Shannon Allen views herself as a problem-solver.
Specializing in business litigation and employment law at DeWitt Ross & Stevens in Brookfield, Allen aims to help her clients develop thoroughly thought-out plans.
“No two cases are the same, which is one of the main reasons I enjoy my work,” she said. “Clients call because they have a need and it’s my job to work together with them to solve their problem(s).”
Also an experienced litigator in complex civil cases, she guides clients through the various steps of litigation, starting with the earliest motions and going all the way through discovery and mediation or trial. In her employment-law practice, Allen advises employers on various routine employment issues, including employee handbook issues and hiring, firing and discrimination issues. She also represents businesses and individuals in administrative-law proceedings involving unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation and employment discrimination.
Allen’s goal of helping others carries over to her new role as president of the Milwaukee Bar Association. She joined the organization as a member in 1998 and was elected to the board in 2011.
“One of my main missions as MBA president this year is to get younger attorneys involved with the MBA,” Allen said. “The MBA has done a great deal for me and my peers and I want younger attorneys to realize the large range of opportunities and benefits available to them through the MBA.”
Although many attorneys may connect with one another on social media, Allen said nothing replaces face-to-face networking, which is something the organization offers through its continuing-education and learning programs, as well as annual events like its annual meeting, Judge’s Night and networking sessions.
“Talking with someone in person means so much more,” she said. “I’ve benefited from the different relationships I have developed and the mentoring I’ve received through the years from my association with the MBA.”
The Milwaukee Bar Association provides not only networking opportunities, but also education programs. The new “Grow Your Practice Institute” offers summer sessions on time management and social media, Allen said.
Since 2013, Allen has been active with the Milwaukee Justice Center – an endeavor Allen finds extremely worthwhile.
“For some people, it is even difficult to just get to the courthouse and, once there, everything is new to them and they don’t understand the judicial process,” Allen said. “When you work at the MJC, you are there to help people solve their problems. People come in with real issues, and you need to assist them in navigating the process.”
At the justice center, lawyers and law students work together, which Allen said provides them with a great opportunity for learning. “I try to talk with my law student assigned to me after each session about their experiences and what they learned. There is really no substitute for the in-person client contact,” she said.
Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
Shannon Allen: People contact me when they have serious problems. It does not matter if I am contacted by an existing client, a new client, a family member or friend or a client at the Milwaukee Justice Center. I try my best to treat each client with respect and work diligently to help them establish a game plan to assist with their respective legal needs.
WLJ: Who is your hero in the legal field?
Allen: I have always greatly admired attorneys, guardian ad litems, judges and court staff that work in and on behalf of children. I sat in Milwaukee County Children’s Court one day as a juror when I was a young lawyer. The dedicated work of the professionals I saw on behalf of children in need that day was amazing. It is something I will never forget.
WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Allen: I enjoy long-distance running and am training for the Madison Chocolate Half-Marathon over Labor Day weekend. I have finished at least one half-marathon for the past 11 years and I have also finished three marathons. I am thinking about training for one more marathon in 2019, the year I turn 50.
WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Allen: The attorneys I know and work with care deeply about their clients and take their professional responsibly very seriously. Attorneys in both the private and public sectors are regularly working well beyond regular office hours to advocate for their clients.
WLJ: What’s your favorite memory from law school?
Allen: The best thing that happened to me when I started law school was being become a member of the Fall of 1992 Group 5 at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Kudos to the UW Law School for having the fortitude to establish the small-group system. The friendships I established from my small group not only assisted me in surviving law school, they are life-long professional and personal relationships. After 22 years, I still find myself being in touch with at least one if not more of my small group members on a weekly basis.
WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Allen: I was referred a case from Legal Action several years ago. My client was a tenant whose apartment was destroyed in a fire after only living there for two weeks. Despite the fire being the fault of the landlord, the landlord refused to return my client’s security deposit. After two small claims trials and the threat of an appeal, I was finally able to present my client with a check for double the amount of her original security deposit. The reaction my client and her family had when I handed them the settlement check reinforced the reasons why I wanted to become a lawyer.