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Madison trumps San Francisco for Axley attorney

Clarke Sugar (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Clarke Sugar (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

When attorney Clarke Sugar left the West Coast for the Midwest last year, he didn’t just change firms, he changed practice areas.

After five years of handling bankruptcy cases with San Francisco firm Meyers Law Group PC, Sugar moved to Madison late last year and joined Axley Brynelson LLP, where he is part of the business practice group.

“You really get the sense with corporate law,” he said, “that you’re helping people. You’re part of the company’s team.”

The switch has given him a new perspective, Sugar said.

“It’s interesting,” he said. “I’m now drafting documents that I used to see when I handled bankruptcies. You’re on the other side of the table.”

Sugar said he primarily made the move because he wanted his son to grow up in Madison, where Sugar was raised and earned his undergraduate degree before going to law school in St. Paul.

During his five years with the California firm, Sugar represented various debtors, trustees, firms and companies in multimillion-dollar cases.

“I had some really interesting cases,” he said, “including one involving crop insurance claims against the government.”

The work was a natural lead-in to his current role, he said.

“Bankruptcy cases can get very complex,” Sugar said, “but you’re also exposed to other business law disciplines.”

Wisconsin Law Journal: What was your favorite course in law school?
Clarke Sugar: I really enjoyed bankruptcy law. We had a terrific adjunct professor who brought a lot of practical experience to the course. Bankruptcy intersects with almost every other area of practice, to some degree, so it’s important to have an understanding of how it works.

WLJ: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?
Sugar: Marrying my wife and raising our son.

WLJ: Who is someone you admire?
Sugar: Hon. Nancy Dreher, United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota. She was a mentor to me during law school, and we remained friends following graduation. She passed away recently, but she was such a wonderful person and really helped me launch my legal career.

WLJ: What app can’t you live without?
Sugar: It’s a close call between Google Maps and Stitcher, but I think I would probably miss Stitcher more. It organizes all of your podcasts in a single place and makes commuting far more enjoyable.

WLJ: What do you miss most about your childhood?
Sugar: The feeling of the first day of summer vacation.

WLJ: What’s your favorite thing to do in Wisconsin?
Sugar: I really enjoy spending time in Bayfield and boating in the Apostle Islands. It’s a very beautiful place with lots of sand beaches and great places to swim. There are also several great restaurants and fun bars on Madeline Island.

WLJ: What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Sugar: I really enjoy going to northern California to visit family. We lived there for a number of years, so it’s always fun to return to some of our favorite places. My wife and I especially like the sweeping landscapes around Point Reyes Station.

WLJ: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Sugar: I heard a podcast once that the world is equally divided between people who would like to be able to fly and those who would choose invisibility. I’d pick flying so that I had more time to get things done during the day.

WLJ: Do you have any pets? Or did you have a favorite pet as a child?
Sugar: Yes, my wife and I had backyard chickens for a few years. They were interesting pets, but it’s definitely not an economical way to get eggs.

WLJ: What activity could you spend hours doing outside of the office?
Sugar: Road biking through southwestern Wisconsin. I didn’t realize until recently how great this area this is for road biking: smooth paved roads through rolling terrain with very little traffic. Additionally, I’ve noticed that a lot of my colleagues are interested in biking. I think it’s becoming the new golf.

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