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Conley can list the ways he’s found success

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Daniel Conley – partner, Quarles & Brady LLP – Legal degree obtained from: University of Wisconsin Law School, 1985

Dan Conley has a list for almost any situation.

He has a one-page crisis plan for a catastrophic industrial explosion, and he can rattle off his checklist for dealing with the media on such sensitive, private business matters as the sale of a professional basketball team.

Succinct lists better prepare him for varieties of business “chaos,” said Conley, a partner in the commercial litigation practice at Quarles & Brady LLP.

“You need to gather information quickly,” he said, “to make sometimes-difficult decisions with imperfect information.”

Conley has spent nearly three decades embracing the mania most attorneys spend their careers trying to avoid. He quietly aided former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl on the big-money sale of the Milwaukee Bucks. He helped We Energies keep its cool after a bluff collapse. He worked with the Commerce Clause to snuff out suspect labeling by a rival of MillerCoors.

While he prefers his clients stay out of the headlines, Conley was front-and-center following the explosion at the Falk Corp. plant in Milwaukee’s Menomonee River Valley. He stepped in immediately with calm directives on safety and strategy, said Patricia Whaley, vice president, general counsel and secretary at Rexnord Corp., the company that runs Falk.

“Dan was on site at our corporate headquarters within hours, helping us … not just sorting through traditional legal issues, but also the press and giving us advice on sorting through first few hours, first 24 hours, first week,” Whaley said. “And his focus was what our focus was: the immediate family needs.”

Conley is a native of Rice Lake, where his dad, Edward, was city attorney and one of the many lawyers in the extended Conley clan. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School, Dan Conley spent two years in a federal clerkship for John Reynolds, a former federal Judge and governor.

He said he considered Reynolds a mentor and still relies on his lessons on pragmatism, humor and brief writing. Conley said he recited some of those lessons from a list at Reynolds’ eulogy in 2002.


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