Todd Weir, the recently retired president of Otjen Law Firm in Waukesha, built his more than 40-year legal career on trying complex medical-negligence cases.
Weir joined the firm in 1979 as a law clerk. He was then just starting to develop the medical-negligence practice for which the firm is now known. After Weir passed the bar exam, his mentor brought him into the fold to shape his practice.
In the decades that followed, Weir defended hospitals, physicians, license holders and pharmaceutical manufacturers in a variety of complex cases involving extensive trial work.
“The trials are what I enjoyed the most,” Weir said. “What you do day-to-day is necessary … but all of that is sort of like practice. The game is the trial.”
One of his most memorable trials was in 1998, when he was representing the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund. After the first defense lawyer’s closing arguments, the plaintiff left the courtroom and didn’t return.
While Weir was making his closing arguments, the plaintiff’s lawyer insisted he and Weir approach the bench. The plaintiff’s lawyer had just learned his client had left the courtroom to get a gun to shoot the defense lawyers.
“According to the court reporter, the color drained out of my face,” Weir said. “I looked at the judge and said the first step is to get the jurors out of here.”
Weir said he considered moving for another mistrial. Ultimately, the case continued without incident.
Aside from that frightening experience, Weir said he never found trial work stressful. He retired from his 42-year legal career in January and has since been pleasantly surprised that he hasn’t missed it more.
Although he’s no longer in the courtroom, Weir continues to have influence on medical-malpractice attorneys through the lessons he imparts as a mentor. Emile Banks, a Milwaukee trial attorney who works with insurance companies, described Weir as a model of dignity.
“He is a lawyer’s lawyer with the very highest of skill, integrity and will to do the right thing,” Banks said.
Weir advises young lawyers to pay attention to the respected attorneys around them and emulate their successful trial tactics.
“Try to take on as many challenges as you can, and get into court as often as you can,” Weir said. “I had tremendous mentors, and without those mentors, I would have never had any of the success that some people think I’ve had.”