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As a partner at Stinson Leonard Street, he co-chairs the firm’s unmanned aircraft and autonomous vehicles practice group. (File photo: Bill Klotz)
As a partner at Stinson Leonard Street, he co-chairs the firm’s unmanned aircraft and autonomous vehicles practice group. (File photo: Bill Klotz)

Breaking the Ice: Legal, military experience fuel varied practice

Name: Stephen Schemenauer

Title: Partner, Stinson Leonard Street

Education: B.S., political science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse; J.D., Mitchell Hamline School of Law

 

Stephen Schemenauer’s extensive legal and military backgrounds inform his practice, which ranges from construction and real estate litigation to issues surrounding cybersecurity, unmanned aircraft and autonomous vehicle issues.

An Army colonel, Schemenauer gained construction experience as a combat engineer and with an equipment manufacturing company.

Schemenauer has used unmanned aerial vehicles in Afghanistan and Iraq and domestically in disaster responses. As a partner at Stinson Leonard Street, he co-chairs the firm’s unmanned aircraft and autonomous vehicles practice group.

Schemenauer, a military intelligence officer with two Bronze Stars, has leveraged his cybersecurity experience to help clients address cybersecurity preparedness and data breach incident response.

“No one day is the same as the next, and I enjoy that aspect” of the practice, Schemenauer said.

Schemenauer and several high school buddies enlisted in the Army Reserve, acting on “a patriotic sense of duty” in the buildup to 1990’s Operation Desert Storm after getting their parents’ permission.

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. Ask if you can buy me a beer. Anyone who knows me will tell that I’m not shy and I’m never without a good story so it’s not hard to strike up a conversation with me.

Q. What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally?

A. My eighth-grade teacher and I were arguing one day. He recommended that I become a lawyer because I loved to argue and was good at it.

In high school I was accused of passing a stopped school bus. Contrary to good advice, I represented myself in court and during cross-examination got the bus driver to admit that she had closed the door before I passed. Since the lights and the sign are all integrated into the door once it was closed, that meant that the lights were off and the sign was retracted — meaning I could not have possibly passed her illegally. The judge agreed and dismissed my case. I was really set on going to law school after that.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. The last book I read was “The Putin Interviews” by Oliver Stone. These provide interesting glimpses into what’s driving our relationship with Russia. I also read Parameters, the U.S. Army War College quarterly. My research article, “Using the Rule of Law to Combat the Islamic State,” was published in Parameters in 2016.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. People who don’t answer the question asked because they’re not paying attention or they’re being evasive.

Q. What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A. I like being a person that people turn to when they have question that can’t be answered or a problem they can’t solve. I appreciate the flexibility. It also allows me to continue to serve my state and nation in the Minnesota Army National Guard.

Q. Least favorite?

A. It’s probably the constant adversarial nature of litigation. I think every litigator would agree that it can be exhausting to constantly fight. I enjoy the tactics and strategy, but it can be a grind as well.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. I enjoy hunting, fishing and spending time with family. My time is pretty limited, so I try to maximize every opportunity I get.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. I grew up in small town in rural Wisconsin. There’s not a lot to do there. So it would probably be to hunt or fish.

Q. Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most?

A. I externed for [U.S. District] Judge [Donovan] Frank while in law school. The thing I appreciated most about him was his ability to separate his personal opinion from his legal opinion. His impartiality and lack of bias is what every judge should aspire to. He is a big reason why I want to be a judge one day myself.

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