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Phillip Kitzer discovered an aptitude and passion for employment law while working as a clerk for a firm specializing in that practice area. (File photo: Bill Klotz)
Phillip Kitzer discovered an aptitude and passion for employment law while working as a clerk for a firm specializing in that practice area. (File photo: Bill Klotz)

Breaking the Ice: Helping people out of ‘bad spots’ motivates practice

Name: Phillip Kitzer

Title: Partner, Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel

Education: B.S., bacteriology, University of Wisconsin, Madison; J.D., University of Minnesota Law School

 

Phillip Kitzer, partner at Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel, values the opportunity to help people through tough times in his employment law practice.

Kitzer did that notably in Schmitz v. United States Steel, appearing before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court in a case establishing a constitutional right to a jury trial for employees in Minnesota for retaliatory discharge under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

“That was exciting to see that you can make a difference for not just your client but for workers all over the state,” Kitzer said.

Kitzer, long interested in social justice, discovered an aptitude and passion for employment law while working as a clerk for a firm specializing in that practice area.

He had long been interested in law and had honed his debate skills in high school and in political discussions at family gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Kitzer also had an interest in science and earned an undergraduate degree in bacteriology.

He went to law school, however, after finding that science lacked the social interaction that he preferred.

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

A. Say hello and be nice. I’m generally an easy person to talk to. Most people in the employment and labor bar in Minnesota are pretty kind and thoughtful, so it shouldn’t be difficult to start a conversation with me.

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

A. I’m an avid reader. I’m rereading “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and I just finished reading “Tom Sawyer.” I’ve recently finished “The Devil in White City,” “Pachinko,” “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” and “The Sun Also Rises.” On deck I’ve got a book called “Cutting for Stone.”

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

A. Helping people get from a bad spot to a better spot. People normally don’t call an employment lawyer if things are going great. Sometimes they do, like when they need help negotiating a job offer. But whether it’s a wrongful termination or starting a new job, it’s very gratifying helping people to get people to a better place.

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

A. I like to travel and I’m a runner. I ran Grandma’s Marathon [in June]. I just got back from a beautiful trip to the Canadian Rockies, to get outdoors and do some hiking up there.

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

A. I’m from Rhinelander Wisconsin. It’s lake country up there, and it’s stunning to get out on the lakes on a kayak or canoe or any kind of boat and be surrounded by those big, tall redwood pines and enjoy the peace and quiet.

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

A. I’ve been lucky to learn from a lot of good lawyers and have a lot of them as mentors. I worked with Frances Baillon and Chris Jozwiak. Frances taught me the importance of knowing your facts and your law inside out. Chris is an amazing advocate and a fighter. I’ve learned those skills from them.

My current partners are amazing. Vildan Teske teaches me to practice law with grace and kindness. Marisa Katz teaches me to be pay attention to details. But the person who inspires me the most is Brian Rochel. He is a zealous advocate who approaches litigation and client representation with passion, intelligence, kindness and a great sense of humor.  I’m very lucky to practice with this group of people.

Q. What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A. Many people don’t understand how much work goes on behind the scenes of a case: the research of the law, the research of the facts, the vetting of the cases. There’s a lot of unglamorous time involved in being an attorney.

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