Reinhart CEO Jerry Janzer Quoted in National Law Journal Article on Milwaukee-Area Manufacturing Economy

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As Manufacturing Lags, Milwaukee's Revamping?

Lisa Holton
The National Law Journal
2013-08-05 00:00:00.0

Think of Milwaukee, and you're likely to come up with Miller beer, Koss Corp. headphones and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. But behind those well-known brand names is a local manufacturing economy that's still working hard to emerge from the economic doldrums.

"It's taken a long time to move out of the Great Recession, and the same can be said for the legal market," said Jay Rothman, Milwaukee-based chairman and chief executive officer of Foley & Lardner. "It's still choppy markets." Manufacturing is rebounding, Rothman said, and increased natural gas exploration is an encouraging development.

The State Bar of Wisconsin listed roughly 5,569 working attorneys in the Milwaukee metropolitan area as of July 1, up by 44 from one year ago. Of the 3,900 law firms statewide, 92 percent employ five or fewer lawyers.

It's been a fairly quiet year on the employment and merger front as the city's legal community waits for business to recover. "Growth has been very modest in the last year. But, to be honest, I don't think Milwaukee was as vulnerable as a lot of other cities were with regard to the economy," said Jerome Janzer, chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren.

He pointed to the Milwaukee Water Council as a positive sign. The council is a city-backed initiative to help foster water-related research and technology businesses. The initiative involves some of Milwaukee's oldest manufacturers, including 140-year-old A.O. Smith Corp., a long-time auto supplier and water heater builder that's trying to create a global water-filtration business.

"Creating a water technology hub, with health care and other service industries, is going to change our local economy," Janzer said.

Ann Murphy, Quarles & Brady's Milwaukee office managing partner, said real estate planning and transaction business is coming back — another good sign of an improving economy. "The last quarter of 2012, we saw a lot of tax-motivated transactions and estate planning" among business owners, she said. This year, the firm has continued to build its business advisory services to meet the phase-in of the Affordable Care Act.

Laterals are still the most attractive hires, and it looks as though Milwaukee will continue to be tough job market for new attorneys. Paul Katzman, assistant dean for career planning at Marquette University Law School, noted that summer classes are starting to rebound at Milwaukee's largest firms, but graduates are still dealing with tighter prospects. He was "cautiously optimistic" that numbers would continue to improve for the 2014 and 2015 classes.


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