Brenda Sweeney’s dream had been to be a teacher.
Although Godfrey & Kahn’s contract and commercial litigation team seems like a far cry from the classroom, it’s not a stretch at all for the legal executive assistant.
“I’m a teacher in a different way,” Sweeney said. “To be able to help my coworkers, make their lives easier and make us better employees, that’s mainly my goal and what I look to do. It’s the big picture. It’s not all about me. It’s about everyone else.”
The contract and commercial litigation team, composed of three attorneys and one paralegal, turns to the Beloit native for all manner of tasks, relying on her knowledge on the latest developments in e-filing and of legal procedures at the trial and appellate level in both state and federal courts.
The work is fast-paced. She often finds herself dealing with more than one deadline at a time.
“There are days where you are physically running down the hall,” Sweeney said. “When it’s done and out the door, that’s when you start poking fun, popping rubber bands and laugh about it.”
There have been countless times that Sweeney has come through for the team despite seemingly insurmountable circumstances, says the lawyer Mike Apfeld. Part of that comes from her ability to stay one step ahead by foreseeing obstacles and requirements.
“You never have to tell her twice,” he said. “Usually, you never have to tell her at all.”
Sweeney is also dedicated and hardworking, Apfeld said.
“It is a demanding environment in which priorities constantly change and then are multiplied by the people she works for,” he said. “She really does a fantastic job of balancing priorities and making sure everyone’s needs are fulfilled.”
He notes that Sweeney often also juggles that work with priorities at home – whether that means working on the weekends or staying late.
For most of her 14-year career at Godfrey, Sweeney was a single mom to her four children. One of them, Meg, requires around-the-clock care because of a neurological disorder.
Godfrey was flexible and supportive from the start, Sweeney said. Now, she has additional support from her husband and stepchildren.
Nonetheless, Sweeney has found that having a child who will have to cope with health troubles the rest of her life has been life-changing.
“You start paying attention to little things,” said Sweeney. “Success is not necessarily the big prize. It’s achieving the smallest insignificant thing that you thought you were never going to do.”