Every day is like a game of chess for Leslie Gutierrez.
The attorney at Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek (soon to be officially known as Husch Blackwell) in Milwaukee said when she works with her clients she enjoys coming up with different strategies to meet her clients’ needs.
“There are so many ways you can take on a litigation case and still do it well,” Gutierrez said. “You also have to figure out and counter what your opponent is doing.”
Gutierrez went to law school with the intention of joining the FBI after graduation, but during her first semester her mind was changed.
“My civil procedure class really opened my mind,” she said. “I really liked how with the law everything is open to interpretation and strategy.”
Gutierrez is part of WHD’s Business and Commercial Litigation, Construction Services and Emerging Companies teams, specializing in preventing and resolving disputes for large and small corporations, business professionals and construction industry companies.
As for choosing litigation as her specialty, she said it brings out her competitive side.
“I really enjoy how every case and every day is different,” Gutierrez said.
While she enjoys being in the courtroom, Gutierrez said the opportunities are few since most cases settle before the trial date.
“Trials are a litigators’ ultimate dream,” she said. “The challenge is that trials can be unpredictable and you need to carefully manage your client’s expectations. There are a lot of variables you need to consider.”
Electronic files and communications also play a growing role in litigation cases, Gutierrez said. The e-discovery process takes longer since there are more files to go through and may take longer to receive, she added.
“I enjoy technology so it’s not too challenging for me to get through, but it definitely adds a new component to cases,” Gutierrez said.
Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
Leslie Gutierrez: Knowing that I can find solutions to client problems. Every day I learn something new — a new way to solve a problem, a new path to a better solution. Because of that experience, along with the hundreds of accomplished colleagues and practical resources that Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek’s combination with Husch Blackwell provides, I know that no matter the subject matter or the issue, I have an arsenal of tools available that I can rely on to find the best solution for our clients. That is what I love about the practice of law: There is no one right path to resolution; there are hundreds, and I enjoy being able to analyze the various paths and help clients choose the best one.
WLJ: Who is your hero in the legal field?
Gutierrez: The many mentors I have been fortunate to have throughout my career — experienced colleagues who are not only willing to share insights, but who also genuinely care about my development as an attorney. Lawyers have very busy practices and lives and finding those that can always make time to answer questions or grab lunch to talk through ideas is invaluable. I have had several such mentors over the course of my career, and their guidance has helped me become the lawyer that I am today.
WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Gutierrez: I enjoy exercising, whether it is running, biking, playing golf or going to the gym. It’s a great way to unplug. Also, I have finally learned to enjoy cooking. I find that cooking while listening to my favorite music is a great way to relax and disconnect from all of life’s to-dos.
WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Gutierrez: People sometimes assume that because I am a litigator my career is all about fighting and arguing. That is not entirely true. A big part of my job, and something that I really enjoy, is advocating on my client’s behalf, whether on paper, in court or in conferences with opposing counsel. But, many times I find that the best way to obtain the solution that a client is seeking in a cost-effective manner is through professionalism, presence of mind and strategy. I approach litigation like a game of chess. It’s all about strategy, mapping out your next three moves and also anticipating your opponent’s next move and preparing a strong counter.
WLJ: What’s your favorite memory from law school?
Gutierrez: The first day of my first class in my first year of law school. I had initially gone to law school as a stepping stone to applying to the FBI and had no idea what to expect. I fondly remember my civil procedure professor, one of the best around, walking into class and recounting the story of ‘Paula Dancer’ and her injured big toe. After a semester of learning civil procedure through the trials and tribulations of Paula Dancer, I was convinced that I wanted to use my law degree to actually practice law.
WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Gutierrez: Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that the 14th Amendment guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry, really hit home for me. During my constitutional law class in law school, I was really moved by some of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions we studied that had a profound effect on so many individuals of their time, such as Brown v. Board of Education. I remember looking back and thinking that it must have been really powerful to be around at that time and experience the impact of those decisions. When the Obergefell decision came down, as an openly gay attorney in a committed relationship, the experience and emotion certainly was powerful. It was a joy to read such well-written legal analysis from some of the brightest legal scholars in our country while knowing that what I was reading would have a profound impact on my own life.