He might not seem like it, however philip j. Halley, a trusts and estates lawyer for whyte hirschboeck dudek in milwaukee, is trouble. From a journalistic perspective. “i don’t talk approximately who my clients are,” he says politely. “my clients assume me to keep confidences. I’m now not going to change off of a person’s name. It’s distinct with different varieties of regulation and litigators, and with instances in court which can be public.” properly, what approximately his cases? “a whole lot of what we do doesn’t get into the newspapers,” he says. “we’re managing things which can be very personal.” happily, others are not as reticent speakme about halley. “phil is an absolute star, not simplest as a legal professional, however as a person,” says mark miller, ceo of whyte hirschboeck. “he is a notable counselor to households and only a beneficiant soul.” “he is one of the satisfactory and brightest,” says nathan fishbach, also with whyte hirschboeck. “if there's any complicated difficulty, phil is the legal professional of preference.” “he’s extensively identified amongst accept as true with and property lawyers,” adds kathleen grey, a trusts and estates legal professional with quarles & brady in milwaukee. “it’s a enormously technical forte. It’s not about the artwork of litigation. You’re now not a performer. It’s greater approximately expertise the tax code.” which suits halley just best. “one of the awesome matters approximately believe and property law is that it certainly allows you to mix the analytical facet and the personal side,” halley says. “you surely ought to be a people person. You need to have human beings talents.” halley, who’s a shareholder in his company and head of its trusts and estates exercise institution, works tough to make his clients feel comfy revealing very private topics. Many likely shudder to suppose their private business might come to be public, lots much less newspaper fodder. “i can’t let you know how generally someone would possibly say, ‘i’m embarrassed to say this, however …’ and that they’ll inform you something very revealing about their family,” halley says. “all and sundry’s were given something going on. You’re very aware of a lot of exclusive facts.” in truth, in more than two a long time, simply one in all halley’s instances made the papers. It concerned a dispute over the estate of a woman who devoted suicide. Yet he’s nonetheless reluctant to discuss the case in any detail. “it’s commonplace on this place of exercise not to talk about these things. My clients aren’t looking to get any exposure.” not many go to regulation college with the aim of that specialize in trusts and estates, and halley didn’t either. Instances led him there. Disability led him there. After graduating from ohio state, halley came to milwaukee in 1981 to clerk for a federal choose, questioning he’d get a pair years’ revel in then circulate on. “later on, i thought approximately going returned to ohio and interviewing with some corporations in cleveland,” he says. “but it simply seemed like milwaukee was a pleasing location to practice regulation.” looking out at a shimmering blue lake michigan from the 17th-floor terrace at his downtown office building on a current summer morning, halley admires the view. “isn’t it something?” he says. “that is sincerely a beautiful metropolis.” he grew up in huron, ohio, a city of 7,four hundred this is 50 miles west of cleveland on lake erie. He’s the son of educators. First of all he attended ashland university as a pre-med chemistry important, however changed his thoughts after spending a summer time working as a health center orderly. Shifting to ohio nation, he earned an undergraduate diploma in economics in 1978, then a law diploma in 1981, but became nonetheless uncertain what he wanted to do. With an interest in civil technique and federal courts, he clerked for u. S. District decide robert w. Warren of the jap district of wisconsin. “my spouse and i wanted to strive somewhere one of a kind,” he says. “we didn’t have kids and thought we should stay anywhere for a couple of years.” fishbach, then an assistant u. S. Lawyer who labored in the identical building as halley, recollects him nicely. “we tried instances earlier than decide warren all the time. Phil changed into his law clerk and that i realize he worked lengthy hours,” says fishbach. “choose warren certainly loved him, and spoke notably of him all the time.” then got here a marvel. Surprises, truly. Now not lengthy after transferring, his spouse, ellen, now an elementary instructor at st. Robert in shorewood, were given pregnant. The second one surprise got here when his spouse had an emergency c-section and found out she could endure twins. Meghan and beth had been born in 1982. “i think we have been the last couple in america to have surprise twins,” says halley, whose wife by no means were given an ultrasound. “we didn’t recognise till the second came out. I’ll by no means neglect that night time, on foot down the corridor and pronouncing, ‘yes!’” even these days, talking approximately that experience makes halley misty-eyed. Whilst halley’s two-year clerkship ended, and after he and his spouse decided on milwaukee, halley, in 1983, joined whyte hirschboeck dudek. It became then that he selected trusts and estates. Part of the reason was his deteriorating vision. Halley first found out something turned into incorrect with his sight when he changed into approximately eleven. “lower back then they didn’t have cat scans and mris. The preliminary notion turned into a tumor. I keep in mind we’d be in the vehicle on excursion and all and sundry might appearance out and say, ‘there’s the mackinac bridge!’ and that i’d say, ‘in which’s the mackinac bridge?’” it wasn’t till he become in his 20s that halley was officially diagnosed with optic neuropathy, a circumstance that makes it tough for him to study standard-length files and books, in addition to consciousness on gadgets at a distance. It ultimately forced him to prevent driving a car 20 years in the past. Trusts and estates, he figured, wouldn’t require him to travel a whole lot. He ought to paintings without problems in his office, wherein he makes use of magnifying glasses to read and works from a huge pc monitor. In reality, aside from the huge display and magnifying glasses, it’s no longer apparent that halley has a imaginative and prescient problem. He honestly doesn’t make a massive deal approximately it. “i drew the cards i drew,” he says. At whyte hirschboeck, he received knowledge in marital assets law—succeeding one in all his partners because the co-writer, with 5 others, on a revised version of wisconsin’s three-quantity set on the situation in 1994, and periodically updating it given that. He also taught marital assets regulation for several years at marquette college law faculty, however ultimately gave it as much as consciousness on his exercise and his own family. An vital a part of his practice is helping customers offer for their heirs while reducing or casting off their tax burdens. “at a sure level, there’s making plans that people need to do so they don’t leave a multitude,” he says. “a number of our planning basically has to do with belongings. I attempt to get things in form for those left behind. “one couple,” he provides, “struggled to determine how they are treating their children in a different way with their estate. There’s quite a few angst in that.” a few dad and mom actually have issues about leaving their kids an excessive amount of. Halley likes what warren buffett says on the matter—depart the kids sufficient so that they feel they might do some thing, but no longer so much that they feel they might do not anything—but he doesn’t rush to volunteer such mind to clients. “i have a tendency to concentrate greater than i speak,” he says. Halley also works with clients on increase scientific directives—files that spell out how doctors and hospitals deal with terminal infection and medical subjects—and helps direct items to nonprofits and charitable companies. Halley spends little time in courtroom, and while he does it’s often on procedural subjects. However in 1995 he argued before not just any court. “one of the greatest matters i got to do turned into argue a case before the wisconsin splendid courtroom,” he says. “now not many trusts and estates legal professionals get to try this. I simply thought that became the coolest thing.” firstar consider co. V. First countrywide bank of kenosha addressed the allocation of the weight of estate taxes, and halley, whose firm represented firstar, did everything he could to prepare. He tracked down cassette tapes of famous oral arguments, paying attention to how the pros did it, noting their styles and strategies. Once he started his oral argument, but, he found out quickly that there has been little time for monologue. “you get a minute into the argument and the judges begin asking these kind of questions,” he says. “that’s whilst it will become now not a lot a controversy, however a conversation.” the court ruled in halley’s want on one issue and in opposition to on every other. “however for me, it became in reality a neat experience,” he says. “for most people, it’s now not that thrilling.” “he has a self-deprecating sense of humor,” kathleen gray says. “he’s an amazing person and a directly shooter.” it allows that he works in a forte in which maximum colleagues and competition are not at each other’s throats. “my practice vicinity could be very collegial,” he says. In fact, he and his colleagues, such as gray, have a regular study institution. “trusts and estates attorneys, we're all studious kinds,” she says. “we’ve been out of regulation school 30 years, however we nonetheless need to examine up.” because he doesn’t drive, halley commonly walks or buses to paintings from his milwaukee domestic. Once in a while he bikes or takes a cab, and, in the latter case, he’s befriended a somali cab driving force who has shared his life and revel in as a muslim. “he's my connection to the muslim international. I was riding with him at the day after 11th of september. We talked loads approximately what he believes in. It’s been a actual experience for me, in particular after all of the negative things which have been stated about muslims. I wouldn’t have that during my existence if i didn’t have this imaginative and prescient problem.” studying is difficult, however every 12 months halley listens to about 20-25 books on his ipod. He’s a huge fan of tracy kidder and frequently gives away copies of mountains beyond mountains to friends. The book chronicles the tale of dr. Paul farmer, who opened a scientific medical institution in haiti that grew into an global medical relief organisation. “he’s my hero. I've given away so many copies of this ebook simply due to the fact it's so inspiring. It’s about the power of the man or woman,” halley says. “it’s an instance of how one man or woman’s imaginative and prescient for alternate can make a distinction in the event that they’re definitely dedicated.” halley attempts to make a distinction as properly. He has served on a number of boards, which includes dominican high faculty and the wisconsin eye research institute. He’s also completed a lot of pro bono work for the duration of his career, consisting of supporting with whyte hirschboeck dudek’s pro bono guardianship hospital at kids’s hospital of wisconsin. He and his wife are maximum happy with their three daughters. The twins took the medical path he deserted: meghan is in east africa studying scientific anthropology, at the same time as beth is in scientific school at ohio nation. Their 1/3 daughter, laura, is a high school social employee in the bronx. “my daughters are an awful lot greater interesting than i am,” he says. Given this attitude, it’s infrequently surprising that halley puzzled why this magazine desired to profile him inside the first location—even though he’s been ranked some of the pinnacle 10 legal professionals in wisconsin for the ultimate 3 years. “in case you’re going to be in great attorneys, you want to speak about the human beings you work with,” he says. “i’m simply seeking to be one of the top 10 legal professionals at the 17th ground.” as we said: problem.