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Smiley excels at planning despite never planning to become an attorney

By: Emily Bultman//September 18, 2019//

Smiley excels at planning despite never planning to become an attorney

By: Emily Bultman//September 18, 2019//

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Peter Smiley - Willms-O’Leary
Peter Smiley – Willms-O’Leary

Peter Smiley never planned to become a lawyer, but fate intervened and led him on a path toward the profession.

After graduating from college in 2009 with a degree in finance, and on the heels of the Great Recession, he decided to enroll in law school.

“It was forces outside my control that pushed me down this career path, and I enjoy it and never looked back,” he said.

While at Marquette University Law School, Smiley was an intern with Judge Mark Gundrum on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, and was an editor of the Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review.

He joined the staff at Willms-O’Leary in 2015. There he continues to practice tax planning and preparation, business law, estate planning, trust administration, real estate, accounting and taxation.

“Peter is dependable, talented and goes the extra mile when someone needs him,” said Maureen O’Leary, president of Willms-O’Leary. “Whether it is preparing a rush estate plan for a sick client or helping an elderly client return safely to her vehicle, Peter is there to help with whatever needs to be done.”

Smiley helps businesses, trusts and estates in the operation and administration of these entities. This work has him doing accounting, tax preparation, and payables and receivables management, among various other things.

“I am very proud of Pete’s work in our income-tax practice, which has allowed us to increase the number of people we serve,” O’Leary said. “He has devoted himself to continually developing his expertise, such as by pursuing a M.S. in Taxation while simultaneously practicing law full-time.”

Beyond taking part in several professional organizations, he credits his firm for encouraging him to get involved with outside groups. Smiley, for instance, serves as a board member and officer of the Friends of the Domes in Milwaukee and is a member of the Milwaukee Public Museum’s 1882 Society.

“It is good for me professionally to see how foundations act once they have been established in terms of tax wise, planning wise, resource devolvement,” he said. “On a personal level, I grew up in the Milwaukee area and love going to the domes and museum. It is an honor to give back my time and contribute to these organizations.”

Smiley credits his parents for encouraging him to work hard.

“What I enjoy most about this job is seeing how every single person who walks into my office leaves in the same or better position than when they walked in,” he said. “We are helping people actualize their goals with their lives, family, their business or charitable intentions. And, it is incredibly rewarding to be able to do that on a daily basis.”


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