Angela in the News
Brookfield attorney to head state group
Combination of mother and lawyer is key to her success, she says
By Anne E. Schwartz
TOWN OF BROOKFIELD It was tough for Angela Dentice to sit still those first few weeks in law school.
But it wasnt her anxiousness over starting law school in her 30s.
It certainly was a challenge, said Dentice, now 51 and a partner in the Brookfield law firm Cannon & Dunphy. I remember going to classes and not being able to sit because I was recuperating from childbirth.
She flashed a toothy smile as she remembered those days days that made her into the attorney she is today.
Dentice, of Oconomowoc, was elected in December as president-elect of the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers, a legal rights advocate group. Members of the academy are attorneys who represent consumers seeking to hold people accountable for injuries arising form accidents, malpractice of unsafe products.
Doing it all
Dentice reflected on her career in light of the recent election, and remembered she was not always an advocate.
She started her career teaching disabled children in Mequon, and worked as a school administrator and an adjunct college professor.
I was tired of being a mediator and I wanted to be an advocate, Dentice said.
So, at the tender age of thirty-something she applied to law school at Marquette University. She found out she was accepted and pregnant.
When baby Sam Bottoni was just a couple weeks old, his mother was off to law school. She quickly found a study group in which a few of the women had children a sort of makeshift study and play group. She graduated cum laude.
I was a woman of the 60s, Dentice said. I thought I could do anything, including having a husband, child and go to law school.
In talking about her career, Dentice set out to dispel two of the raps she takes personally working mothers and personal injury attorneys.
Women who are both mothers and lawyers have a lot of special gifts to offer the profession, she said. Theyve walked different kinds of miles.
Dentices office is a testament to the success of the mixture. Diplomas hang next to southwestern art works culled form family trips. Her desktop is dotted with photos of her family son Sam and husband Benn DiPasquale.
Helping victims rewarding
For her career path, Dentice chose to represent plaintiffs in personal injury cases a favorite target of those who fancy attorneys as ambulance chasers.
The rap is undeserving, Dentice said, leaning forward in her seat and clenching her hands in front of her to emphasize her point. Representing injured clients is the greatest gift any lawyer can be given.
Dentices most memorable case is the 1995 medical malpractice lawsuit brought by a Mexican migrant family. The birth of their 14th child went terribly wrong and the baby was born with cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities.
A jury returned a verdict awarding the family $4.2 million. Dentice still remains close to the family.
The reward was not monetary, she said.
You learn first-hand from people who have had an undeserving injury how to deal with personal pain with incredible dignity, she said.
Balance work, family
Ive been privileged to work alongside some of the best attorneys in the state, Dentice said of her firm and others with whom she has worked.
Once of the attorneys she was quick to laud is her husband, a corporate attorney with the Milwaukee law firm Foley & Lardner. With him on the corporate side and her on the plaintiffs, discussions can get interesting at home.
When I talk about a corporation not being fair to my clients, he reminds me there is another side, Dentice said.
In a wish for the new millennium, she said she hoped other law firms would see ways to accommodate working mothers.
Im hopeful people who manage other firms recognize the gifts of working mothers and are able to implement changes enabling women who can not work in a traditional manner to have an opportunity to excel, Dentice said.
She said she also wished for more young people to become plaintiffs lawyers.
Its grueling to do trial work, especially this kind of work, Dentice said. But its so personally rewarding.