Chris Trebatoski is used to being in front of a crowd — whether it is in court, a theater or a dance contest.
Trebatoski, who competes in Latin dance competitions with his wife and has been in several theatrical performances, understands how an attorney speaks and carries himself has a big impact on judges and juries.
“I enjoy being in court and doing trials. How an attorney presents himself can decide cases,” said Trebatoski, who founded his own firm, Treblaw LLC in Milwaukee, three years ago after working for several other Milwaukee firms.
Trebatoski first began thinking of a legal career in 10th grade when his English teacher told him he spoke and wrote too well to be a doctor — the career he was thinking about at the time.
“Once I decided I wanted to be an attorney, litigation was the natural fit. Nothing else interested me,” he said.
His practice covers not only personal litigation, but also business dispute resolution. He also holds a certification in mediation skills from Northwestern University and offers mediation services to businesses and individuals.
“There is so much I enjoy about litigation. I get to use my writing and speaking skills. I get to get exposed to different businesses and industries and I learn a lot about how people do things,” Trebatoski said.
While the industry trend shows more cases are settling before a jury gets involved, Trebatoski said that has not been his experience.
“When people say 90 percent of cases settle before trial, those aren’t the cases I get,” he laughed. “I estimate about 50 percent of my cases settle.”
When he is in court, Trebatoski has noticed more jurors come in with a perceived notion about what to expect.
“What people see on TV is not real,” he said. “I believe what people see on social media or TV is affecting jurors, and not in a good way.”
Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
Chris Trebatoski: It is a very, very important job to speak for someone else in court. It is an honor for me. Their success depends on me.
WLJ: Who is your hero in the legal field?
Trebatoski: I’ve had some clients who have done heroic things — those are my heroes.
WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Trebatoski: My wife and I dance. We do Latin dancing competitions. We finished third in the world in the over-40 category for the salsa. We’ve danced in Canada. There’s a large photo of us in our costumes in the office and it generates a lot of comments.
WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Trebatoski: Most of it. If you haven’t been through a trial you have no idea what a trial lawyer does.
WLJ: What do you do in your free time outside of the office?
Trebatoski: Dance. We spend five to six hours a week training, plus social dancing. It’s definitely our primary hobby. We also travel a lot, which is easier to do with my solo practice.
WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Trebatoski: I was able to obtain a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in the pro bono representation of a local small business owner that struck down the state’s concealed weapons law as unconstitutional. At that time, the law had been in place for 105 years. I was glad I could help that business.