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Home / 2015 Women in the Law / Heidt the cream of the crop

Heidt the cream of the crop

Martha Heidt, Bye, Goff & Rohde (Staff Photo by Kevin Harnack)

Martha Heidt, Bye, Goff & Rohde (Staff Photo by Kevin Harnack)

Martha Heidt stumbled upon a book — and a new career. As a struggling dairy farmer in the late 1980s near Eau Claire, she came across a book on agricultural law while cleaning a barn basement.

“I opened it up and it was about the common law. I sat down in the basement and I read the whole thing,” Heidt said. “It was the most interesting thing I had ever seen. I was fascinated.”

Heidt was 39 at the time, married to her husband, Will, and a mother of two. She was forced to move away from running their dairy farm, one of many in the state choked by a drought in the late 1980s.

She knew it was time for a change.

Shifting with the currents didn’t faze Heidt, who had spent her youth in the Netherlands and Ethiopia, the daughter of a university professor.

So, with a notion that she’d learn first and figure out the rest later, Heidt commuted daily to earn her law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1996, and then spent a year clerking at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

She honed her civil appellate specialty for years at Doar, Drill and Skow until their Baldwin office closed. In 2008, after two years on her own, Heidt came on as an attorney at Bye, Goff and Rohde in River Falls.

Her self-driven nature has been felt across the state, including Waters ex rel. Skow v. Pertzborn, where she rooted out appeals discrepancies in the state’s constitution.

In Wambolt v. West Bend Mutual Insurance, Heidt came back with language that satisfied her client as well as provided a rule for appealing final orders to the state Supreme Court.

Tracy Tool, a shareholder at Bye, Goff and Rohde, explained Heidt’s process like this: “You’ve got a big legal problem, a case with boxes and boxes of documents and testimony. Martha’s on Westlaw and her computer is running and there’s an air of tension – ‘Don’t disturb me, I’m onto something’.

“Two days later, she’ll emerge with a very clear legal principle and an organized set of legal facts. And she’s got the answer.”

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