Annie Louk, Milwaukee County’s newest assistant district attorney, poses in front of the Capitol Building in Madison on May 24, the day she was sworn in as a Wisconsin lawyer.
May 26, 2021 – It was a day years in the making – with part of those years involving a global pandemic. On May 24, 158 graduates of Marquette University Law School took the last two steps in becoming Wisconsin lawyers, at the Wisconsin State Capitol Building.
After taking the Attorney’s Oath before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the Assembly Chamber – a room that allowed for social distancing – and signing the Book of the Attorney’s Roll, these new lawyers celebrated the beginning of the next step in their legal careers.
Practicing with Truth, Honor, and Courage
Speaking during the ceremonies to the soon-to-be-lawyers, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patience Roggensack referred to one paragraph in the Attorney’s Oath, which lawyers must take before the Supreme Court before being allowed to practice in Wisconsin:
“I will employ, for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me, such means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law.”
A law license, Justice Roggensack said, bestows many responsibilities – including those outlined in the oath. “If you maintain truth and honor as central principles that guide your legal services, you will be a credit to our profession, and you will provide a benefit to society that goes far beyond the service you give on behalf of others,” Justice Roggensack said.
Being a lawyer also requires courage, she said. “Courage is ‘grace under fire,’” which fits with the practice of law. “The practice of law will put you into conflicted situations where you will be under fire. But with grace, along with truth and honor, you will support the oath you just took with courage.”
Jana Budet poses for a law school graduation photo with her four daughters. “They have been a part of this journey just as much as I have. I am so proud that I get to show them that hard work and perseverance will take you far,” she said.
The Class of 2021 was just past halfway through their law school years when the pandemic hit and classes turned virtual.
“It was such a big change,” Jonathan Major said. “Law school is rigorous enough even without COVID.” He ended up getting COVID-19 in December. “I lost my sense of smell for months,” he said. “It was hard.”
“I never thought I’d be doing law school online,” said Kaitlyn Gradecki. In a small apartment where she and her husband both needed space for work and class, “we made it work out because we had to,” she said. The struggles of the pandemic “made me learn how to adapt.”
The sudden shift to online learning involved Jana Budet’s entire family, including her two school-age daughters – who were attending school via computer – and two younger daughters who could not attend day care.
“My husband was an essential worker, not able to work from home, so I had to do a lot in the beginning,” Budet said. “Thankfully, everyone’s lives are getting slowly back to normal, but I still continue to have extra challenges with child care. People have asked how I did it, and I do not know how I made it through! It was the most difficult situation and challenging obstacle that I had to overcome in my life.”
Matthew Neveranta of Milwaukee signs the book of the Attorney’s Roll.
“If I could, I would tell the March 2020 me that I should prepare for this to last longer than I expect, but that I will get through it, I will become stronger, and I will soon come to realize that my potential is limitless,” said Budet.
In March 2020, Claude-Allan Milhomme was president of the student organization First Generation Professionals that flew to New Orleans over spring break for pro bono work. They found out while there that they were not returning to in-person classes. “That was a pretty wild experience,” he said.
Xavier Jenkins became a father during COVID. The silver lining: he was able to attend classes while at home during his son’s first year.
The COVID pivot was difficult, said Robert Maniak. “The uncertainty of everything was like a constant hum in the background, and one of the biggest losses was the lack of in-person communication,” he said.
“You could no longer causally bounce ideas off a friend in the common area, but had to send an email, or text, or message, which added a degree of separation to even casual conversation. Looking back, I would tell myself that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Posing for a photo following the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol in Madison are, from left: State Bar President Kathy Brost; new lawyer Jack Orton (center) with parents Catherine Orton (second from left) and John Orton (second from right) of Mauston; and Marquette University Law School Dean Joseph Kearney.
To Milwaukee from New York, Puerto Rico, and Elsewhere
The Marquette graduates chose to come to Milwaukee for law school for many differing reasons – but in the end, all enter the legal profession with lofty goals.
Jonathan Major is the first in his family to graduate from college, and is now the first lawyer in his family. He grew up in Rochester, New York, and attended St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York. Jonathan considered a career in medicine before settling on law. “Law is a very versatile degree, and opens the doors to many career options,” he said. Looking for a law school, he discovered Marquette and is now headed to Crivello Carlson S.C. in Milwaukee, to practice in insurance law and personal injury defense. “I’m very excited to begin,” he said.
Kaitlyn Gradecki grew up in Milwaukee, and got her undergraduate degree at U.W.-Milwaukee. Law was “something I always wanted to do,” she said.
After completing her MBA, she had just started a job as an administrative assistant when she determined to “be on the other side of the desk” via a law degree. She is now headed to Green Bay with the Everson Law Firm, practicing in insurance defense and criminal defense. “I’m ready for this next chapter in my life.”
Annie Louk admits that her interest in law was “out of the blue.” Born and raised in Puerto Rico, her family members are small-business owners. “Growing up, I was a total book nerd, so I wanted to major in English literature. I figured this major fit quite nicely if my end goal was to end up in law school,” she said.
Interested in criminal law, Louk explored both defense and prosecution. “I want to help people. I want to listen to them and be their voice,” she said. Taking a proactive role as a prosecutor also appeals to her most. “I absolutely loved my experience at the law school’s Prosecutor Clinic with the misdemeanor team,” so much so that she has now joined the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office as an assistant district attorney. “Three years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined being where I am right now, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Claude-Allan Milhomme of Milwaukee (right) takes the Attorney’s Oath before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Jose Gonzalez Lopez came to Wisconsin to study computer engineering at Marquette for his undergraduate degree. A native Spanish speaker with a few English classes growing up, he worked on his language skills while also studying at Marquette.
“It was a challenge to take classes entirely in English,” he said. Plus, there were the Wisconsin winters. “The first minus 38 day almost made me go back to Puerto Rico,” he said. After 10 years in the state, he’s gotten used to it. “I really enjoy Wisconsin.”
Following three years working in health care software development and fascinated by the area of intellectual property, Gonzalez Lopez decided to return to Marquette for his law degree. “I want to study how technology affects people, not just the technology itself,” he said. He’s now the second lawyer in his family – his father is a lawyer in Puerto Rico. “I always said I was never going to study law … and here I am,” he said with a grin.
Gonzalez Lopez is headed to Washington, D.C., to earn a master’s degree in Intellectual Property at George Washington University. “It’s a new adventure,” he said.
Nathaniel Cullen is a full-time police officer with the City of Waterloo. Now 50, he attended law school part-time for five years, to have a second career after his retirement at age 53. He chose law to have a career that “provides service to people” and that he can practice for years to come. “This is the long game right here,” he said.
In order to attend classes, Cullen worked third-shift – 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. – despite having the seniority for a day shift. “We’re a small department, so we do everything. When you have a case, you work it from start to finish,” he said. While “chipping away” at his law degree, he received a lot of support from his wife and children. “It has been challenging.”
A veteran of the Navy, he obtained his undergraduate degree after his service. “I’ve been an adult learner most of my life,” Cullen said. He will be starting his own solo firm, practicing part time in workers’ compensation and family law, and going full-time after his retirement as a police officer.
Robert Maniak poses in his graduation attire with his wife, Gina, after graduating from Marquette University Law School.
Jana Budet enrolled in law school immediately after leaving military service. “After the initial shock of the law school experience while parenting, I realized I made the right decision,” she said. She is joining Husch Blackwell’s Milwaukee office later this fall as an associate in its real estate development tax and finance planning group. “My four daughters and my husband have truly been my rock and support system throughout all of this. They have been a part of this journey just as much as I have. I am so proud that I get to show them that hard work and perseverance will take you far, even if it takes a different or longer path.”
Xavier Jenkins says becoming a lawyer “feels amazing. It’s been a dream of mine for so long, it almost feels surreal,” he said. “I’ve come a long way.” Jenkins pursued law after his mother, Monica Cail, became a Wisconsin lawyer in 2015 while raising two young children and working full time. “She is an inspiration to me,” he said. Jenkins will join Godfrey and Kahn to practice in litigation. “I could not be more excited about that,” he said. He chose litigation because he loves advocacy, “picking a side and going to bat.”
“I’m nervous, but I’m excited to get out there,” said Aleina McGettrick. From Sheboygan, she attended Marquette for her undergraduate and law degrees. An English literature major, she worked at a bankruptcy law firm and “just fell in love” with learning about law. In her family, she is the first with both a four-year college degree and a law degree. McGettrick is headed to Cordell & Cordell for family law.
Robert Maniak says he has always wanted to help people. “After serving in the Marine Corps, I wanted to continue to give back to society,” he said. He interned with the Wisconsin Legislature, and realized he wanted to be involved with learning and understanding the legal structure of our society. “From that moment, I saw a law degree as a tool to further service my community and society at large.” Maniak is joining Everson, Whitney, Everson, and Brehm in Green Bay in June, practicing in criminal and civil defense.
From south Florida, Claude-Allan Milhomme came to Milwaukee for Marquette’s law program, and is first in his family to be a lawyer. Growing up in Florida, he was determined to help people in difficult situations. His focus is criminal law, and he will start in June with the Public Defender’s Office in Racine. Being a lawyer “still hasn’t hit me yet,” he said.
While being a lawyer is a family tradition, it wasn’t always Jack Orton’s plan to become a lawyer. The grandson of two judges and son of lawyers John and Catherine Orton of Mauston, Jack admits “I always had it in the back of my mind,” but took a break after his undergraduate degree to explore other options before choosing law school. “We are thrilled it was his choice,” Catherine said. “When he was arguing in third grade with kids going down the slide, I knew he was going to be a lawyer,” said John Orton said with a laugh.
Taking the final steps to become a lawyer “feels finally complete,” said Wilfredo Navarro. Such a great achievement is all about family, he said. Navarro’s uncle is a lawyer in Miami. “He gave me a lot of pep talks,” he said. His mother, who came to the U.S. from Cuba, attended Marquette’s law school graduation ceremony with him and his father. “She taught me to be honest and do the right thing,” which are important traits for a lawyer. “That’s the type of lawyer I want to be.”
Xavier Jenkins of Milwaukee poses for a photo after signing the book of the Attorney’s Roll, the last step in becoming a Wisconsin lawyer.
Welcome to these Wisconsin Lawyers
Jeremy Andereck, Milwaukee
Matthew Ashton, Easton, Pennsylvania
Brent E. Aussprung, Whitefish Bay
Rachel Babinat, La Porte City, Iowa
Claire Barth, Milwaukee
Mikayla E. Becherer, Norwalk
Michael Becker, Milwaukee
John Bennett Jr., Milwaukee
Adam Joseph Best, Milwaukee
Amanda Bethel, Milwaukee
Madeline Bitto, Milwaukee
Carly B. Boder, Pewaukee
Emily C. Boylan, Milwaukee
William Austin Brookley, Milwaukee
Jana Budet, Elm Grove
Hannah Busch, Shawano
Cherish Buss, Shawano
Deborah Wyn Cain, Greenfield
Alexander Vincent Calpino, Milwaukee
Casey Campos, Milwaukee
Maggie Cash, Milwaukee
Edgar Ceniceros-Herrada, Whitefish Bay
Denver Cherms, Warwick, Rhode Island
Sherre K. Chevalier, Milwaukee
Olivia L. Clark, Elm Grove
Amanda E. B. Collins, West Allis
Austin Crist, Milwaukee
Nathaniel Cullen, Oconomowoc
Andrew David, Milwaukee
Ruby De Leon, Milwaukee
Luami Diaz, Milwaukee
Ryan Dietrich, Milwaukee
Lindsay T. Dodovich, Chicago
Jennifer F. Dombrowski, Milwaukee
Caitlyn Doyle, Oak Creek
Megan L. Drury, Milwaukee
Alec R. Durand, Waukesha
Curtis Edwards, Traverse City, Michigan
Richard Esparza, Milwaukee
Mario Fiumefreddo , Milwaukee
Joshua M. Frieser, Milwaukee
John Charles Fuller, Milwaukee
Jaime Garcia-Montes, Miami, Florida
Robert A. Gentile, Milwaukee
David Goldman, Eagan, Minnesota
Jose A. Gonzalez Lopez, Saint Francis
Kaitlyn M. Gradecki, New Berlin
Gabriel Grahek, Milwaukee
Derrick A. Gress, Milwaukee
Zachary A. Hatfield, Milwaukee
Kayla M. Gribble, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Emma L. Guthrie, Milwaukee
Andrew Guzek, Milwaukee
Robert P. Hameister, Racine
Nicholas S. Harkness, Milwaukee
Madelyn Hebbring, West Bend
Derek Hein, Milwaukee
Brian H. Hendricks, Milwaukee
Michaela A. Hendricks, Madison
Michael Francis Godfrey Hickey, Milwaukee
John F. Howard, Cedarburg
Nicholas T. Hunter, Milwaukee
Bennett H. Jenkins, Milwaukee
Xavier O. Jenkins, Milwaukee
Jeffrey William Jensen Jr., Wauwatosa
Alex Jimenez, Stephenville, Texas
Gary Johnson, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Nikolas J. Johnson, Madison
Matthew Kamine, Port Washington, New York
Kathryne Elder Keough, Whitefish Bay
Rebecca A. Klongland, Stoughton
Michelle M. Knapp, Pleasant Prairie
Mitchell Knief, Milwaukee
Steven Michael Konitshek, Milwaukee
Micah W. Kordik, Milwaukee
Ellen Kosmatka, Milwaukee
Victoria Kosobucki, Milwaukee
Naomie Kweyu, Milwaukee
Alexander Landy, Milwaukee
Gina Leali, Elmhurst, Illinois
Jordan Liff, Milwaukee
Lucas C. Logic, Milwaukee
Annie Louk, Milwaukee
Jamie L. Lumsden, Milwaukee
Ashley Taylor Madsen, Milwaukee
Jonathan Major, Milwaukee
Colleen E. Mandell, Milwaukee
Robert Maniak, Green Bay
Corinna T. Martell, Wausau
David Wolff McCormack, Milwaukee
Samantha M. McCoy, Mukwonago
Jay McDivitt, Waukesha
Katlyn McGarry, Milwaukee
Aleina L. McGettrick, Milwaukee
Thomas McGue, Milwaukee
Wynetta McIntosh, Chicago
Marilyn Olivia McQuade, Milwaukee
Claude-Allan Milhomme, Milwaukee
Jordan Miller, Milwaukee
Megan Mirka, Milwaukee
Breanna Moe, Oak Creek
Katherine Muth, Milwaukee
Nimrat Nannan, Milwaukee
Tori Nanstad, Milwaukee
Wilfredo J. Navarro, Miami, Florida
Drake Nelson, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Alexis Ruth Palmbach Nemecek, Milwaukee
Matthew Neveranta, Milwaukee
Phillip J. Ohrtmann, Milwaukee
John William Orton, Mauston
Felicia L. Owen, Milwaukee
Marissa J. Pawlinski, Greendale
Keyana Janel Payne, Chicago
Kelsey Pelegrin, Milwaukee
Kolten Pope, Madison
Cooper Prindl, Milwaukee
Jessica L. Puetz, Milwaukee
Annalisa Pusick, Milwaukee
Andrea Quade, Green Bay
Anne Radosevich, Milwaukee
Jazmin Itzel Ramirez Bailon, Milwaukee
Merrick Ramos, Helotes, Texas
Samantha Raygo, Milwaukee
Kylan Reilly, Milwaukee
Mathias Rekowski, Butler
Morgan Risseeuw, Mukwonago
Kelley Roach, Milwaukee
Rachel Roberge, Milwaukee
Payton Roberts, Shorewood
Abby Rockendorf, Milwaukee
Ashley M. Rossman, Milwaukee
Kelly Ryan, Milwaukee
Emma N. Schaefer, Milwaukee
Luke Schaetzel, Milwaukee
Azene Seifoddini, River Hills
Nicole Ann Shave, Milwaukee
Andrew Slaven, Stevens Point
Scott A. Small, Milwaukee
Bridget Mary Smith, Elm Grove
Lauren Smith, Milwaukee
Shakia R. Smith, Milwaukee
Natalie V. Sobierajski, Muskego
Brendan Sofen, Whitefish Bay
Janna Sorgatz, Milwaukee
Holly L. Stenz, Appleton
Thomas Sucevic , Milwaukee
Tucker T. Tellefson, Milwaukee
McKenzie Tibbetts, Milwaukee
Miguel Torres, Edcouch, Texas
Charles W. Twohy, Milwaukee
Alex R. Utrup, Madison
Foley Van Lieshout, Milwaukee
Cooper Warner, Milwaukee
Theodore Wegner, Madison
Haley Wentz, Milwaukee
Monique Williams, Milwaukee
Oniquca Ashley Wright, Milwaukee
Alexandra Zdunek, Wauwatosa