The Lawyer in Wolf's Clothing
Bodybuilding, engineering and even martial arts influence Wolfgang Mueller’s law practice
Published in 2019 Michigan Super Lawyers magazine
By Taylor Kuether on August 22, 2019
Between competitive bodybuilding, working as an automotive engineer, becoming a licensed sports agent, mastering and teaching martial arts, and volunteering with a youth hockey team, most people wouldn’t find the time to go to law school, become a practicing lawyer and open their own firm. But Wolfgang Mueller isn’t most people.
He says the characteristics that allowed him to succeed in one discipline aided him in the others. Take bodybuilding, for example: “The discipline it takes to train and diet at the competitive level is the same kind of discipline and focus it takes to be a good trial lawyer. It’s all a matter of focus and work ethic.”
The same is true of his five years working as an automotive engineer for Chrysler. “It suited me well for the way lawyers think,” Mueller says. “Engineering teaches you a certain way to think and analyze things … that’s well-suited to a technical field, like product liability.”
He also sees working for a car company and suing them as an attorney as two sides of the same coin. “I was an automotive engineer trying to make safety restraints better,” he says, “and then I became a plaintiff lawyer suing entire companies for defective products—also with the goal of trying to make products a little safer.”
Now he uses his engineering background to identify the “bad science” that can put innocent people behind bars. “Math, science, all that relates to forensic engineering. … It relates to bullets, arson, blood spatter,” Mueller says. “It’s been the most rewarding part of my career these last five, six years: working with wrongfully convicted individuals and trying to right the wrongs that got them put behind bars for, at times, decades. You can’t even imagine the fabric of your life taken away by bad science.”
Making the world a little safer has been the through-line of Mueller’s life. Eleven years ago, Mueller started practicing the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do alongside his son, who has Down syndrome. “I wanted him to have a sports outlet, so I joined [martial arts] with him and we became black belts around the same time,” Mueller says.
“Martial arts teach you to respect your opponent. In litigation, it’s always me versus them, and it has taught me to try to get away from some of the animosity that can happen.”
Mueller now teaches martial arts to kids in elementary through high school. “It reinforces: The better you are, the stronger you are, the tougher you are, the less you need to show anybody,” Mueller says. “When I get kids who are especially good at this, I make sure to tell them, ‘You don’t have to show how tough you are in the schoolyard to show how strong you are. The idea is to walk away from a fight, not to start one.’”
A former bouncer in college, Mueller doesn’t look too kindly on bullying. “Frankly, that’s why I like representing wrongfully convicted individuals who are subject to police abuse. I don’t like bullies.”
In addition to teaching Tang Soo Do, Mueller volunteers with his son’s hockey league. But his son, graduating from high school this year, has taught him plenty, too—namely that a community is best when its individuals take care of those who need help.
“At the end of the day,” he says, “my philosophy is to try to help others, and by helping others, my life is enriched.”
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