Alumni pursue careers in environmental law

Mark Thimke and Tanya Thresher O’NeilFoley & Lardner LLP is the largest and among the most prestigious law firms in Wisconsin. Both Mark Thimke ’76 modernization processes, and Tanya Thresher O’Neil ’95 political science, are attorneys at the Milwaukee office, each specializing in environmental law. Another UW-Green Bay graduate, Christine Korth ’92 interdisciplinary studies, works as a paralegal in the Madison office. The three share memories of their UW-Green Bay training, a story or two from campus, thoughts about their work today and more, in this story.

“I truly enjoy the work that I do, says O’Neil, who earned her law degree in 1998 at Drake University. “It is never the same thing twice, whether it is due diligence for a corporate acquisition, clean-up of a superfund site, litigation over contamination, negotiation of remediation agreements or helping a company better protect the environment…

“Foley & Lardner gives me the outstanding opportunity to work on very sophisticated and complex matters on a national scope, while living in Midwest and being involved in a Midwest community.”

Thimke has been with Foley since shortly after his 1979 graduation from Duke University’s law school. “Today’s college kids weren’t even born then!” he says of his lengthy career. UW-Green Bay, he adds, gave him an excellent base for law.

“I thought the small size and the close contact with professors was a real plus for me,” he says. “I think very highly of the professors, and their willingness to work with me. Vivi Dilweg (later a circuit court judge in Brown County) was an adjunct professor and counselor who told us to use graduate school to see other parts of the U.S. I had a lot of respect for her as a pioneer for women in law. Ironically, I won a case assigned to her court.”

He remembers his 1970s college days as a time of activism. He was an activist, protesting things such as potential development of an ROTC program on campus — “it was the end of the Vietnam War era and some of us still remember draft numbers” — and a road that was to be built through part of the Shorewood Golf Course.

Thimke’s specialty today, like O’Neil’s, is environmental law.

“I work with corporate clients, and represent a lot of pulp and paper mills, utilities and printing companies, as well as a range of businesses. Back in the 1990s, when there was much controversy over environmental clean-ups, I was head of a remediation program in the state to draft new rules called the Wisconsin Clean Up Rule. It took three years and I dedicated a lot of personal time. But the rules have been serving the state well for the last 10 years.”

Christine KorthKorth, the paralegal, is celebrating 15 years working in the estates and trust department for Foley & Lardner, Madison.

“For the most part I work on cases involving estate and trust administration. I draft documents for filing with the court, tax returns and some real estate documents. I meet with and talk to clients on a regular basis and assist them with their administration duties, such as appraisals and distributions of household items and personal effects.”

She also considers it her responsibility to send along a good lawyer joke now and then.

“I do like lawyer jokes and if I hear an especially good one, I sometimes send it on to the attorneys in my work group,” Korth says. “I am not sure if they always appreciate them or not, but we have fun doing it!”