Asked & Answered: On a mission, never too late for Lee.

AuthorTeske, Ali
PositionMay Lee

Byline: Ali Teske

Milwaukee criminal defense attorney May Lee never planned to practice law. She began her professional career as a teacher in higher education and at 38 years old decided to change courses after establishing a successful career and family.

She graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2016 and opened her practice, Lee Law Firm, within two years. Lee is a member of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National College for DUI Defense. She earned a 2020 Avvo Client's Choice Award and has previously been recognized by The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40.

She recently sat down with the Wisconsin Law Journal to talk about switching career courses, the mission to see criminal defense clients as people and pursuing your dreams.

WLJ: What made you want to pursue a career in the law? Where did that start?

Lee: I never ever dreamed about becoming a lawyer or wanted to be or had any aspirations to be a lawyer. I always wanted to be a teacher and I became a teacher. Then I began to work in higher education, and in higher education I got a chance to work with federal compliance and things like that. I started to get involved with that as a financial aid director and I found that I liked the law. But at that point I was 38 with five children and then because of other personal things in my life and my background, I thought maybe I should pursue law. You only live once and so that's what made me want to go to law school.

WLJ: When did you decide during school that you wanted to open your own practice as opposed to getting a position with an established firm in the area?

Lee: I think going into law school I knew that eventually someday I wanted to start my own practice. My plan in my mind was that I would gain experience either by going into the public defender's office or the district attorney's office and do that for about seven to 10 years so that I knew what I was doing, felt confident and had the experience. Then I would open up my own practice. In the public defender's program specifically, the year that I was going to graduate, they offered something very unique and different which they hadn't had before. You could intern with a private attorney who had their own law firm but also have the experience through the public defender's office. So, it was like everything I wanted. My idea was "OK, great I can learn from this person, get some business ideas and whatnot." Then, eventually once I...

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