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Attorney Emily Stedman kicks off 2024 as a new partner with Husch Blackwell

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//January 18, 2024//

Emily Stedman

Emily Stedman. Submitted photo.

Attorney Emily Stedman kicks off 2024 as a new partner with Husch Blackwell

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//January 18, 2024//

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Attorney Emily Stedman shared some big news on January 1, 2024. After a decade of practicing law, she made partner in the Technology, Transportation, and Manufacturing industry team and Commercial Litigation practice group at Husch Blackwell LLP in Milwaukee.

Stedman realized recently she has been a practicing attorney and a Wisconsinite now for 10.5 years.

“I cried,” Stedman said, reflecting on the wonderful relationships she’s built in Wisconsin’s legal community.

Stedman said she found the work as an associate very fulfilling, and will continue her day-to-day job duties, which include taking depositions and e-discovery.

“I love commercial litigation, it is very personally fulfilling for me,” Stedman said.

“I love taking depositions, project management, managing people, managing eDiscovery, and all that goes with it. I hope to continue these tasks as partner,” she said, noting becoming partner comes with increased responsibility, but also an increased sense of freedom.

Path to partner

During an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal Wednesday, Husch Blackwell partner Ann Maher described the firm’s process of how associates “make partner.”

“The decision who made partner is voted on by the firm’s Executive Board. I am a member of that Board, who voted in favor of Emily,” Maher said, noting the decision was made in the Fall and considers “a whole host of factors.”

To become partner one must, “perform excellent work in writing, orally, and in court,” Maher noted.

According to Maher, the Executive Board, “watches associates as they come up in ranks and then makes a recommendation to the Board.”

“There must be good client interaction, maturity, ability to demonstrate commitment to the firm, and the community,” Maher noted.

According to Maher, she serves along with nine other senior partners from across the nation at Husch Blackwell offices in Austin, Kansas City, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Madison. Executive Board members are comprised of firm leadership from various practice groups and business units.

“We are tough judges here, as is the case at most law firms. Associates have to meet high expectations,” Maher said, noting, “Emily is thoughtful and has very good judgment.”

“Emily is an excellent writer, and oral advocate, which is critical for people who stand up in court,” Maher said.

Maher commended Stedman’s generosity of time.

“Emily gives up her time very freely to the firm. She invests time recruiting new people to firm, mentoring and teaching junior lawyers. She is patient giving her time,” Maher noted.

“I think she has made a name for herself outside of the firm by serving on various bar association committees, which raises her profile. She is very well respected at the firm and throughout the legal community. She is a very good lawyer,” Maher said.

Stedman was a 2023 Wisconsin Law Foundation Fellow, and Inaugural Member of The American Lawyer’s Young Lawyers Editorial Board from 2017-2022. She is also a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, Young Lawyers Division, and served as a Past President with the Wisconsin Taskforce on Lawyer Well-Being as an Inaugural Member and Committee Chair from 2020-2022.

New sense of freedom

“I feel a little more freedom to explore personal branding and business development. Yes, I still need to bill hours, bring in revenue, and bring in business. I’m really excited to do that. My focus will not necessarily be on getting my own clients immediately, but laying the foundation for building my book of business over time, and beefing up litigation content creation on LinkedIn,” Stedman said.

Gratitude on the path to partner

“I know I’ve worked really hard and it wasn’t always easy, but I persevered. I have, of course, many people in my life, friends, family, and coworkers to thank for that. There were certain times I wish I could drop a note to my past self — you’ll be really glad you didn’t quit and didn’t let the doubt overtake the progress,” Stedman said.

On the first day after making partner, Stedman celebrated with her family, including her husband.

Although substantively the work hasn’t changed much yet, “psychologically it feels different. That’s what surprised me the most,” Stedman said.

“It was a sense of pressure being lifted, which I have been pleased,” Stedman said, noting the uncertainty of making partner had lingered for some time, as it does for associates at most firms.

Unlike many lawyers practicing in the Badger State, Stedman did not begin her career with diploma privilege. Wisconsin remains the only state in the nation where graduates from a Wisconsin law school are exempt from sitting for a state bar exam. However, those like Stedman who attended a law school outside of Wisconsin, must sit for the Wisconsin bar exam, if practicing law in Wisconsin.

After attending both undergraduate school (Wake Forest, NC) and law school (University of Mississippi) in the South, Stedman moved to Milwaukee for a clerkship position.

Prior to attending law school, Stedman worked for Teach for America and then clerked with Hon. Pamela Pepper, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin and then U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Stedman noted the similarities to where she grew up in Metro-Atlanta to Milwaukee.

“Culturally, the Midwest and South are not as different as one might think. It’s God, football, and drinking,” she said.

However, the weather was quite different.

Stedman arrived in Milwaukee during the Winter of 2013-2014 to sit for the Wisconsin Bar exam. That year had been the coldest winter in Wisconsin in nearly four decades.

“Lake Michigan froze that winter. I had never seen frozen body of water before,” Stedman said, noting as she adjusted to the colder climate, she was working full time and studying for the bar exam.

Positive Culture

Stedman praised the people, work, and the culture at Husch Blackwell, noting how supportive the firm has been of the advancement of legal careers for women.

“Husch Blackwell is dynamite in that space. Firm-wide, I’ve worked with more women than I’ve ever thought possible. I am proud to be a part of that group and this firm,” Stedman said.

Stedman also said how she is humbled by the number of associates reaching out to her since announcing the news she has become partner, noting how one particular associate’s note struck a chord.

“It was probably the kindest note I’ve ever received aside from my own mother,” Stedman said.

“It hit me, how much as a woman, I am an example to her, and other women. There is something distinct about being a female partner in my firm,” Stedman added.

Stedman noted while overall there are many Big Law associates who are female, “those numbers decline at the partner level, so I don’t take this lightly.”

Stedman said she is grateful for her mentors at both Husch Blackwell and her previous firm of Quarles & Brady.

“They not only invested in me, they let me ask the tough questions: Is it worth it to be partner? Can I make it to partner? We had candid conversations,” Stedman said, noting how Maher has been a mentor.

During an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal Wednesday, Maher said she has worked with Stedman on a number of legal matters including a jury trial over Wisconsin’s Fair Dealership Law.

“It was the Summer of 2021. We tried the case together when the court was open for a few short months during COVID,” Maher said.

“We got to know each other very well, very quickly,” Maher added.

Stedman recalled the trial took place during the Milwaukee Bucks Championship win.

Reflecting on her last decade as a commercial litigator, Stedman said highlights have been: taking her first deposition, and her first state trial, and then shortly thereafter, her first federal jury trial.

Stedman said she can remember drafting her first motion for summary judgement, and navigating office politics.

“The most rewarding part has been the relationships I’ve built with associates,” she said.

Again, praising the culture at Husch Blackwell, Stedman said she felt an immediate connection with her colleagues.

“At Husch Blackwell, I was able to almost immediately get involved with associates in Milwaukee and build similar personal relationships to my previous firm.”

Advice

When asked what advice she has for newer associates or law students, Stedman said, “you need to own that it’s a lot of hours and hard work. At the same time, it can be very worth it.”

Stedman advises younger associates and law students to take the time to figure out what you really want and constantly reflect.

“Try your best not to compare yourself to other people,” she said.

Taking off two years before becoming a 1L, after receiving her Bachelor’s degree, Stedman worked as a fifth grade teacher and clerked before jumping into Big Law.

“I used to think I was behind, but no, I am on my own path. What matters is you are on your own path and it can look like whatever you want it to. As long as you can stay in tune to that, the rest is just noise,” Stedman said.

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