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Stoehr brings global experience to Michael Best

Craig Stoehr (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Craig Stoehr (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Family has a strong draw.

Craig Stoehr had practiced law around the world, from Qatar and London, before he decided to return to his home state of Wisconsin earlier this year. The corporate and transactional attorney was looking to be closer to his family and found Michael Best & Friedrich was looking to grow its presence in his specialty areas.

“I was working as a general counsel in London and wanted to get back to private practice,” Stoehr said of the transatlantic move. “It has been a great fit. There are a lot more cross border transactions happening in business.”

Stoehr came to Michael Best with more than 25 years of legal experience in more than 50 countries across the globe, working both for law firms and companies. He most recently served as general counsel and head of mergers and acquisitions at the Thomas Cook Group, the world’s oldest travel company.

At Michael Best, Stoehr focuses on securities, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, venture capital and investment fund matters. In addition to the office in Milwaukee, he also sees clients in the firm’s Chicago and Washington, D.C., offices.

“You go to where the business is,” he said. “In this line of work travel is part of the deal.”

No matter where Stoehr works on a deal, from a legal perspective U.S. and UK rules are used, he said.

“You could be in Qatar, but it is people from London and New York who are around the table,” he said. “A big part of my job is to educate my clients about why things work the way they do.”

In addition to Stoehr’s legal acumen, he also brings his own business and entrepreneurial experience to the table. He previously served as chief executive of the Class 1 World Powerboat Championship and founded several startups focused on international soccer. From 2005 to 2008, Stoehr lived in Milwaukee, where he led several real estate investments in downtown Milwaukee and served as the chairman of The Milwaukee Mile motor speedway at the Wisconsin State Fair Park. He left the area to take a position in Qatar for Latham & Watkins, a large international firm.

“After being away for so many years, it feels good to be back in the area and be closer to my parents and my brother and his family,” Stoehr said.

Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
Craig Stoehr: I enjoy meeting people and learning about businesses and industries. The great thing about being a transactional lawyer is that there are always new people to meet and exciting deals to do. When you’re finished with one, another one comes along. I also enjoy being able to utilize my varied experiences to help clients navigate complex and challenging situations.

WLJ: Who is your hero in the legal field?
Stoehr: Bill Voge, the current chairman and managing partner of Latham & Watkins. Aside from being one of the world’s top project finance lawyers, Bill is a visionary in the legal profession, having been instrumental in Latham’s growth from a top California firm to the largest law firm in the world by revenues. I met Bill on my initial interview in New York. We shared the world’s greatest assistant for some years and he was an investor in my first startup. He brought me back to Latham to open the Qatar office in 2008 and was a great supporter in my path to partnership and successes in the Middle East. He was also a spectacular mentor and is a lifelong friend. And he’s from Iowa — he and his sons are huge Packers fans, so that tells you something about his character!

WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Stoehr: I am a bit of a workaholic and am already enjoying my time at Michael Best immensely as there is plenty keeping me busy given the firm’s growth and strategic plans. Apart from work, I spend the rest of my time with my family. I got married three years ago to the most spectacular woman and we have the most wonderful 2-year-old son. I also try to spend as much time as possible with my parents, along with my brother, his wife and my nephews and niece. This was a primary driver for me in moving back to Wisconsin after being abroad for so many years, and I cannot wait for my wife and son to join me from London later this year.

WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Stoehr: I think too many people only think of a lawyer as being a legal adviser, advising on the law, litigating, papering transactions, etc. The reality is that a good lawyer needs to have commercial and practical judgment to provide their client with the best advice, drawn from years of experience in many different situations, interacting with many different types of people – in addition to knowing the law.

WLJ: What’s your favorite memory from law school?
Stoehr: Well it has nothing to do with law school per se. Rather, it was driving up from Chicago (I did my first year at Marquette and then transferred to Northwestern) to attend all my brother’s high school football games during his senior year at Waukesha Catholic Memorial.

WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Stoehr: Given my transactional focus there have been few cases that stand out. The one that immediately comes to mind is a UK decision which addressed signing of documents and lawyers not being able to hold signature pages in escrow. As many of the transactions I have been involved in were governed by UK law, this was a particularly important point, one that my UK colleagues were always rightfully focused on, but one that was hard for U.S. lawyers to get our head around. Then, of course, there is the classic law school torts case about someone finding a mouse in a bottle of soda.

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