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Cotton gets jump-start into law career

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//February 18, 2016//

Cotton gets jump-start into law career

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//February 18, 2016//

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Staff photo by Kevin Harnack
Staff photo by Kevin Harnack

Criminal defense attorney Anthony Cotton got a head start on law school.

When he was in seventh or eighth grade, he’d hop in the car with his mom and siblings after school for an evening class — usually on a subject such as torts — at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

“I don’t know that I actually remember any of the lessons,” he said. “But it did make law school less intimidating. Whatever image you might have in the abstract was blown out of the water. It became a less intimidating concept for me at a young age.”

And it was watching his mom, Donna Kuchler, and stepdad, Gerald, practice criminal-defense law, as well as time spent studying abroad in Eritrea investigating human rights abuses, that nudged him into criminal law.

“It seemed like an area of law where you would be helping real people with real problems,” he said. “I can remember my parents giving clients clothes.”

One of the biggest hurdles Cotton has had to overcome in his career was a reluctance to take cases before a jury.

“It’s the concept of thinking you personally hold someone’s fate in your hands,” he said. “It’s the idea that 12 random citizens you’ve never met before won’t say a word to you for a week and will stare at your client and judge your client.”

Yet Cotton is no stranger to jury trials.

He has had about 40 to 50 of them in his 10-year career. He says he still finds them somewhat terrifying but also often exhilarating and rewarding.

Cotton said the only way to overcome any lingering anxieties is to prepare thoroughly.

“You become less intimidated as you become more familiar with the client and the facts of the case,” he said.

Whatever difficulties might present themselves, Cotton finds a source of motivation in his clients.

“I enjoy the opportunity of representing people who are in precarious situations,” he said. “I find a lot of value in that. I think it’s rewarding work. You’re helping people out who are often marginalized, disadvantaged or otherwise victims of the government.”


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