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Keep Manhattan, Just Give Her That Countryside

Brittany Ogden couldn't resist the pull of the family farm

Published in 2008 Wisconsin Super Lawyers Magazine — December 2008

Yes, Brittany Ogden was the prom queen, and, yes, she married her high school sweetheart (the prom king—who else?), and, yes, the couple left New York to return to Ogden's family farm in southwestern Wisconsin. But please don't call her hokey.

The 34-year-old Murphy Desmond shareholder is one of the top young business and commercial litigators in Madison. She credits her childhood on a farm near Mineral Point for her success. "It instills a great work ethic when you are growing up and you have chores at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. every single day," she says. "No excuses."

Her parents, a farmer and a John Deere professional, pushed hard and expected their three daughters to stay involved in school and follow their passions. For Ogden, that meant the law, but she kept her goals modest. When she told her parents she wanted to be a vice president of a company someday, they responded, "Why wouldn't you just be the president?'"

Upon graduation from Syracuse University College of Law in 1999, it didn't take long for Ogden's agricultural background to come in handy. Working in New York, clients included a dairy farm that had suffered damages and a company being sued for improper application of fertilizer.

"I'm kind of a chameleon," she says. "A lot of people are shocked that I grew up on a farm if they don't know me from that part of my life."

After the loss of her mother, who died suddenly of a brain aneurysm while Ogden was in her last year of law school, she felt increasingly drawn to home. So, in 2001, she returned to Wisconsin with husband Phil, a banker and now-part-time beef cattle raiser, and she eventually ended up at Murphy Desmond. By age 31, she made partner.

In addition to her litigation on behalf of business clients, she has built up a healthy bankruptcy and creditor's rights practice.

With her diminutive stature—she's 5 feet tall—and what she calls a "non-assuming" appearance, Ogden says she is often underestimated. That's a mistake that works in her favor. "[Opposing counsel] think I'm not going to be knowledgeable or I'm not going to have much fire in me. I'm just a meek little girl," she says. "I do think that you will be able to get a lot further with people if you approach the situation calmly, politely and nicely. But I have no problem turning the switch, either."

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