Growing up, Vanessa Wishart spent a lot of time outdoors, so it should be no surprise that she ended up practicing environmental law.
The native of Lincoln, Nebraska, decided to go to law school after working as an intern at a small non-profit organization that provides legal services to immigrants in her home state.
“I thought, ‘The law is a good profession where you can help people,’” she said. “And I thought that would be a good combination, working in the environmental world in a way that I thought I could be doing some good.”
She decided on the University of Wisconsin Law School because it would let her get her master’s degree in environment resources at the UW Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. After graduation, she served as clerk at the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
Now a senior associate at Madison-based Stafford Rosenbaum, Wishart is doing exactly what she had planned to.
But the work isn’t always easy. Environmental law incorporates a large variety of matters involving contracts. It can touch not only on transactional work but also on administrative law, permitting issues and litigation.
“It’s a challenging field to work in because it pulls from so many practice areas,” Wishart said. “It’s not its own discrete practice area.”
Wishart has nonetheless thrived at Stafford Rosenbaum.
Paul Kent, a partner at Stafford and Wishart’s mentor and boss, noted that Wishart has had not only sharp writing and analytical abilities since starting at the firm, but also a professional demeanor.
“There’s more than enough drama going on with clients and, frankly, other attorneys, and someone who can be calm and measured and thoughtful has been really helpful,” he said.
Kent and Wishart met while Wishart was still in law school, when she took the Environmental Law and Practice class he teaches every other year. They kept in touch after she graduated, and when Kent needed a new associate, he reached out to her.
Kent noted that Wishart has rolled up her sleeves to help out on some of his larger projects, including a superfund case involving about half a dozen attorneys. Wishart helped with work that might not have been especially interesting but nonetheless needed to get done.
“She was willing to do what we needed to have done and did it well,” Kent said. “As good as she is at operating independently, when I need a team player to help out on a big project, she’s willing to pitch in with whatever’s needed. That’s been great.”