Trecek, shareholder at Habush Habush & Rottier, accepted the award at WAJ’s virtual Presidents’ Reception on Thursday night.
Trecek handles all types of personal-injury cases as a managing partner at Habush’s Milwaukee and West Bend offices. WAJ recognized Trecek as a masterful communicator on behalf of his clients and a legal innovator.
In February, Trecek successfully made a $38.1 million claim against Hyundai, persuading a Racine County jury that the company’s defective seat design caused his client’s paralysis. The 17-day trial included 27 trial witnesses, 390 trial exhibits and more than 3.4 million pages of documents from just four of the defense’s main experts.
Trecek obtained a $38.1 million verdict for Edward Vanderventer, the man paralyzed in the crash, and his wife.
“It goes without saying that this is one of the greatest verdicts in the history of our state,” said Jesse Blocher, shareholder at Habush Habush & Rottier, during Thursday’s awards ceremony.
Trecek got emotional during his acceptance speech while talking about the case and the devastating effects the crash had on the couple. Vanderventer is permanently confined to a bed, and his wife is now his full-time caregiver.
“Nobody can judge effort,” Trecek said. “Effort is between you, and for this case, I was going to leave everything on the proverbial courtroom floor.”
He thanked his colleagues and his family for their support, and he offered encouragement for the trial lawyers in attendance.
“As trial attorneys, all of you do great things for your clients,” Trecek said. “The blood, sweat and tears that all of you put into your cases make society better one case at a time.”
Trecek is one of only two people to receive WAJ’s Trial Lawyer of the Year award twice. He previously won the distinction in 2011.
His other accolades include being listed in the Best Lawyers in America for more than a decade and serving as a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, a fellow and member of the Board of Governors of the International Society of Barristers, and a fellow of the Litigation Council of America.
Trecek is also on the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee and has been an adjunct professor at Marquette University Law School for 20 years. He’s a 1993 graduate of Marquette Law School.
MacGillis, Kunda honored
During Thursday’s virtual reception, WAJ also recognized Christoper J. MacGillis of MacGillis Wiemer in Milwaukee as its Outstanding Young Trial Lawyer and Roxanne E. Sears Kunda of Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs as 2020 Paralegal of the Year.
MacGillis focuses his practice on personal injury and representing first responders, including firefighters and police unions. He’s tried cases in state and federal court. In December 2019, MacGillis and his team obtained a jury verdict that was over 10 times the insurance company’s last offer.
In his acceptance speech, MacGillis talked about a case he had lost, rather than one of his many successes. It was a difficult case, MacGillis said, but the important thing was that he took a stand for his community and clients.
“For the young lawyers, you don’t have to be afraid,” MacGillis said. “If you have a case you believe in and believe in the client, take the case to trial.”
WAJ cited MacGillis’ passion for fighting for his clients and his work to show how being wrongly injured has impacted their lives.
“He’s one of those people who you wonder what you did to have such an exceptional person in your life,” said Kristen Scheuerman, partner at Herrling Clark in Appleton.
MacGillis is a graduate of Marquette University Law School.
Kunda has been a worker’s compensation and personal-injury paralegal for nearly 30 years. She began her paralegal career in 1991, working for insurance companies and their insureds to defend civil litigation claims. Since 2010, she has used her expertise exclusively on behalf of injured plaintiffs.
“There are times when there are long hours and to get everything that is needed for every case can sometimes seem like an impossible task,” Kunda said. “Yet to get people fair compensation for their claims is rewarding.”
Kunda started working with Mark Thomsen in 2011, first at Cannon & Dunphy. She joined him in 2017 at Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs. As the firm’s lead paralegal, Thomsen said Kunda is always willing to put in the work needed to achieve results for their clients.
“She has always been there for her associates, and she’s been with me in good times and also in my worst moment,” Thomsen said with tears in his eyes. “She is truly deserving.”
Beverly Wickstrom, outgoing WAJ president, and Jay Urban, the incoming 2021 WAJ president, made remarks about the state of the organization and its goals for the next year.
Wickstrom said while she didn’t make the progress she would have liked on her own structural goals, WAJ made collective progress toward diversity goals, adapted to COVID-19 challenges and preserved democracy through service during the election.
Urban called 2021 the “standing-back-up year” and vowed to continue the organization’s commitment to preserving justice in communities around the state.
“The pandemic has shown us just how important justice is and what happens when there is a lack of justice,” Urban said.Follow @WLJReporter