In nominating Kristin Sederholm for a Women in the Law award, David Krekeler, of Krekeler Strother, called the path that brought her to the legal profession the “epitome of the uncommon.”
The native of Whitewater had initially planned to work for a data-storage company started by her mother. To that end, she got a degree in international relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
When the company didn’t work out as planned, she found herself at a crossroads. After some traveling, she decided to put the experience she had gained working for the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Trustee for the Western District of Wisconsin to use by taking a job at a firm then named Collins Beatty Krekeler.
The late 1980s found her working as a receptionist under Krekeler and his partners. But she was in fact doing far more than answering the phones.
Her experience at the bankruptcy trustee’s office meant she was familiar with Chapter 13 statements and schedules. Soon she became a bankruptcy assistant — doing work that would nowadays be assigned to someone going under the title paralegal.
It didn’t take long for Sederholm to notice that, “there were so many clerks there who were going to law school.”
“I got to thinking: I can do that.”
She enrolled in John Marshall Law School in Chicago in 1988. Her original intention was to become an environmental lawyer.
But, once again, her career path led her to bankruptcy law. After some initial trouble finding a position in Madison, she ended up asking Krekeler if he might have some part-time work for her.
Her return to the Krekeler firm in 1992 provided her with a quick reminder of how much she liked bankruptcy law.
Before long, her part-time position had become a full-time one. Now a shareholder in the firm, Sederholm has shown time and again that she is comfortable handling all sorts of bankruptcy cases, whether they involve business, farmers or individual consumers.
“She takes on complex cases with ease,” Krekeler said. “Attorney Sederholm’s precision, caution and attention to detail have garnered her success where few have succeeded. She is always willing to present an argument no predecessor has tried.”
Sederholm said she had “dipped her toe” into other areas of the law, including family law, before deciding to make bankruptcy her specialty. She said the acrimony that tends to accompany divorce cases was not at all to her taste.
Bankruptcies, although often fraught with emotion, also present enough variety to keep a lawyer’s interest piqued.
“Whether you are talking about an individual reorganization of debts and Chapter 13, or you’re dealing with Chapter 12 and farmers or Chapter 11 and small businesses, it’s a lot of learning about all parts of people’s businesses and operations,” Sederholm said. “So it’s actually made it a lot of fun.”
As a woman in the law, Sederholm considers herself very lucky. She said she has heard plenty of horror stories about unequal pay and a scarcity of opportunities.
She has no reason to doubt these stories are true.
“But, personally, I don’t have any experience of that,” Sederholm said. “I’ve been lucky enough in my career, and I think I’ve always appreciated how much flexibility I’ve been given at this law firm.”