available.

And when her husband, an Army National Guard judge advocate general, was deployed in 2009 to Iraq for a year, she figured out a way to get things done.

“I had the attitude of, ‘It’s just me, and I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do,’” said Hartley, whose children were 2 ½ and 5 ½ at the time.

That approach is what prevented Hartley from curling into a ball of self-pity in 2009. It’s also the type of attitude, fellow shareholder Marianne Robbins said, that has made Hartley a go-to attorney.

“She is somebody who, because she is willing to take on all aspects (of a case) — it might be defense in one, and then plaintiff’s work with union cases in another,” Robbins said, “whatever it is, she says, ‘Sure, I’m ready to take it.’”

Her father, who was a social worker, showed her the value of helping people, Hartley said. After settling on law school, she turned her attention to those who otherwise wouldn’t know their rights or couldn’t afford to take their cases to court.

“It’s easy for professionals, for attorneys to kind of forget about those people, the people who live paycheck to paycheck,” Hartley said. “I don’t want to forget.”

She didn’t even forget about those people when she sought help from her father and the occasional babysitter, such as Robbins, when her husband was deployed. It took some long nights at home in front of the computer, but Hartley maintained a full-time practice.

And, with her husband likely to deploy again, with only 24-hour notice, she knows she just has to look on the bright side.

“Even though it was a long year and a difficult year, it kind of showed me that I’m tougher than I might have thought,” Hartley said. “I figure, ‘Hey, if I can survive that year, what else are you going to throw at me that I can’t handle?’

“Probably not much.”


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