Law in Action Profile

Robert Bellin '69 and Paul Bellin '05

UW Law School graduates Bob and Paul Bellin, father and son, practice law in two different hemispheres. Bob Bellin ‘69 is a senior partner with Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren in Milwaukee, and Paul Bellin ’05 is in-house counsel for the Umbono Group, a venture capital firm in South Africa that deals in natural resources. Neither Bob nor Paul originally planned to attend law school. Bob had an early interest in business; Paul’s undergraduate majors were geology and geological engineering, and his work in the Peace Corps in Africa led him into the field of human rights. By different paths, both Bob and Paul gravitated to careers in law, and now they find themselves sharing a strong interest in the same area: business law.

Robert Bellin '69

Portrait of Robert Bellin

"For me, law school was an entirely
new experience that began with discovering
a library that I never even knew existed before."

Read the full interview

Hometown:  Milwaukee, Wisconsin
B.A., Marquette University; J.D., University of Wisconsin Law School
Current Position:
Shareholder in the Business Law and International Practices
of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C. in Milwaukee
Professional Achievements:

  • Former CEO of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren and Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors
  • Past Chairman of the Business Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin
  • Subcommittee Chair for State Bar of Wisconsin revision of Wisconsin Business Corporation Law
  • Received Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer review rating for legal ability and ethical standards
  • Wisconsin Law Review member as UW Law student

Bob Bellin was born and raised in Milwaukee. His father -- Paul’s grandfather -- was a City of Milwaukee fireman.

Bob attended Marquette University High School, followed by Marquette University for his undergraduate work. After graduation he was working third shift in a factory and taking evening classes for a master’s degree in business.

“There were a number of lawyers in these classes and I was very impressed,” he recalls. “That was probably one of the motivating factors that started me thinking about becoming a lawyer.”

Forty years later, Bob Bellin’s profile on the Reinhart Web site attests to the highly accomplished career in business law that resulted from his observation of lawyers in his business classes. His many areas of expertise within business law include mergers and acquisitions and venture capital: areas in which he now gives advice not only to his clients but to his son practicing in South Africa.

Paul Bellin '05

Portrait of Paul Bellin

"My start in law school
was really grounded in human rights
and a check on the big government wheel."

Read the full interview

Hometown: Delafield, Wisconsin
B.Sc. Geological Engineering and Geology, UW-Madison ‘98
Current Position:
In-House Counsel for the Umbono Group, Johannesburg, South Africa
Law School Activities:

  • Study abroad at Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Clinical work with the Remington Center’s LAIP (Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons) Project
  • Wisconsin Moot Court Board
  • Wisconsin Law Review

“I didn’t intend to be a lawyer coming out of undergrad,” says Paul Bellin. “I had a double major in geological engineering and geology, and when I graduated I went into the Peace Corps in West Africa. But I saw a lot of lawlessness overseas, and I became more interested in the rights and empowerment of the individual.”

Paul decided that a law degree was what he needed for human rights work. He entered law school with a very different focus from that of business law, his father’s specialty.

In 2005, with his law degree in hand, Paul returned to Africa to work in human rights litigation at the South African Litigation Center. Looking back, he recalls his proudest moment, when for a criminal procedure case a research paper he had written was adopted by the Supreme Court of Botswana. His experience also includes work as a geologist and practice with a Canadian law firm.

Everything came together for Paul in his current work as in-house counsel for the Umbono Group.

“We are a venture capital firm that deals in natural resources: mining, electricity, and alternative sources of energy,” he says. “I work in mergers and acquisitions, a lot of negotiating, some oversight of contracts; I help litigators, advise the directors on how the law works, and do research internationally. It’s not always an area I know something about, but I have to find an answer.”

Paul adds, “I work for a great bunch of guys. And this ties together geology (my undergrad work), my legal degree, and my experience with South Africa.”

It also ties the two Bellins together with a new professional bond. Paul comments, “I do still to this day call my dad for advice -- for mergers and acquisitions, for example. It’s always good to get useful advice from him. Those kinds of things don’t change.”

Paul sees himself moving in the direction of a business career, with his legal experience serving as the essential foundation that helps him to penetrate the complexities of business transactions. He credits the UW Law School with giving him the key to working with contracts:

“Law in action -- I’ll say that every day of my life. I really got the concept my first year in law school, when Professor Macaulay tells you what really happened in a case and then says, ‘This is what the law says. Does it ever play out that way? Hardly ever.’

Read more in “Interviews with Bob and Paul Bellin.”

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