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Ogletree Deakins’ Kopplin sniffs out issues before they become unmanageable

Ogletree Deakins’ Kopplin sniffs out issues before they become unmanageable

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Keith Kopplin (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)
Keith Kopplin (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Keith Kopplin is always on the lookout for stopgaps.

“I really enjoy counseling employers so they can avoid problems before they become a lawsuit,” said Kopplin, an attorney with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart in Milwaukee.

Kopplin became interested in employment law after an employment discrimination class in law school. He saw the specialty as a way to help businesses deal with a number of issues, including wage and hour issues, discrimination and leaves of absences.

“I help clients shape the narrative,” he said.

While Kopplin usually works with a number of regular clients, he admitted that “when the phone rings, I don’t know what issue the call is going to be about.”

Kopplin also looks to educate employers by offering training sessions to help them understand the different laws.

“It can be challenging since laws change or that some laws apply only to businesses of a certain time,” he said.

While most cases settle before ever going before a judge, Kopplin said it is vital to be prepared and gather as much information as possible from his clients.

“Keeping up to date on law changes can be hard. While I focus in on a few areas, you need to have an overall understanding of all topics,” he said. “I’m successful when I can help clients deal with an issue before it becomes a problem.”

Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes work important to you?
Keith Kopplin: Being entrusted to solve my clients’ problems. Although I enjoy defending my clients if they are ever sued by current or former employees, the most rewarding part of my job is counseling a client through a dispute so they can avoid the claim in the first place.

WLJ: Who is your hero in the legal field?
Kopplin: Anyone who makes time to give back to their local community. The immigration attorneys recently offering their assistance at airports is a great example. No matter where you come down on the travel ban, the affected individuals were put in a very difficult position. I was proud of the attorneys who made sure those individuals were aware of their rights and obligations under the law.

WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Kopplin: Physical activity. Whether riding my bike, going for a run or even just a long walk, I find that being physically active helps to relieve stress from work. As an added and ironic benefit of physical activity, some of my most creative solutions were developed while I was trying to relieve the very stress caused by the underlying problem.

WLJ: What’s one thing people get wrong about what you do?
Kopplin: A lot of people assume my primary role is to help employers terminate employees. That can certainly be a part of it, but the majority of my counseling work is geared towards preserving the employment relationship by improving performance, managing leaves of absence, or addressing misconduct.

WLJ: What’s your favorite memory from law school?
Kopplin: My first torts class. It was exactly like the movies portrayed law school: the large lecture hall, the “mean” professor, the Socratic method.

WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Kopplin: I think you always remember your first client and your first case; those are the ones that make you feel like you’ve arrived as an attorney. But, of course, that’s only the beginning.


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