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Breaking the Ice: Competitive spirit fuels range of trial work

Todd Nelson//June 24, 2020

Breaking the Ice: Competitive spirit fuels range of trial work

Todd Nelson//June 24, 2020

Name: Patrick Arenz

Title: Partner, Robins Kaplan

Education: B.A., history and political science, University of Wisconsin-Madison; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Robins Kaplan partner Patrick Arenz focuses his practice — and competitive streak — on high-stakes jury trials rather than one practice area.

Arenz began in patent law, then expanded to copyright infringement, trade secrets misappropriation and commercial and tort cases. Results include a $13.5 million settlement for Megdal Associates from La-Z-Boy in a royalties dispute.

“I like the aspect of knowing that there are going to be winners and losers and enjoy the concept of doing my best on behalf of a client to pursue and win justice,” Arenz said. “It’s the best job in the world for me.”

Arenz, the firm’s pro bono committee chair from 2015 through 2018, also pursues a variety in his pro bono practice.

In 2017, he obtained a $950,000 jury award in a civil sex tourism case for a 14-year-old victim raped in Laos by a U.S. citizen.

Arenz in 2018 received the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico award in recognition of his dedication to pro bono work. Robins Kaplan, Arenz said, consistently ranks among top firms nationally in pro bono work, according to The American Lawyer magazine.

His pro bono cases include asylum, criminal defense and serving as an assistant attorney general for the state of Illinois in its police misconduct suit against the city of Chicago.

“I tend to pick my pro bono cases by the need of a case and not by the niche of law,” Arenz said.

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

A: Ask me about the next case I’m preparing for trial, or the Packers’ chances of winning the Super Bowl this year.

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

A: I wasn’t good enough to earn a living playing professional baseball. I enjoyed studying history and political science. And I’ve always enjoyed fighting for the underdog.

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

A: “Way of the Warrior Kid” by Jocko Willink. My kids and I read a chapter a night from this series. I’m also in the middle of “History of the World in 1,000 Objects.”

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: Underline, bold, and italics for emphasis. Pick one!

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

A: There is nothing more invigorating than being in the well of the courtroom during a jury trial. And to be able to do that on behalf of inventors, artists, innovators and others who otherwise do not have the resources of their opponents makes the practice especially rewarding.

Q: Least favorite?

A: The increasing amount of time it takes to get a case to trial in many courts.

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

A: I have three kids, so depending on the day and time, it ranges from horseback riding to baseball practice to trips to the playground.

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

A: I grew up in Milwaukee. Without hesitation, I would make sure a visitor makes their way to Kopp’s for ice cream (or frozen custard to be precise). It will change your life.

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

A: I would highlight the federal judiciary as a whole in the District of Minnesota. I have been active in the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association throughout my career, and the collegiately and involvement by our federal bench is truly something special.

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

A: That great attorneys never lose. It’s a humbling profession that demands resilience even from the best.

Q: What is your favorite depiction of the law or the legal profession in popular culture?

A: That’s a toss-up between “A Few Good Men” and “My Cousin Vinny.” Both are great and offer great lessons in trial advocacy.

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