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Olivieri strikes a balance between practice, community work

José Olivieri (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

José Olivieri (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

It’s no overstatement to say José Olivieri maintains a busy schedule.

The lawyer at Michael Best & Friedrich not only helps manage the firm’s Milwaukee office but also oversees its higher-education practice group. Beyond his legal work, Olivieri’s work for various educational and non-profit organizations has him serving as president of the United Community Center, a social service agency for Milwaukee’s Hispanic community.

“I have learned through the years how to balance administrative tasks while still providing quality service to my clients,” he said.

Olivieri became a co-managing partner of Michael Best’s Milwaukee office in September. He leads the office alongside Danielle Bergner, whose expanded duties now include overseeing the firm’s move to a new office in the BMO Harris Financial Center at Market Square in downtown Milwaukee.

Olivieri’s legal practice extends to cases related labor and employment relations, education and immigration. He started Michael Best’s business-focused immigration practice to help employers get the correct documentation for their high-skilled foreign-born workers.

“Immigration law is complex, with different statuses and visas people can obtain. I work to guide my clients through the process,” Olivieri said. “They depend on my knowledge and experience with the system.”

He finds practice areas often overlap.  Certain education clients, for instance, might also be looking for help with employment matters.

“Those different experiences allow me to bring more value to my clients,” Olivieri said.

Olivieri, who taught the advanced employment-law seminar at Marquette University Law School, is also a sought-after speaker on immigration and employment topics.

Education is important for Olivieri. He has served as general counsel for various colleges and universities, concentrating on matters ranging from student discipline to personal-intelligence laws related to technology. Olivieri also served as legal counsel for the Milwaukee Charter School Advocates and has contributed to several legislative initiatives related to education.

He is also an active member of the leadership boards of various universities. He now serves as chairman of the board of trustees at his alma mater, Carroll University, and had previously served on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents.

Beyond the United Community Center, Olivieri has held leadership roles at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Milwaukee Public Library Foundation, the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Forum, among others. He also helped start the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association.

“I find it important to give back to the community. When an issue or topic is personally important, you are able to find the time to get involved,” Olivieri said.

Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
José Olivieri: Working to resolve the issues my clients bring to me. I also enjoy getting to know my clients and their businesses.

WLJ: Who have been your mentors?
Olivieri: I have two of them. The first is Walter Sava, who was my college professor and who I served with at the United Community Center. The second is Marshall Berkoff, who was an attorney here at Michael Best, who passed away earlier this fall.

WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Olivieri: They think I’m in court all the time. That seems to be a common misperception about the legal profession.

WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Olivieri: I like to view sports, read and spend time with my family.

WLJ: What’s your favorite memory from law school?
Olivieri: My study group. It was a great group of guys that I got to know. I will say one memory I have that sticks with me is how on that first day and the discussion they have at orientation where they tell you to look to your left and look to your right and to realize one of you won’t be here at the end.

WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Olivieri: Brown vs. the Board of Education is central to the legal history of the United States.

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