Kyle Engelke, Stafford Rosenbaum LLP

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Kyle Engelke, partner, Stafford Rosenbaum LLP.
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What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

Clients are easily the most rewarding aspect of my job. The only promise in litigation is that it will be uncertain and likely stressful. My job is to help clients properly assess their risk and make decisions accordingly. Often, the best lawyering comes by avoiding/mitigating disputes for clients. However, I find nothing more rewarding than properly vetting a matter and, if push comes to shove, building a record and preparing an argument as a zealous advocate for my client. (I confess winning is not bad either.)

Well-prepared opposing counsel can certainly be challenging, but this also makes practice more rewarding. Instead, the most difficult aspect of my job is managing the expectations and costs of litigation for my clients. While the final destination can sometimes appear obvious and near in litigation, the journey there — for the client/court/or opposing counsel — can contain many twists and turns. Spotting and avoiding the pitfalls, while taking the most effective/efficient route, is certainly the most challenging aspect of practicing law.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

While there are certainly attorneys, judges, and justices who I admire, I don’t know that I admire them for their business acumen. Instead, I believe I can best answer this question by confessing I admire anyone with the vision and self-belief to create and build their own business. Attorneys are most often risk adverse (like me!). I have never started my own business or hung my own proverbial “shingle” as an attorney. I imagine it takes a great amount of fortitude to strike out on a new venture and certainly admire those who have done so successfully.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

I really enjoy jury trials because I come from a family of teachers, and I feel that is the role of the advocate at a trial. Winning my first jury trial was certainly a highlight, but then again, I did catch my cane when I tossed it over the goal post before UW’s homecoming game during my 3L year, and according to legend, the trial win was therefore preordained. Instead, I think I would have to say briefing and conducting my first oral argument at the Wisconsin Supreme Court (successfully!) has been the high point thus far.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Other than buy stock in Amazon/GameStop sooner than later, I would tell my 21-year-old self to take a breath and believe in yourself. Hard work is necessary, but talent and character will show through, so trust the process rather than fret about what is next. I would also tell myself not to plan my wedding during on-campus interviewing during my 3L year so you can go on a honeymoon (you will want/need it!).

What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

What’s not to love about living in Dane County? Setting aside the usual — Badgers, farmers market, Concerts on the Square, the food scene, etc. — I love that nature is never far away. We live on the near west side, yet we are only a 10-minute walk from Picnic Point, the biking trails are amazing, and we love getting on the lake with our kayaks. Also, Dane County supports an inordinate number of local nonprofits, and I really appreciate how serving these types of organizations is such a natural extension of working in Dane County. My workplace fully supports my commitment to the Madison Parks Foundation and I believe this attitude and commitment is present across many workplaces throughout the county.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I wish I had secret talents/abilities! To those who know me, and what a wonderful cook/baker my wife, Mary, is, they may be surprised to discover I am actually quite handy on the grill — charcoal only please! I also am quite proud of a dining room table I made out of an old workstation my mother used at her floral business, refinishing the base before adding a tabletop and drop leaves from a walnut tree that we needed to cut down in our backyard. Finally, as a dare in high school, I once took up poultry judging in FFA contests. I swear I never picked up a single bird but I still have a trophy from finishing second at the state poultry contest.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Setting aside the obvious food/drink guilty pleasures, for which no explanation is required — don’t ask me where the mint chocolate chip ice cream went — the subtext of this question is basically asking me if I am a nerd. The answer is yes. Exhibit A is probably the last Harry Potter-a-thon we hosted. Yes, it was a slumber party. Yes, there were themed drinks. Yes, there were “house” banners/individual house blankets. And yes, there may have been a decal you-know-where stating “This Way to the Ministry of Magic.” Also, who loves the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman? And have you heard the Song-Along from Eurovision? At this point, our neighbors certainly must have.

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