John Giftos, Bell Giftos LLC
IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features John Giftos, owner, attorney, Bell Giftos LLC.
1. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?
As a business owner, the challenge is the constant awareness that the business exists not only for my wellbeing but also for the benefit and stability of all its employees. While this responsibility can be daunting, it is incredibly rewarding to provide an inviting and accommodating workplace and to know that the firm’s success can have such a positive impact for so many people. Similarly, in my role as legal counsel, one of my greatest challenges is taking a difficult legal dispute — one that can have significant financial and personal implications for my client — and then put my client at ease by ensuring they are always confident they are getting the best representation I can provide. Of course, the obvious reward is successfully resolving the legal issue, seeing the client succeed, put the case behind them, and move forward.
2. Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?
This question was easy to answer: my wife, Mindi Giftos. We graduated law school together and were hired by successful law firms. When we had children, Mindi chose to put her career on hold so that she could stay home with our two boys. When our boys were older, Mindi went back to work as a lawyer for a large Wisconsin law firm. She succeeded as an associate, became a shareholder, and is now managing her firm’s Madison office. She is an expert in her field and is widely respected for her legal skills and impeccable professionalism. Additionally, Mindi gives back to the community. She coaches Girls On The Run, has served on multiple boards for nonprofit organizations, is actively involved in numerous charities, and constantly looks to improve our community. Despite all of this, Mindi has somehow found the time to train for and run marathons — 15 of them in 15 years. There are a few lessons one can’t help but learn by being around Mindi: 1) Work hard, play hard; 2) Respect yourself, respect others; and 3) If you are going to do something, give it 100% effort.
3. What has been the high point of your career so far?
Starting Bell Giftos LLC three years ago was easily the high point of my legal career. I have worked at some wonderful law firms, but I wanted to create my own — start from scratch and build it from the ground up. So I joined forces with my former colleague, Roisin Bell. We created a law firm that is governed by a single philosophy regarding the practice of law: provide exceptional client service that produces outstanding results in a timely and cost-effective manner. We hire excellent employees who share in our vision, and we constantly look at strategic ways to grow and flourish as a firm and as lawyers. We developed a team approach to handling cases, and demand excellence from everyone in our office. We have also worked hard to create a positive firm culture. We foster an inviting, friendly work environment, where everyone is valued and understands they are valuable. I think no career can provide more satisfaction than a successful one you build yourself.
4. Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Get more life experiences. Do everything possible to become an even more well rounded person. The more you do, the more you experience, the more you learn about yourself and others, and the wiser you become. That depth helps you make better choices, become a better leader, and find more personal and professional happiness and fulfillment.
5. What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?
Dane County provides the sophistication, complexity, and diversity of working in a big city without all of the burdens. We have thriving public and private businesses and cutting edge startup companies, as well as a strong governmental presence. Dane County, and Madison in particular, provides everything you want personally as well, such as high-quality fine arts, a great local music scene, excellent dining, a top college, exciting sports, good schools for the kids, and a wonderful park system. To top it off, my commute takes only minutes.
6. Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?
I play lead guitar in the local rock band Undercover. I’ve been playing music for over 27 years, and have been in this band for the last 10. We play all over Madison at local bars, festivals, and weddings. I transform from a lawyer during the week to a rocker on the weekends. I go from a courtroom to a stage, from a suit to jeans, and from writing briefs and arguing before judges to playing rock and roll for friends and fans.
7. What are your guilty pleasures?
My guilty pleasure is definitely music gear. I am always trying out new guitars and new amps, and I am constantly selling one to buy another. Over the years, I have amassed a modest collection of my favorites, and each is tied to a different time or special moment in my life. For example, I still have the first guitar I ever played — a beat up classical guitar handed down to me by my father. He taught me my first chords. I have the first electric guitar I ever purchased completely on my own — a Fender Strat I stumbled across in a seedy pawnshop in Tallahassee, Fla. And I have the beautiful acoustic guitar that my incredible wife gave me as a wedding present.
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