An Interview with David L. Anstaett '01

Q. Why did you decide to come to law school? 
When I decided to go to law school I was working as a lobbyist for the League of Women Voters in Washington, DC.  A lot of the people I worked with—from other public interest groups or from congressional offices—had law degrees.  They had an extra set of skills and knowledge that was very useful and made them very effective at their jobs.  I guess I wanted to pick up that skill set.  I also just wanted to go back to school—to have the opportunity again to spend lots of time learning new and interesting things.

How did you choose Wisconsin? 
I had lived in Madison for a short time before going to Washington and fell in love with the city—its lakes, its seasons and its progressive atmosphere.  The law school here had an excellent reputation and a commitment to public interest lawyering.  When I was ready to go back to school it was a natural fit.

How did Wisconsin’s law-in-action philosophy influence your legal education?
The best experience I had in law school was participating in the consumer law litigation clinic.  There’s a recognition at Wisconsin that traditional lecture courses alone won’t make a well-rounded lawyer.  In a clinic you interview clients, serve discovery, write briefs and think strategically about how to get the best result for your clients.  I learned that I liked litigating and it was a chance to help people in the state who wouldn’t otherwise have access to quality legal services.

What law school courses were most important to your development as a lawyer? Why?
There were many classes I enjoyed—it would be hard to single one out.  My advice is to take whatever courses sound most interesting to you, whether or not those courses seem likely to lead to a logical career path.  It’s not easy to make a living practicing nothing but constitutional law, but that’s what interested me and I took every class I could in that area.  Law school is a lot of work, so you should enjoy what you’re doing as much as possible.  If you enjoy what you’re doing, the results will be good.

There are so many student groups and activities. What advice would you have for a student in terms of choosing law school activities? 
Early on give lots of different groups and activities a try before settling on any one.  But don’t limit yourself to law school activities.  Get outside of the law school—volunteer on a political campaign, take a course at the student union, get on a sports team.  You need to maintain a life and interests outside of law school to stay grounded.

You had an outstanding law school record and could have practiced law anywhere in the country. Why did you come back to Madison and what do you like most about living here?
I couldn’t be happier with my decision to come back to Madison.  The city has lots of possibilities for lawyers—firms of all sizes, numerous government options, the university, public interest organizations, start-ups and more established companies.  I get the benefit of working for a large international firm with great clients and interesting work—but in a small close-knit office, without a long commute, and in a progressive, humane city that is one of the best places in the country to raise our two kids.

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