University of Wisconsin–Madison

Our Stories

UW Law School’s story is a rich and diverse one, made up of many stories. We invited our law school family–alumni, faculty and staff, students, friends–to share a photo, an experience from Law School, a tribute to someone at UW Law who made a difference, or a milestone they achieved.

Read on, and add to our story.

Jonathan Levy ’95

My senioJonathan Levy '95r year of college at the University of Vermont found itself to be very stressful when it came time to begin applying to law schools. I grew up in Milwaukee, my older brother had just graduated UW Law School, and I was convinced I had the goods to succeed at UWLS, my first choice.

I had also applied to De Paul University Law School and the University Of Miami School Of Law…and was accepted to both. Now, here comes the plot twist. After applying to UWLS, I was initially put on the wait list in the spring, and I spent all summer pining away for my admission letter. The wait seemed eternal and finally ended without the result I had wished for, for so long. I was ultimately denied admission in August, just a few weeks before the semester was to begin. With my two choices being drastically different, I decided I would try a new life in Miami; I mean how bad could Suntan U be?

I loaded all my belongings into my two-door Nissan and headed south on a Wednesday. I arrived in Miami Thursday night, starting law school the following Monday. However, Sunday night changed south Florida forever. That was the evening Hurricane Andrew’s category five storm hit exactly where I was. That first year was to be challenging enough with the assignments and rigors of being a first year. Losing power, facilities, and overall chaos made my experience much worse than I could ever have imagined. All the optimism, excitement and romanticism I conjured in anticipation of my introduction to the law was deflated to say the least. Despite the challenges, I made it through my first year getting decent grades and tried to grasp the positive aspects of south Florida.

On a whim and a prayer, I applied to transfer to UWLS for my second and third years. To my complete surprise and dismay, I was accepted over that summer. Within a day of the acceptance, I was headed back to Wisconsin to look for an apartment in Madison and begin my law school experience as I had dreamed for years prior. To my complete delight, I immediately loved the school, my professors, fellow classmates, and the entire UW Law experience. From the amazing lectures to Saturday Badger football, UWLS was always home to me. After second year, I got the chance to clerk in one of Milwaukee’s finest and most prestigious personal injury law firms. I found my true calling that summer and realized I wanted to practice tort law and help those who cannot fight big insurance companies and big business on their own.

The education I received both in the classroom and in my entire third year, still working for the firm, was invaluable. Because UWLS gave me this second look or chance, I have been practicing in my law firm for more than 20 years. I am now a managing partner of a 13-lawyer firm based in West Palm Beach, Florida, with a second office in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Looking back at what UWLS gave to me, I can honestly state the opportunity bestowed to me that second year is my personal “come back” story. Frequently, I explain and emphasize to clients that if you catch a break and commit to your goals, you will be rewarded immensely. On Wisconsin!

Bill Fisher ’78

William Fisher '78
William Fisher ’78

In my spring of third year of law school I was auditing an intellectual property course taught by Professor Kidwell. Most of the students in class were third-year students, and they did not feel very inclined to participate in class discussions.

One day Professor Kidwell said, “What’s the difference between a third-year law student and a bag of cement? Answer. The bag of cement opens its mouth.”

That afternoon I put a note in Professor Kidwell’s mail box. The note read, “What is the difference between a law professor and a bag of cement? Answer. The bag of cement knows when to keep its mouth shut.”

Professor Kidwell read the answer in class the next day. Many years later he also mentioned the note in a Gargoyle article. At a later reunion, I told him I was the note writer.

Postcards

Where did your law degree take you?

“My UW Law degree took me all over the U.S. when I worked in the Law School’s admissions office. It took me to Greenbush Donuts when I’d get donuts for 1Ls during finals. It took me to grocery stores to buy food for Dean’s Cup celebrations. And it took me home to Montana after 14 years. Thank you.”

Mike Hall ’04

Mountain goats in Glacier National Park, Montana.
Mike Hall '04 sent in this postcard from Glacier National Park in Montana
Postcard from Mike Hall '04
Hall writes that his UW Law degree took him all over the U.S. and back home again to Montana.
Postcard from the American Museum of Tort Law

Where did your law degree take you?

“Hello Legal Badgers! My UW Law degree took me to New Jersey, where I’ve set up shop as a freelance lobbyist and legal marketing consultant. I’ve also been inspired to launch a line of legal themed t-shirts on Amazon (search ESK ESQ)! This postcard is from the tort law museum in CT, a must-visit if you come to the East Coast.”

Emily Kelchen ’11

 

Emily Kelchen's postcard, postmarked Kearny NJ

 

Where did your law degree take you?

“My law degree took me to Hollywood where I work on This Is Us, Modern Family, and The Simpsons.  Note: I do not work for Fox News. 🙂  On Wisconsin!”

Ryan Worrell ’05

Postcard: 20th Century Fox's classic neon studio sign on Building 89, Los Angeles California
Ryan Worrell '05 writes from Los Angeles, where he works at 20th Century Fox on programs like 'This is Us' and 'Modern Family.'

Dianne Post ’79

After being a parole officer and then a psychologist working with the mentally challenged and alcoholics, I went to law school because I knew that it wasn’t the people who were the problem, it was a faulty system. I intended to be a criminal defense attorney until one fateful afternoon in my first year. As a staunch feminist I went to a presentation by Louise Trubek from the Center for Public Representation about women’s rights that was very inspiring. I thought, when I become an attorney, I want to be just like you. When the presentation ended, I went up to her and said, “I’m coming to work for you.” She said, “We don’t have any openings nor money to hire anyone right now.” I said, “I’ll find it.” And I did. That summer I went to work for them and worked there till I graduated.

Dianne Post's 1979 class exit photo
Dianne Post ’79

My other memorable experience was being called into the Dean’s office because my grades were not the best. Mind you I was working half time, living with my single sister who had three children and co-parenting, co-chair of the 8th National Conference on Women and the Law being held in Madison, and carrying a minimum of credits in order to manage all this. He said that if I wanted a job in a white-shoe firm, I had better get my grades up and if I would quit my jobs and volunteer work, I could do better. I responded that I had zero interest in a white-shoe firm, students from poor families had to work to go to law school and we are the very ones you need, and my volunteer work on women’s rights was the reason I was in school. We didn’t part friendly. A semester or two later, I made Deans list. He didn’t congratulate me.

Louise Trubek
Prof. Louise Trubek

My proudest moment as a lawyer was when I finished speaking somewhere and a young woman came up to talk to me. She handed me a gift and said, “You don’t recognize me do you?” I said, “No, should I?” She said, “Not really. I was a child of 8-years-old when you represented my mom in her divorce. My dad was molesting me and you got her sole custody and him no visitation. I’m 18 now and I want to thank you for saving my life.” This is why we do what we do.

Just this month (November 2017) I was walking to a bar after an event at which I organized a panel and spoke on the ERA. A young woman, not old enough to get into the bar, came up to me on the street and said she had been at the presentation. I recognized her and indeed she had asked several questions at the end. She told me that she was in college and debating on law school or something else. She said that after she heard me speak, she decided – when I grow up, I want to be a lawyer just like her. Thank you Louise Trubek, circle closed.

Gargoyle

Marv Ripp ’75

This is a poem about two gargoyles, separated for 70 years but now reunited. You should read the story first.

When most folks think of a gargoyle,
They imagine a beast and recoil!
True – most of them are grotesque –
You wouldn’t want one on your desk.
To that view, this story is a foil.

Way back in eighteen ninety-three,
These two sat together you see –
On the roof of the law school –
Thinking that they looked real cool –
Deserving their perch for eternity!

Then, back in nineteen fifty-one,
A mischievous thing was done!
One blew off on a stormy night –
The fate of the one on the right –
And taken away, we guess for fun.

The guy who took it was named Been –
He hauled off the gargoyle unseen –
In a sturdy old wheel barrow –
Perhaps meaning to just borrow?
The entire plan was not too keen!

Don’t let your judgment of this harden –
‘Cause ‘righty’ was kept in a garden –
And adored by the family –
Being looked upon most affably!
So, they should be given a pardon.

Now, ‘righty’ is back home with ‘lefty’ –
The years apart almost seventy!
Even though stone and ugly,
They yearned to be cuddly,
And could not be kept from their bestie!

 

Cane toss icon

Scott Hansen ’76

The 1976 cane toss. Throw it over the cross bar and catch it, they said, and you’ll win your first case. What if I toss it and it keeps on going? So I tied a bunch of helium balloons to my cane and let it fly. Into the stands, never to be seen again. What did it mean? Would I win my first case? Would I win all of them? No one could say. The law is full of ambiguities, no more clearly than on that day.

David P. Ansell ’93

My Wisconsin Law School story is about finding a great teacher and the impact that has had on my legal career.

Due to my interest in environmental law, a friend in Law School introduced me to Professor S. Richard Heymann (“SRH”), who was teaching an environmental law course and was practicing in same area at Foley & Lardner in Madison.

I took the class when I was a 2L. I was struck by a few things unusual about the class, (i) SRH was very smart and had a mastery of not only the relevant law but the practical realities of how things get done in the real world as versus a blue book, (ii) SRH required that students participate in class by assigning each student a role in a settlement negotiation which was fun but intimidating because you had to think on your feet ( like a lawyer ) and (iii) he bought us beer after class.

What I learned while drinking beer ( at Dotty’s and State Street Brat House) was that SRH loved teaching and was genuinely interested in his students. For those of us that were curious, SRH had endless fun stories about real life events and the practice of law. SRH took an interest in me and he (and his wife Jane, also a very smart lawyer) took time to work on my legal writing skills (which really needed it) and discussed my post law school plans. That was the beginning of a long mentorship and friendship.

My first Job was at Thacher Proffitt & Wood in New York City. The interview process was long, but I was thrilled to get the job. What I did not know for many many years was that SRH had called the hiring partner at Thacher to give an unsolicited recommendation for me which was in essence SRH telling Thacher that he, as a partner at a large firm, understood that I would be a fine choice for them. I have always believed that phone call made the difference.

After seven years I left Thacher for Loeb & Loeb in New York to work on mergers & acquisitions. SRH then insisted that I come to the Law School to lecture in his transactions class. I have done this now almost every year for the last seventeen (17). In the beginning it was intimidating to be lecturing on the technical aspects of negotiating deals and fielding questions from students (and my former professor!). Over time it became fun and enjoyable. I am sure that teaching in this class made me a better lawyer and in his way SRH was still teaching me, this time by pushing me to learn how to prepare, give a substantive lecture and teach. Pretty clever.

SRH and I became good friends, comparing notes on the law, jazz, Badger football and hockey, his very successful daughters, his dogs and more. I had many smart and talented professors at the Law School, but SRH’s passion for teaching, mentoring people and his experience as a practitioner put him in a class of his own. I am forever grateful I was in his class. I am still learning. The Law School is lucky to have him.