Lynette Carrington 2013-12-04 11:11:50
Robert Due has had a successful 31-year career as a family law attorney, but is looking forward to at least 20 more. “You can never just rest on your laurels in this business,” stated Due. “The only escape from hard work is more hard work, as long as it continues to be rewarding.” Due has served as the managing partner of Mackall, Crounse & Moore for the past two years, and just last month the firm underwent a major transformation. Exciting Changes “We successfully combined our 95-year-old firm with a prominent Wisconsin firm, DeWitt Ross & Stevens,” said Due. “Dewitt was founded in 1903 and is broadly recognized for its corporate, environmental, government relations, labor and employment, litigation and intellectual property practices.” The combined firm is known as DeWitt Mackall Crounse & Moore. Due is excited about the benefits the new firm offers to its clients and about the opportunities it brings to attorneys. The combination of the firms creates an impressive regional firm with more than 100 lawyers and offices in Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis. “Our broader platform and greater depth of experience and talentenables us to better serve clients throughout the upper Midwest,” explained Due. The Lure of the Courtroom To discover what got Due started on his path to becoming a lawyer in the first place, you need to look no further than the influence of television and folm. Due explained, “I was always enthralled by the old courtroom dramas, from ‘Perry Mason’ to ‘Anatomy of a Murder,’ and moved by the idea of the truth prevailing because of the tenacious search for evidence.” Due attended Carleton College where he double majored in English literature and psychology, but he wasn’t enthusiastic about pursuing graduate school in either area of study. “Upon reflection, it dawned on me that law was an area where i could use both the writing skills i developed at Carleton and my knowledge of psychology. i entered the University of Minnesota law school and, of course, once you are in law school, the die is cast.” Out of law school, Due clerked for a district court judge for a year before entering private practice. He has been practicing primarily in the area of matrimonial law for the past 31 years. “Some might speculate that I was drawn to that area because my parents were divorced when I was a very young child and then i lived through my mother’s second divorce,” stated Due. “But, i don’t believe those events had anything to do with the area i chose. Rather, i like representing a flesh-and-blood client whose entire personal life will be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding and who will benefit from my advice, encouragement, guidance and protection.” He enjoys combining critical thinking and creativity in crafting settlements for his clients. “I also like that family law requires such a diverse set of skills and touches upon so many different fields of knowledge, including psychology, accounting, and business and real estate appraisal.” Bonding With the Client Due noted that many times, family law attorneys have their staff “screen” potential clients before they even speak to an attorney. He likes to offer a more personalized experience to his clients. “After i determine that there is no conflict, I am willing to entertain brief consultations over the phone almost immediately after the client contacts me or my firm,” said Due. “It is important for that attorney-client bond to form as soon as possible and for the attorney to have an opportunity to reassure the client and to prevent the kinds of rash actions that often materialize in a fresh separation or marital breakdown. The client needs to trust the lawyer, and the lawyer needs to trust the client.” Landmark Cases While Due has represented the prevailing parties in numerous cases before the Minnesota appellate courts, two cases stand out as landmarks and have had an enduring effect on the law. In McKee-Johnson v. Johnson, Due successfully represented his client before the Minnesota Supreme Court. The case established the standards for the validity and enforceability of prenuptial agreements in Minnesota. Due was back before the Minnesota Supreme Court 13 years later in the case of Antone v. Antone, which reaffirmed the formula for determining the marital portion of appreciated premarital real estate. Despite his success at the appellate court level, Due said that “the best results for clients are won at the district court level through a fair decision from a wise and discerning judge that neither side appeals or a deft settlement that serves the interests of both parties. By the time there is an appeal pending, both the costs of litigation and the acrimony are running sky high.” The Challenges of Family Law Being in one field of law for so long has given Due the confidence that comes from numerous successes. Even so, he finds there are continuing challenges in the practice of family law. “The greatest challenges are, number one, controlling the client, who is often fraught with anger, fear and anxiety and perhaps less rational than at any other point in his or her life,” he said. “Number two is influencing the opposition into being reasonable and cooperative, which is no small task. And number three is persuading the judge, which requires that you know your audience and present the facts and the law in an interesting way that will grab and keep the judge’s attention.” Another challenge, he said, is to fit the legal process to the facts of the case. “Mediation and some of the other ADR methods are based on the premise that people are basically good and motivated to do the right thing and just need to have the path lit for them. The traditional divorce litigation model is based on the premise that people are basically evil and motivated to lie, cheat, and steal and therefore must have their testimony subjected to rigorous cross-examination. In reality, people fall all over the credibility spectrum and the lawyer must make a judgment call as to what method of dispute resolution is best suited to the case and what degree of skepticism must be applied to the evidence coming from the other side.” Due has been nominated as a Super Lawyer every year since 2002 and is also a member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which sponsors the popular “Divorce Camp” every fall. “I was also recently chosen for inclusion in the 2014 edition of Best Lawyers in America,” he said. “I have always wanted to be in that book.” The Bucket List Just about every lawyer has at least a modest list of things they would like to do before they close out their legal career and Due is no exception. “I have two filing cabinets full of the decrees and court orders I have obtained for clients over the past 31 years,” he said, “and I am quite proud of my high success ratio. But, I would like to fill a third filing cabinet full of such results before i consider hanging up the saddle. I figure that will take at least 20 more years.” Due has already traveled the world with his children, visiting such exotic places as Tokyo and Budapest, but there are still a number of amazing places he would like to explore while he can still enjoy them to the fullest. “Tony Bourdain is my hero,” he says. “There is nothing like travel to an exotic destination to give you a fresh perspective on your own life and work.” Beyond the Office Due is a devoted father to three daughters, including a newborn. Emily, 23, just graduated from Reed College with honors. She is considering a graduate degree in medical anthropology. Libby, 20, is attending Carleton College, has been working as an intern with a family law firm, and is considering a career in law. And, just two months ago, Due welcomed his third daughter, Sophie. “She’s just trying to sleep through the night.” Due also owns a home in the French Quarter of New Orleans, which is an ideal retreat for him and his family. “With all due respect to the great city of Minneapolis,” he said, “New Orleans, with its history, cuisine, weather, and laid-back atmosphere, is a place where i can truly relax. Fortunately, our place was spared by Katrina.” The Best Reward Due reports that the gratitude of his clients is the best reward. It is the heartfelt thank you notes, expressing relief and hope for the future, that best prove Due’s impact on his clients’ lives. One client recently sent a card expressing just those sentiments. It read, in part, “What i do know is that I’m forever grateful to you for helping me to do the hardest, ugliest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. Thank you so much for taking such good care to secure a financial life that will provide stability for me and my children.” “That is the kind of intangible reward that makes the practice of family law worthwhile,” Due explained. “I am a caretaker at heart and i like to take care of clients and assist them through a time of crisis so that they can see their way clear to a satisfactory life after divorce.” To Due, the most important goal is achieving a favorable outcome for his clients. “I am willing to work very hard for my clients because the result matters,” he finished. As his newly rebranded firm moves forward, Due embraces the new opportunities that DeWitt Mackall Crounse & Moore will present to him.
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