2018 WAJ Winter Seminar & Annual Meeting



Pending CLE for 2018 Winter Seminar: 

  • Wisconsin: 10.5 CLE Credits, Including 3.5 Ethics Credit (7.0 CLE on Friday)
  • Minnesota: 6.0 CLE Credits, Including 2.75 Ethics Credit
  • Wisconsin Paralegal Association: 6 CLE Credits, Including 3.0 Ethics Credit

Click here to download a printable Registration Form


Friday, December 7th Schedule:

7:30 - 8:30 AM

Registration & Breakfast Buffet

  • WAJ New Lawyers Breakfast Meeting
  • Worker's Compensation Committee Meeting Breakfast


8:30 - 9:00 AM: WAJ Annual Meeting  

  • Paralegal of the Year Award: TBA

Heath P. Straka, WAJ President, Axley Brynelson, LLP 

Heath is a partner at Axley Brynelson, LLP. His practice focuses on personal injury, medical malpractice, bad faith insurance claims and also complex litigation and class actions involving wage and hour violations. Heath received his law degree from the UW Law School in 2000.  He has litigation experience in the State and Federal Courts of Wisconsin and has practiced in the successful resolution of numerous Civil Rights and Personal Injury cases.  Heath has successfully argued two cases in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, both involving medical malpractice; Otto v. PIC and Bubb v. Brusky, et. al.  As a member of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, Heath serves as President of the Wisconsin Association for Justice and is past chair of the Program Committee and New Lawyers Section. 


9:00 - 11:00 AM - Opening Session with Special Guest: 
Michael A. Kelly, Walkup Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger
San Francisco, CA

Thoughts From The Left Coast: Connecting With Jurors Through Story Telling
Synopsis: Persuading jurors through comparison, contrast, analogies and metaphors.  A primer on using classic rhetorical story-telling tools to achieve better openings, crosses and closing arguments.

Mike Kelly is in his fourth decade as one of the nation’s top personal injury attorneys. Throughout that time he has protected consumers from corporate greed, medical mistakes, dangerous household products, unsafe drugs and devices, roadway accidents and a host of other wrongdoers. He has tried, arbitrated or settled more than 200 cases where the recovery by his client exceeded $1,000,000.

Kelly is consistently listed among the top tier of lawyers in the country in cases involving personal injury, wrongful death, brain injury, paralysis and medical malpractice. A member of the prestigious Inner Circle of Advocates, he is currently spearheading the litigation against the giant utility PG&E for the damage done to local residents by the recent Northern California wildfires. He was selected by Super Lawyers as a ”Top Ten” honoree for 2017-2018 and by “Best Lawyers” as the 2017 Lawyer of The Year in the area of mass torts.

When resolution by mediation or settlement fails, Kelly is ready to take his client’s cases before juries.  Within the last year he obtained a $4,000,000 jury verdict against the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District for the death of a pedestrian struck by one of its buses, negotiated a major confidential settlement against Kaiser Health plan for a high tech worker and obtained a $5.6 million dollar jury verdict against a Super Shuttle driver for the death of a retired restauranteur in a Highway 101 multi-vehicle crash. A year earlier he concluded four major cases including a $12.75 million recovery against a domestic auto maker, (auto roll over), a $10.5 million settlement for the wrongful death of a single mother and a $7.5 million birth injury malpractice recovery against a national HMO.  His $8,341,000 verdict in the first DePuy ASR / Johnson and Johnson metal-on-metal artificial hip trial set the standard for verdicts in the nationwide hip implant litigation and helped produce a $2.5 billion national settlement. His $8,350,000 verdict on behalf of a construction worker who lost an arm in a fall in the same year showed his skill in work-site injury cases. His $23,200,000 jury verdict in a birth injury medical malpractice case in Minnesota ranks among that states largest verdicts for obstetrical injury.

Beyond stellar results for his clients, Kelly is proud of his many contributions to the legal community.  He is a sought-after speaker and teacher having presented more than two hundred invited educational lectures, tutorials, presentations, seminars and advocacy demonstrations across the United States, Asia, South America, the United Kingdom and Eastern Europe. He is a regular speaker for 360 Advocacy, and chairs its annual Trucking Litigation program. He teaches regularly for NITA,  The Rutter Group, ABOTA, the Consumer Attorneys of California, AAJ  and SFTLA.  He served for ten years as the Director of Teacher Training programs for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy and remains as a member of its Board of Governors.  He has long been active in protecting the rights of the underrepresented, and working for pedestrian and bicyclist safety, lobbying for compensation fairness for medical malpractice victims and protecting the rights of the LGBT community.


11:00 to 11:30 AM

State & Federal Trucking Rules

Mark L. ThomsenMark L. Thomsen, Gingras, Cates & Wachs

When the Indiana steel mill department shutdown in 1984 where I had worked for nearly 8 years as a steelworker, including a stint as union representative, my family and I moved to Milwaukee. I started law school and after graduating in 1987, I served as a law clerk to the Hon. John L. Coffey, circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. My time as a lawyer has now spanned 30 years, and my practice is primarily dedicated to representing and fighting for justice for injured people, including those injured by nursing home neglect, by medical and legal malpractice, in automobile and trucking collisions, by people’s general negligence, by defective products, and for violations of individual’s civil rights (§1983 claims). During this time, whether by settlement or trial whenever necessary, I have successfully obtained millions over the years for those individuals and families I have been honored to represent.

11:30 to 12:00 PM

Use of Paralegal and Second Chair Attorneys at Trial

Timothy J. Andringa, Cramer, Multhauf & Hammes, LLP

Synopsis:  Tim will be sharing his thoughts and experiences on second chair attorneys and paralegal help at trials.  In the last 5 years Tim has averaged 1 or 2 jury trials and 2 or 3 court trials a year and would like to share with you/us what he has observed and experienced as working and failing respecting 2nd chair attorneys and paralegal help at trial.

Tim Andringa began his career with Cramer, Multhauf & Hammes, LLP as a law clerk while in law school, and has been practicing law with the firm his entire career since 1990. Tim originally had a general practice, focusing on anything that got him into a courtroom for trial experience. This included traffic court, defending and prosecuting impaired driving cases, and in criminal court trying misdemeanor and even a felony case. He also tried family law cases. Eventually, his practice narrowed to personal injury and complex commercial litigation, where he has achieved great results for clients in and out of the courtroom. For example, in 2016 Tim and Matthew Fernholz tried a two-week federal court jury trial representing a trucking and excavating company whose $6.785 million subcontract on the Indianapolis Deep Rock Tunnel Connector project was terminated by the general contractor. The jury returned a $775,000 verdict for the client. Tim's trial experience and understanding of construction law assisted greatly when it came to prosecuting the Wosinski family's claim in the O'Donnell Park panel collapse case. Because the accident occurred 19 years after construction of the panel, all claims would normally be barred by the statute of repose. However, after nearly three years of discovery, which included reviewing 90,000 pages of construction documents and taking over 60 depositions, the case went to a six-week jury trial. Tim and his co-counsel ultimately achieved a $39 million verdict. In 2018, Tim obtained a personal injury verdict of $750,000 in Waukesha County on a 3 day jury trial before Judge Foster.  Tim was a co-recipient of WAJ's 2017 Robert L. Habush Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.


Lunch from 12:00 to 1:00 PM with Special Guest Presenter(s):  TBA

  • Lunch Meetings: Women's Caucus & Paralegal Section


1:00 - 3:00 PM - Special Guest: Roberta Walburn

Judge Miles Lord: Using the Law to Fight for the Little Guy

Synopsis: The session would highlight the career of former federal Judge Miles Lord, a maverick on the bench whose exploits raise provocative questions, that resonate strongly today, about the appropriate role of a judge in insuring that our court system achieves justice for all.

Roberta Walburn is an attorney based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she has been named one of the most influential members of the legal profession in state history and recognized by the University of Minnesota for “shaping the legal landscape for the benefit of society.” Previously, she worked as a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Buffalo (N.Y.) Evening News and as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, as well as serving as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Miles Lord.   Ms. Walburn authored a book about Judge Miles Lord.

Roberta has focused her legal career on complex, high-stakes litigation.  Most notably, she played a pivotal role in the Minnesota tobacco litigation, representing the State of Minnesota and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota in their groundbreaking lawsuit against the tobacco industry.  After four years of litigation—including unearthing more than 30 million pages of internal documents, litigation of crime-fraud issues, more than a dozen unsuccessful interlocutory appeals by the tobacco industry (including two to the U.S. Supreme Court), and four months of trial—the case settled on the eve of jury deliberations.  The settlement provides for more than $6.6 billion in payments to the State and Blue Cross and unprecedented injunctive relief. For her work on the tobacco litigation, Ms. Walburn, along with Mike Ciresi, received the Trial Lawyer of the Year Award from Trial Lawyers for Public Justice.

Ms. Walburn also played significant roles in other major cases including: the Bhopal gas leak disaster litigation (representing the Union of India and, through the government, all victims of the Bhopal disaster in litigation against Union Carbide Corporation); the Copper-7 IUD litigation (representing women injured by the Copper-7 intrauterine device); the Honeywell autofocus camera litigation (representing Honeywell Inc. in a series of patent infringement cases against camera manufacturers from Japan and the United States); the Eveleth plane crash (representing the families of U.S. Senator Paul and Sheila Wellstone and the four staff members killed in a charter plane crash in northern Minnesota). She also helped to represent Alan Page in his successful constitutional challenge to vacate a governor’s executive order extending the term of an incumbent justice (which cleared the path for Alan Page’s successful election to the Minnesota Supreme Court).


3:00 to 3:30 PM

Automobile Product Liability Cases-What to Look for

Synopsis:  In any serious or significant injury case evaluate whether a defect in the vehicle enhanced or contributed to the injuries.

Thadd J. Llaurado is a partner with Murphy & Prachthauser and has practiced law with the firm for over 31 years.  Mr. Llaurado has tried and litigated many serious personal injury cases, involving defective products, including vehicle crashworthiness cases, trucking accidents, construction accidents, and other forms of negligent conduct.  He has litigated cases throughout Wisconsin’s courts as well as in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah.  

3:30 to 4:15 PM

What You Must Prove to Win a Slip and Fall Injury Claim

Presenters: Ann Jacobs, Jacobs Injury Law, Jackie Nuckels, Jacobs Injury Law and Eric Knobloch, Gruber Law Offices



Ann S. Jacobs, Jacobs Injury Law 

Ann is the founder of Jacobs Injury Law. Her practice includes automobile accidents, nursing home abuse and neglect cases, financial abuse/fraud, as well as medical malpractice cases.



Jackie Nuckels, Jacobs Injury Law

Jackie’s practice is devoted exclusively to the representation of injured clients.  She has represented hundreds of individuals who have been seriously injured in automobile collisions, truck accidents, premises accidents, and workplace incidents.  She has also represented individuals who are injured by unsafe products and as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect.


Eric M Knobloch, Gruber Law Offices

Eric has devoted his entire legal career to representing injured plaintiffs throughout the State of Wisconsin and Illinois. Prior to joining Gruber Law Offices, LLC, he spent years working with some of the most distinguished plaintiff’s trial attorneys in Wisconsin where he developed his acumen for the courtroom. He has taken numerous cases to trial, both to a jury and the bench, which has resulted in outstanding recoveries for his clients. His practice areas include: all varieties of automobile, trucking and motorcycle accidents; wrongful deaths; slip and falls; and other general negligence matters. He is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association; Illinois Bar Association; Milwaukee Bar Association; Wisconsin Association for Justice; and is licensed to practice law in Wisconsin and Illinois.


Friday, December 7th Paralegal Track

Paralegals will attend general sessions until 2:00

2:00 to 4:15 PM

  • A paralegal breakout session: Understanding our Veteran Client
    • Presenter: Kaija Slaukstins-Byrkit, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • VA Subrogation and VA Treatment 
    • Presenter:TBA


Paralegal Track Moderators

Angelique Imm, Beaver Dam
Elizabeth Cooney, Milwaukee

Paralegal Section Chairs




Saturday Schedule
Saturday, December 8, 2018

8:00- 9:00 AM
Registration & Breakfast Buffet

9:00 AM - Opening Session

Heath P. Straka, WAJ President, Axley Brynelson, LLP 

Heath is a partner at Axley Brynelson, LLP. His practice focuses on personal injury, medical malpractice, bad faith insurance claims and also complex litigation and class actions involving wage and hour violations. Heath received his law degree from the UW Law School in 2000.  He has litigation experience in the State and Federal Courts of Wisconsin and has practiced in the successful resolution of numerous Civil Rights and Personal Injury cases.  Heath has successfully argued two cases in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, both involving medical malpractice; Otto v. PIC and Bubb v. Brusky, et. al.  As a member of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, Heath serves as President of the Wisconsin Association for Justice and is past chair of the Program Committee and New Lawyers Section. 


9:00 AM - 12:00 PM:  ETHICS SESSION 


Synopsis:  3 Ethics Credits

Timothy J. Pierce, State Bar of Wisconsin Ethics Counsel, Madison.

Dean R. Dietrich, Dietrich VanderWaal LLC, Wausau, Chairs the State Bar Professional Ethics Committee.



Presidents' Reception & Dinner

Friday, December 7, 2018
The Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee


$25.00- Reception Only Ticket (6:00 pm)
$75.00- Dinner Ticket (7:00 pm)


 Event Dress Code:

  • The dress code for WAJ’s meetings (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) are business casual, coat and tie are discouraged.
  • Dress for the Friday night Presidents’ Dinner is business (not formal), i.e., business suit, sports coat and tie for men, and business attire or evening dress for women.

Place a Tribute Ad in the Presidents' Dinner Program!

Display your/your company’s ad and pay tribute to our special
guests and award winners and personally congratulate one or
all of the recipients.
Select the ad size you would like to reserve for your

personal greeting or ad in the Tribute Book.

Take a look at the 2016 Tribute Book & 2017 Tribute Book

Include your own personalized message!

  • Logo Inserted    $50    
  • 1/6 Page Ad      $100
  • 1/3 Page Ad      $250
  • 1/2 Page Ad      $350
  • Full Page Ad      $500   


Wisconsin Association for Justice 
Cordially Invites you to an Evening of Celebration!


2018 Presidents' Dinner & Reception
Friday, December 7th at The Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee
Reception:  6:00 pm  
Dinner: 7:00 pm
Outgoing President
Heath P. Straka
Axley Brynelson, LLP



Incoming President
Edward E. Robinson
Cannon & Dunphy, S.C.





2018 President's Award Honoree:

Robert L. Habush 
Trial Lawyer of the Year Award 

Honoree: TBA


Outstanding Young Trial Lawyer Award Honoree:


Paralegal of the Year Award Honoree
Honored on Friday, December 7th 
during Conference Opening at 8:30 a.m. 

Hotel Information:
The Pfister Hotel
424 E Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Reservations: To reserve your lodging, contact the hotel at 414-935-5942. 
Reference the Wisconsin Association for Justice Block.  
Room Rates starting at:
 $180 King or two Queens per night; 
Pfister King Suite (upgrade option): $259 per night.
ONLINE LODGING REGISTRATION LINK: Wisconsin Association for Justice
Reservation Deadline: November 7th, 2018


Become a Winter Conference Sponsor


Skogen Engineering Group, Inc.

Preferred Capital Funding

Premier Settlement Services, Inc.

Synergy Settlement Services
Cancellation Policy

Cancellation & Substitution Policy

Attendee substitutions may be made at any time and are encouraged when the original registrant cannot attend. If you must cancel or reschedule, please notify us at least three (3) business days (or 72 hours) prior to the program to receive a refund less a $15 service charge. Cancellations made less than 3 business days prior to the program will incur the full registration cost.  


At the Door Registrations will incur a $20 late fee.