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Home / Asked & Answered / Knack for frac: DeWitt Ross & Stevens’ Esch carves out niche in sand industry

Knack for frac: DeWitt Ross & Stevens’ Esch carves out niche in sand industry

Bryan Esch (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Bryan Esch (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Bryan Esch credits being in the right place at the right time when it came to developing a successful law practice with a specialization in the frac sand industry.

An attorney with DeWitt Ross & Stevens in Madison, Esch was interested in environmental law and had the opportunity to work with someone in the fast-growing frac industry.

“I was able to create a niche and word just spread about what I did,” said Esch, who also said that he saw his number of clients increase once he added the term “frac sand industry” to his online bio.

Esch works with clients on all sides of the industry, from mining companies looking to develop projects to land owners who have sand on their property and are seeking to monetize.

“While I enjoy my work and working on projects, a challenge in the frac sand industry is knowing legitimate clients and projects from those with no substance,” he said. “You’re always going to have that when you work in an area where people want to make money quickly. I’ve learned how to weed those ones out.”

As interest in the frac sand industry has slowed, Esch has more time to focus on the rest of his business practice, which focuses on transactional deals, contracts and licensing, real estate and family business and succession planning.

“My practice is diverse, so it seems as one area slows down that another one picks up,” he said. “The goal is to have consistent clients and building up relationships whether they come to you weekly or monthly with their concerns.”

Esch said focusing on the client and his or her unique concerns is vital to his practice’s success.

“I’m really there as another member of the business’ team and focus on the value I’m bringing to the business owners with my insight and knowledge,” he said.

Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
Bryan Esch: I enjoy helping people. Whether it is an entrepreneur starting a new business, a family business working on succession planning issues or an international corporation acquiring a business in Wisconsin, I like solving problems and helping clients accomplish their business goals.

WLJ: Who is your hero in the legal field?
Esch: Abraham Lincoln for being a self-made man, lawyer and the country’s greatest president; and my deceased colleagues — Jack De Witt, Norm Herro and Chuck Seibold, who were excellent attorneys, World War II heroes and, most importantly, always gentlemen.

WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Esch: I coach youth sports. Over the years I have coached my three children in tackle football, baseball, softball and basketball. I also serve on the athletic board at St. Maria Goretti Catholic School in Madison.

WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Esch: Friends and family sometimes believe I am an expert in all areas of the law, including criminal laws like drunk driving penalties. I tell them that I learned everything I know about criminal law from the television show ‘Law & Order.’

WLJ: What’s one memory from law school?
Esch: My first semester at the University of Wisconsin Law School in the fall of 1994 when the law school was being deconstructed around us for a three-year renovation project. The project was finally completed the week of exams of my last semester. Needless to say, the renovation project created significant inconveniences for my law school class.

WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Esch: There are many memorable projects that came out of my work with frac sand clients. The frac sand industry in Wisconsin is a lot like a modern day Gold Rush with many memorable characters. I have enjoyed helping landowners secure their futures by selling their land or mineral rights and have prevented business clients from making bad deals with less than honest ‘wildcatters.’

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