Lewis Wagner LLP
University of Illinois Chicago School of Law, 1997
Why did you decide to enter the legal profession?
I started college convinced that I wanted to be a computer science major, but my bouts with calculus and advanced math convinced me otherwise. I graduated with a degree in history, but museum curator wasn’t the career path for me, so I applied to law school.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’m not sure this one can be printed, but my mom once told me, “If your heart’s not in it, get your a– out.” A more family-friendly piece of advice would be to treat your partners like you would your clients.
Who is someone who has inspired you in your career?
This is a long list, but each person on it has genuinely inspired me to become a better person, in addition to a better lawyer. Robert Wagner, John Trimble, Tom Hays, Jerry Hammond, Rich Blaiklock and Lesley Pfleging have all been huge inspirations, and all for different reasons. I would also single out my wife, Jessica Foos, and my (and Jessica’s) first boss in the legal world, Tim Meade, both of whom had tremendous impacts on my career.
What did you learn when creating Lewis Wagner’s Transportation Practice Group?
A lot. First and foremost, my partners at Lewis Wagner were truly invested in my success. I was given all the support anyone could ask for when pitching a proposal to form a new practice group. Second, that I could trust others to do the work as well as, or better than, I could do it. I didn’t need to micromanage every aspect. Somewhere along the way I learned that I truly enjoyed mentoring young lawyers and watching them become successful. I also learned how hard it is to practice law while running a business.
What makes a good lawyer/judge?
All I can ask from any judge is that he or she be prepared, courteous and that the trial rules are applied equally. A good lawyer is also prepared, courteous and willing to listen to an opposing viewpoint. I have been fortunate in my career to encounter very few judges or attorneys who did not meet these criteria. I would be lying if I said I always adhere to my own standards, but everyone has a few bad days.
What is something you wish people knew about lawyers?
That we are all pretty much collegial, if not downright friendly, with one another outside of the courtroom. It’s not like you see on television. Attorneys can’t lift semitractor-trailers over their heads, also not like on television.
How do you spend your free time?
I play too much golf. I also love traveling with my family.
Do you have a secret talent?
Tell us about your work with veterans’ groups like the VFW and Disabled American Veterans.
I would say that I haven’t done nearly enough. It started with helping family and friends in their efforts to obtain and retain benefits. That blossomed into offering to help local organizations by donating my time to answer (or attempting to answer) legal questions the veterans may have. My dad paid for my lifetime VFW membership, and I’m proud to be a part of it. He currently works at the local VFW in Cayuga, Indiana.
If you hadn’t pursued a legal career, what would you be doing?
Well, after a failed attempt to make the PGA Tour, I would probably have attempted sports reporting or becoming a sports agent of some sort. •