Name: Terrance Newby
Title: Partner, Maslon
Education: B.A., political science, University of Wisconsin, Madison; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law
Maslon partner Terrance Newby, who has written plays produced in local professional theaters and is revising his first novel, says fiction writing complements his intellectual property, e-commerce and complex commercial litigation practice.
That’s because both involve storytelling.
“I like to write plays where the audience is dropped in the middle of a scene without knowing what’s happening,” Newby said. “That’s, basically, like litigation. You’re dropped in the middle of a problem and you have to figure it out.”
Newby’s historical-fiction novel is about Dangerfield Newby, a freed slave whom Newby believes was a distant relative — and was the first raider killed in John Brown’s 1859 attack on Harpers Ferry.
In his practice, Newby has been assisting e-commerce clients concerned about competitive keyword targeting, when a company uses a competitor’s trademarks in keyword searches to highlight the company’s products. While companies can compare competing products by name, improperly using a competitor’s registered trademarks to confuse consumers could lead to a lawsuit.
Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?
A: Ask me what I’m reading. That will be a very long conversation. I’m interested in what other people are reading or listening to.
Q: Why did you study law and pursue it as a career?
A: I became interested in law when I was an undergrad at Wisconsin. I studied journalism and poli sci at UW-Madison. My junior year I took an undergrad con law class from a professor named Stan Cutler. He taught undergrad the same way he taught law school. He used Socratic method. I was completely utterly unprepared for this experience. Having to public defend your opinions was something I’d never done, and I really liked it. I wasn’t ready to go straight to law school so I worked for two years in marketing and promotions for the UW business school. I could not stop thinking about that con law class so after two years I quit my job and applied to William Mitchell.
Q: What’s a pet peeve of yours?
A: Lack of discipline and lack of attention to detail, in others, but primarily in myself.
Q: What do you like best about your work?
A: The combination or storytelling and problem solving, and how those skills are intertwined.
Q: What do you least like about it?
A: Billable hours.
Q: What do you like to do away from work?
A: Most of my time away from work is spent revising the novel and trying to pitch it to potential agents.
Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do there?
A: I was born in Milwaukee and grew up in the suburbs. I would take a visitor to the Milwaukee Art Museum on the shore of Lake Michigan. It’s a cool piece of architecture in the middle of a blue-collar city.
Q: Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you most admire? Why?
A: Thurgood Marshall. I have only recently learned of the tensions between Marshall and Martin Luther King over the direction of the civil rights movement. Marshall apparently resented King for getting most of the glory, while Thurgood Marshall was doing the quieter work of building and litigating the legal theories that eventually led to Brown v. Board of Education.
Q: What’s a misconception people have about your work as an attorney?
A: That we spend every day in court. Most of my cases settle. Most of my clients never want to see the inside of a courtroom. They pay me to keep them out of court.
Q: What’s a favorite book, movie or TV show about lawyers or the legal profession?
A: “Philadelphia.” Watching Denzel Washington’s character preparing Tom Hanks’ character for his long day of trial testimony and Tom Hanks’ character is very sick and Denzel Washington is just pushing him to get ready for this trial testimony, that was inspirational. Heartbreaking too because we know the ending.
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