President’s Message: Mentoring the Next Generation of Trial Lawyers
Monte Weiss, President, Wisconsin Defense Counsel

I started this journey quite some time ago. As a very young associate, I joined the Civil Trial Counsel of Wisconsin (CTCW), the predecessor to the Wisconsin Defense Counsel. At that time, all I cared about was trying a case. Several of my cases that had been slotted for trial managed to settle at the proverbial 11th hour, leaving me more than a bit disappointed. How could I be a trial attorney without any trial experience? Despite my desire to try cases, as time went on, I started to ask myself a more fundamental question: How could I be a trial lawyer if I had no idea how to actually try a case? Fortunately, CTCW helped to solve that problem. CTCW put together a program entitled “Defense on the Offense,” which was designed to teach newer attorneys the skills they would need to successfully try a case. The program was taught by experienced defense attorneys, and I found the program to be incredibly helpful in decreasing the grade of my learning curve.

In terms of the benefits that I enjoyed from being a member of CTCW, participating in “Defense on the Offense” was just the start. This program drew me in, and from there I was exposed to all the incredible opportunities the organization had to offer. I attended the seminars and continued to learn from others in the organization and at some point, instead of just attending the seminars I began contributing to the seminars, serving as a speaker and eventually a sponsor. Similarly, while I always found the articles published in the CTCW Journal beneficial to my practice, eventually I started writing articles for publication.

With everything it had to offer, CTCW helped me to become more knowledgeable about the law, more confident in the skills needed to be a successful trial attorney, and continually challenged me to think critically about how to apply the law for the benefit of my clients. As if all the legal education and professional development support was not enough, along the way I also had the good fortune to develop an extensive network of colleagues and friends through CTCW. As CTCW grew and expanded to become WDC, so did the number of members and available benefits. WDC is an incredibly vibrant organization.

A few years back, Past President Andrew Hebl invited me to become the program chair for WDC, which set me on the path to my current role as WDC President. As my presidential term came ever closer to commencing, I reached out to Jenni Kilpatrick for some sage advice as to what I was actually supposed to do as President. Jenni had the answers, as she always does, and she told me to pick a project and let that project be the focus of my service.

As I considered what that project should be, I thought about what CTCW and WDC did for me as I made my way from “wet behind the ears” to where I am today. I thought about what could be done to help the next generation of young attorneys succeed in this profession we have all chosen. I realized in this age of mediation and even COVID-delays, the younger attorneys who belong to our organization have not had as many chances to try cases as those of us who have been around for a while. For me, trying cases really is the most fun you can have as an attorney. Not only does the younger generation not have the same opportunities to try cases, they also generally do not receive the training they need to succeed when they do finally get “to court.” As all this ruminated in my mind, I realized the best way I could serve our organization would be to help our young attorney members learn the skills that they will need to succeed as trial lawyers. It is my hope that this training will help connect the younger generation with WDC while also allowing WDC to ingratiate all its benefits and offerings on this next generation of extraordinary lawyers, continuing to make WDC relevant, robust, and rewarding.

With the help of Nicole Radler, Charles Polk, Andrew Hebl, and Patricia Putney, WDC put together a litigation skills training session during the April 2023 Spring Conference. Participants were provided with materials from an actual case that was tried to verdict. Yes, the case was mine and no, it did not turn out as I hoped it would.

During the skills training session, time was spent educating participants on how to take the deposition of an opposition expert. Then, the participants broke into small groups where they practiced cross-examining the plaintiff’s expert witness and were provided with instant feedback and suggestions. The feedback we got after this session was positive and I will spend the rest of my time as President doing as much as I can to provide more opportunities like this one.

While this project is important to me, it will never come to fruition or be a success with only my efforts. This is a group project, and the group is WDC. WDC needs all your help to make this endeavor a successful reality. We need experienced attorneys to lend their time. We need our senior members to invest in their younger associates and send them to these programs. We need your support to provide the facilities to accommodate these programs. With your involvement, we can help train the next generation of attorneys to provide not only high-quality legal services that our clients expect, but to successfully defend truth and justice in the courtroom. Please join WDC in making these programs successful. If you have any suggestions on how to make these programs a valuable reality, email me or better yet, pick up the phone and give me a call.

Author Biography:

Monte E. Weiss, Case Western Reserve Univ., 1991, of Weiss Law Office, S.C., Mequon, practices primarily in the defense of bodily injury, property damage, and professional negligence claims for insurance companies and self-insured companies. In conjunction with this area of practice, he has drafted several personal lines insurance policies, including homeowner and automobile policies. He routinely represents insurance companies on insurance contract interpretation issues and is a frequent lecturer and author on insurance topics. He also represents policyholders dealing with coverage denials from their carriers. He the current President of the Wisconsin Defense Counsel. Attorney Weiss can be reached at via his firm’s website at