At first glance, it could seem like Keith Sellen made a professional 180-degree turn when he left his 22-year career in the army to take on his current role as director of Wisconsin’s Office of Lawyer Regulation in 2000.
Despite the differences between his work in the military and for the OLR, to which he was appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Sellen says his career is held together by one common thread: a commitment to public service.
“There’s a continuity in public service that relates both to the military and to my work here for the court system,” Sellen said. “There’s a similar kind of understanding of the importance in having public confidence in what you’re doing.”
As director of the OLR, Sellen investigates complaints of lawyer misconduct.
Nate Cade, owner and managing partner of Cade Law Group in Milwaukee, said Sellen has made the OLR into a “truly professional organization.”
“I am usually on the opposite of OLR in defending lawyers accused of ethics violations,” Cade said. “But I am struck by how professional OLR’s investigators and prosecutors are in handling matters that could be grievous to the career of an attorney … Keith is truly interested in helping lawyers be more ethical and professional.”
Besides investigating allegations of misconduct, Sellen has helped oversee Wisconsin’s Lawyer Support and Monitoring program, which was started in 2010 to provide support to lawyers who struggle with chemical dependency or conditions like depression.
“What I have loved in this job is when a community of different constituents come together to solve problems and make some progress,” Sellen said.
Sellen grew up on a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and later from the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Sellen served as a JAG for 16 years, completing assignments in Korea and Germany, as well as various places throughout the United States. He taught constitutional law at West Point. His last position in the military had him serving as chief of doctrine and training development at the Judge Advocate General’s School in Charlottesville, Virginia.
He joined the OLR in 2000.