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The origins of Stroud, Willink & Howard, LLC, go back to the formation
of a law partnership by John M. Olin (1851-1924) and Harry L. Butler
(1866-1936) in 1892. By 1913, the firm had grown to one of the largest in
the addition of Ray M. Stroud (1884-1972), a recent graduate of the
University of Chicago Law School, and Byron H. Stebbins (1876-1967), who
several years as Assistant District Attorney in Brown County, Wisconsin.
The firm held a regional reputation for excellence in business practice,
the representation of utilities in their rate-setting negotiations
and litigation. Even though utilities work was his specialty, Harry
Butler took a year of
sabbatical from the firm to go to Detroit to assist Henry Ford in
the development of his estate plan.
In 1938, after the death of Harry Butler,
the utilities practice was
discontinued and the business and tax law practice of the firm burgeoned
under the name of Stroud, Stebbins, Wingert & Young. During the War
years, the firm employed as an associate attorney one of the first
women to have engaged in the private practice of law in Madison,
Anna C. Davis.
After the War, Donald R. Stroud, the son of Ray M. Stroud,
from Army service to become a member of the firm. He had graduated
from the Michigan Law School and practiced law in Milwaukee before he "joined
up" on the eve of Pearl Harbor. He was a participant in the Battle
of the Bulge. Don's arrival at the firm was timely for, in 1946,
partner James Ward Rector (1903-1979) was appointed to the Wisconsin
1950 was a year of significant change. In that year, George
(1915-1981) withdrew from the firm to join the faculty of the
Wisconsin Law School, of which he later became a longstanding Dean. In the same
Ray M. Stroud suffered a severe heart attack and was medically
excluded from the office for several months. This prompted Ray's oldest son,
R. "Dick" Stroud, to leave his practice in Milwaukee and to
join the firm. Dick was also a Michigan Law School graduate and
had served in
the Army from 1940 through the duration of the War in both the
Intelligence and Judge Advocate services.
Long time partner, Emmert
L. Wingert (1899-1971), was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme
Court in 1956, and the name of the firm
was changed to Stroud, Stebbins & Stroud. The firm continued to use that
name until the death of Byron H. Stebbins in 1968. For a brief period thereafter,
firm was named Stroud, Stroud, Stroud & Howard, which included C.
Vernon Howard, who had joined the firm in 1962.
Over a period of
several years, Vern Howard, Dale R. Thompson, and Donald D. Willink
had become acquainted through their activities
in the Presbyterian Church. Willink and Thompson were also veterans of the Army
in World War II, Dale as an aviator taken prisoner in Germany
and Don as
a combat infantry soldier in Northern Europe during the final
months of the War. Both were honors graduates of the Wisconsin Law School and
held a solid reputation for excellence in the practice of law.
The business practice of both the Stroud firm and Willink & Thompson were
expanding and both perceived a common culture of client service. The merger of
two firms in 1970 was one of the first to succeed in Madison.
For the ensuing three decades the firm was known as Stroud, Stroud, Willink,
Thompson & Howard. Lawyers
who became partners in our firm during that period include Ron
Todd (1973), Rob Stroud (1977), Dale Peterson (1981), Bob Schwab (1983), and Carolyn
The firm's offices
had traditionally been located in the Central Bank and Trust Building. When
that building was razed in 1926, the
moved out of its top fourth floor office suite and returned
to occupy the top seventh floor office suite of the "new" Bank
of Madison Building (now, M&I) that still stands. The newly
merged firm was hard pressed for office space and, when AnchorBank
its edifice in 1977, the
firm moved into its present custom-designed quarters at the
West end of the same block on Main Street.
The firm has always maintained
strong ties with the University of
Wisconsin. Its client base includes large numbers of active
and emeritus faculty in addition to members of the University's administration.
From near its inception, Ray M. Stroud provided legal services to
and later became a trustee of The William F. Vilas Trust. During the 1940s,
Mr. Stroud also was one of the founders of the University of Wisconsin Foundation.
The firm continues to perform general legal services for the Vilas
Trust and special assignments for the UW Foundation on a regular basis.
represented by the firm, such as The Oscar Rennebohm Foundation
and Kelab, Inc., are major contributors to the University. For over 25 years,
Howard provided legal counsel to the University of Wisconsin
Medical School and was instrumental in the conversion of the clinical practice
present form. Carolyn Hegge is a former director of the foundation
supporting Crew and a member of the "W" Club. Dick Stroud,
Don Willink, and Vern Howard have taught at the UW Law School.
firm converted its organizational structure to a limited liability
company in 1999. At that time, the name was shortened for convenience
and to commemorate the names of long standing members of the firm, Dick Stroud,
Don Stroud, Don Willink, and Vern Howard. Since our reorganization, Joe Bartol became a member in
1999 and Peter Richter became a member
in 2004. In 2005, Norm Farnam became a member of the firm, while John Laubmeier became a member in 2012.