The inherent contradiction of being a trial lawyer in the 21st century is that not that many cases go to trial anymore … except for those of Alex Handelsman.
The sixth-year associate is part of an unusual arrangement between his firm and the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office. The firm provides the DA’s office with experienced lawyers for the summer in exchange for their associates’ getting real world trial practice.
Both sides win. Overworked prosecutors receive the extra help at no taxpayer expense and the lawyers on loan get to move from a world where most cases never go to trial to one where many do.
Handelsman, who is at home in the complexities of financial litigation and actuarial malpractice, found himself assigned to the Violent Crimes Unit. In other words, the California native had stepped through the looking glass to the other side.
“It definitely makes for more interesting cocktail conversations,” Handelsman said. “Instead of dealing with financial issues, I’m now prosecuting people firing shots at each other.”
Handelsman credits his grandmother for helping him settle on a legal career.
“She always said the two things every family needed were a plumber and a lawyer. And since I would have been a lousy plumber, that left the law.”
Grandma may have been the first to spot the legal diamond in the rough. While in a high school class, Handelsman tore a favorite pair of jeans on some exposed metal.
“We never went to court,” he said, “but I took it to the administration and got them to buy me a new pair.”
The future trial lawyer was born.
Handelsman has been involved in seven jury trials this summer, four as a first chair, and handled a couple of motion and evidentiary hearings.
“The subject matter is clearly different,” said Handelsman. “But now I know I can go into court and focus on my facts. This summer has made me a better lawyer.”