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Practice Makes Perfect

Preparation made Bob Corris a winning swimmer and litigator

Published in 2022 Wisconsin Super Lawyers magazine

It was through competitive swimming that Bob Corris first realized the importance of preparation, time management, and setting a goal and striving toward it.

“I went to a small, all-boys prep school in my hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, and they had a requirement that you go out for a sport … so I went out for swimming,” he recalls. Soon after, he realized two things: “It turned out I was good” and “I want to win.”

After he joined a small Amateur Athletic Union swim club and they suggested he swim breaststroke, Corris started seeing rapid improvement. “All of a sudden I’m dropping times and the other breaststrokers are saying, ‘Where did you come from?’” Corris recalls.

Corris swam throughout college at Harvard and was a Division I All-American his junior year (1965-’66). “To rise from a small club into that next level, there was just a lot of excitement to be able to do that, and to see world-class swimmers,” he says.

He’s been a business litigator since 1973, and opened his eponymous Milwaukee-area practice in 1996. Nowadays, Corris typically attends at least two U.S. Masters Swimming meets annually as well as spring nationals. He’s twice been a national champion, most recently in spring 2016 in North Carolina, in the 400-yard individual medley (pictured above). “It’s all by five-year age groups,” Corris says. “At some point it’s an incentive to get older.”

Corris emphasizes the health and socialization benefits of Masters swimming—to “root for each other … and run into people you haven’t seen in years.” He believes swimmers and lawyers share similarities, especially when it comes to focusing on winning and preparing as much as possible. Ultimately, Corris says, swimming fine-tunes his focus on work.

“There are times when I may be having trouble organizing my thinking—it might be organizing the arguments in a brief; or preparing for oral argument at a court hearing; or planning the order or subjects of questioning for a deposition; or even trying to establish priorities for work on different cases that I have to address. I find that when I get in the water for a workout, I am often able to think clearly.”

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