Packed to the Gills

Brothers Pat and Greg Gill Jr. bring gridiron intensity to their family-owned firm

Published in 2010 Wisconsin Rising Stars — December 2010

At Gill & Gill, one of the state’s first employment law firms, brothers Gregory Gill Jr., 35, and Patrick Gill, 33, are neither of the two name partners.

The firm name refers to their father, Gregory Gill Sr., and their late grandfather, Gordon P. Gill Sr., who founded the firm in 1946.

“We still represent roughly a half-dozen or so of my grandfather’s original clients,” says Pat. “Being a third-generation law firm, we are oftentimes working with the third generation of a family-owned business.”

“What always strikes me,” says Greg Jr., “is the almost universal respect that clients have for the work my grandfather laid the [foundation] for, and my father continued to build on. Both Pat and I have not only a desire but an obligation to work to build that reputation.”

He adds: “My father instilled in us [the idea] that reputation can take a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy.”

The reserve and gentleness of the Gill brothers may catch strangers off guard. Greg Jr. is 6 feet 2 inches tall and 210 pounds, while Pat is 6 feet 3 inches tall and 250 pounds. This, too, is family tradition. Both father and grandfather were, according to Pat, “physically imposing figures.”

“They were also people who instilled in us [the idea]: You don’t be a bully just because you can be,” Greg Jr. adds. “You’re compassionate and kind until someone gives you a reason to be tough. Then you show that you’re twice as tough as they are.”

Both brothers were star collegiate athletes. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Greg Jr. was a two-time Big Ten champion and All-American decathlete. He took a year off after graduation to train for the Olympic trials but tore a rotator cuff. Pat, a fellow Badger and a linebacker, helped the 1998 Big Ten champion football team to a Rose Bowl victory over fifth-ranked UCLA, 38-31.

Each brother brags about the other.

“To see my brother playing in front of 80,000 people was probably as exhilarating as any athletic endeavor that I was involved in,” says Greg Jr.

Pat says his big brother was just as inspiring. “Academically, he was always what I considered to be a scholar growing up,” he says. “He received very high marks in school, and when I came in as a freshman playing football he was already receiving a number of accolades from winning the Big Ten track meets.”

That’s not to say there wasn’t competition between the two. “We would have golf matches with no talking during the 18 holes,” says Pat. “One always wanted to beat the other and hold the title till the next match.”

But neither saw sports as the endgame. “[Law] struck me as a way to continue the competitive fire that we had when we were athletes,” says Greg Jr. “As opposed to it being a physical endeavor, it was an intellectual endeavor.”

There was no pressure from the elder Gills to join the family firm in Appleton—or even to pursue law. Pat joined Gill & Gill in 2003 after working for a Milwaukee defense firm to hone his skills. “I knew from the get-go that I was going to come join my dad,” he says.

Greg Jr. spent a year as an assistant district attorney, then clerked for a federal judge, before realizing, “You know, labor and employment law is pretty interesting.” That interim was educational but costly. “Now my younger brother gets to claim office seniority over me,” he says with a smile.

Playing football turned out to be good prep for Gill & Gill. “The three of us operate much like a team,” Pat says. “We all bring something different to the table.”

Greg Jr. is great at pretrial work, Pat and Greg Sr. often litigate, and everyone takes the clients’ challenges personally.

“I find myself looking at a case even when the chips are stacked against me, and thinking, ‘I am going to be the smarter lawyer; I’m going to try harder than this other lawyer and I’m going to help my client get the results that are desired,’” says Greg Jr.

At times they give a little nod to their athletic achievements. Both brothers often don their championship rings when meeting opposing counsel and clients—in part because it’s a great conversation starter, and in part, Pat says, because “the rings show our level of commitment and dedication. If you want to win in the courtroom, on the field or on the track, you need to be willing to put forth more effort than your opponent and in a strategic manner. I want my clients to see the rings and see what they can expect out of me.”

He adds: “It is also a reminder to ourselves as to what effort it takes to achieve excellence.”

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