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Phil Halley ’81: Wisconsin Top Ten Super Lawyer

May 6, 2010 | Alumni

Wisconsin may seem like an odd place for a devoted Buckeye fan; however, Phil Halley ’81 has done his best to make it home.

“On my bookshelf at work I have a replica of the Horseshoe and on my desk a Buckeye lamp my dad made,” Halley said. “I have a longstanding agreement with one of my partners who graduated from Michigan. The winner of “The Game” each year determines who buys lunch. I bought a lot of lunches in the 90s, but the last decade has been a good one.”

A native of Huron, Ohio, Halley received both his undergraduate and law degrees from The Ohio State University. Both of his parents and his siblings graduated from Ohio State, as did his wife and all of her siblings. One of Halley’s three daughters has carried on the tradition, attending medical school at Ohio State.

“I received an exceptional legal education at Ohio State,” Halley said. “My favorite classes were Civil Procedure and Federal Courts, both taught by Professor Fink.” It was Halley’s interest in those subjects that inspired him to pursue a federal court clerkship as his first job.

A clerkship with U.S. District Judge Robert W. Warren led Halley to Wisconsin. After the two-year clerkship, Halley joined Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek in Milwaukee, where he became a member of the firm’s trusts and estates practice group. He now leads the practice group for the firm, which has offices in Milwaukee and Madison.

“I’ve been with the firm over 26 years and have worked with some fabulous lawyers,” Halley said. “You learn how to think like a lawyer and analyze problems in law school, but you learn how to practice law by working with really good lawyers and having the opportunity to work with clients on challenging matters.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to work on some creative things,” Halley said. “I enjoy working with clients who are concerned about taking care of their families and expressing their values in their planning. I’ve had the opportunity to work with clients establishing or administering foundations and as a result have had a hand – behind the scenes – in some meaningful projects in the community.” Halley’s favorite experience, however, was in court, when he argued before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a tax case. “It’s something trusts and estates lawyers don’t often do, but I loved it.”

Halley’s dedication to the practice has won him the respect of his peers. The December 2009 Wisconsin Super Lawyers magazine features Halley in its cover story. For the third straight year Halley has been listed in the magazine as one of the top ten lawyers in the state.

Halley and his wife, Ellen, travel to Ohio often to visit family. “And, of course, to see the Buckeyes,” Halley said.