July 2020 - WPDN

It is a tale as old as time. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy becomes an attorney and hires his wife as a paralegal. It’s the stuff love songs are made of and, for Wendy Trembath, her journey from Broadcast Journalism to being a Certified Paralegal at Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville plays like a song that you would slow dance to. It’s full of hardship, struggle, chasing dreams, and, most importantly, love. This is a love story, above all else. And Wendy Trembath’s love for law first came about because of her love for her husband. 

 

“Becoming a paralegal sort of happened out of necessity,” Trembath shared. “My husband is an attorney, and when he graduated from law school, he decided that he wanted to move to Wyoming and open his own firm. He needed a paralegal right away, and I had a little bit of experience with contracts and entity formation and things like that, so I kind of just volunteered for the job. We moved back to Casper in the summer of 2005, and by that fall I was enrolled in Casper College to get a Paralegal Post-Baccalaureate Certificate.”

 

Trembath originally went to school for Broadcast Journalism, earning her degree in 1991 from the University of Colorado Boulder. That’s also where she first met her husband. The two met, fell in love, and moved to Oregon for a time, before returning to the Midwest. Trembath’s husband, Wallace, opened his own practice in Casper and it stayed open for about two years. But, as many lawyers will attest, managing one’s own practice is on a whole different level compared to just practicing law. 

 

“His firm was open for about two years and he was doing very well,” Trembath stated. “But in order to get health insurance and other benefits, and to supplement some income, he began working for the City of Casper Attorney’s office part-time, as well. So, he would work for the city in the mornings and I would go to school in the morning and then we’d both come back to our office in the afternoon.” 

 

It was a tumultuous schedule for both husband and wife, so much so that it finally got to a point where Trembath issued an ultimatum. 

 

“My husband was starting to miss words in his sentences without realizing it,” she laughed. “That’s how exhausted he was trying to balance both jobs. So, I finally told him ‘I don’t care which one you choose but choose one.’”

 

He relented and opted to continue working for the city, a position he still holds to this day. Wendy, on the other hand, had a decision to make herself. She became a paralegal to help her husband. But something funny happened on the way to the forum- she realized she loved the world of law and she wanted to continue to be a part of it. So, when her husband decided to work full time for the city, Trembath decided to take her skills elsewhere. She began working for a local attorney but working for Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville was always in the back of her mind. It was a pipe dream, she thought, but a girl could hope. 

 

One day, that dream became a reality. 

 

“During the time in which I worked for a different attorney, I graduated from the CC Paralegal Program and passed my Certified Paralegal Exam from the National Association of Legal Assistants. That’s something that Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville requires of all of its paralegals. When I passed the exam, I remember thinking that even though I was working for another attorney, I was excited by the possibility of working for WPDN someday. When I interviewed there, I told them that I had always wanted to work for them. And they said ‘Well, why didn’t we know that?’ It just wasn’t the right timing at first, but then I finally got there, and it was like the crème de La crème.”

 

WPDN is, for lack of a better term, the mountain top for many aspiring attorneys and paralegals. The respect and integrity of this firm is known for resonates throughout Wyoming and beyond. Trembath knew this from the moment she came to Casper, and it was only further exemplified when she and her attorney actually went up against WPDN’s Pat Murphy during a deposition. 

 

“I actually met Pat on the other side of a case while I was working for a different attorney,” she said. “I just remember thinking that he was such a kind person. He was very pleasant and considerate of our client. And it really showed me that the adversarial process doesn’t have to actually be hostile.”

 

Trembath started working for WPDN in 2015. In the five years since, she has seen a lot, heard a lot, and done a lot. She loves coming up with discovery requests but finds herself spending most of her time answering discovery. She also prepares various discovery documents, researches and summarizes medical records, and more. Though she works primarily for Patrick Murphy and Scott Klosterman, she is quick to help out anyone when needed. That’s how the entire team at WPDN operates. They work for each other and with each other and that is why WPDN has become one of the largest and most well-respected law firms in Wyoming.

 

 “The attorneys at Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville are excellent attorneys. They work hard for their clients and they are brilliant. They have their clients’ best interests at heart, they really do. They will not lead you astray because they want to go to trial, and they won’t push you into a settlement that they don’t think is fair. They work for their clients and I am proud to work for them.” 

 

Wendy Trembath didn’t grow up wanting to be a paralegal. But somewhere along her journey, she found herself swept off her feet by the world of litigation. It wasn’t quite at-first-sight, but she fell. And she’s only kept falling for the past 15 years. Every day at work for her is like a first date- the nerves, the excitement, the potential. It’s all there, waiting to be courted. And like any good relationship, more than anything, WPDN makes Wendy Trembath want to be the best version of herself. It challenges her, it inspires her, and it makes her want to reach for the stars. 

 

Wendy’s story really is a tale as old as time. There’s excitement, adventure, dancing, and dreaming. And, if all goes according to plan, there will be a happily-ever-after as well. 

 

This is a love story, after all.  

Frank Neville was only a college student when he first met Houston Williams and Dick Day. He had recently gotten into an automobile accident and was sued because of it. Mr. Williams was hired by Neville’s insurance company to represent him, and it was during that process that Neville fell in love with the idea of practicing law. He saw Williams capture the attention of an entire courtroom, he saw the respect of the judge and he saw, quite literally first-hand, how important an attorney that actually cares about his client can be. It was during that time, a time that should have been one of the worst experiences of his life, that Frank Neville realized exactly what he wanted to do with his life. 

 

He wanted to be an attorney. 

 

That was more than 50 years ago, and, in those 50 years, Neville has gone from being a scared kid totally out of his element, to one of the most respected attorneys in the entire state of Wyoming. He is a named partner in Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville, and, as any of the other attorneys will tell you, he is the firm’s rock, and he has been since 1970.

 

Neville went to school at Casper College, before receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Wyoming. He then went on to UW’s law school, where he received his JD (Juris Doctor) degree in 1970. Shortly thereafter, he was hired by Houston Williams, with whom he had kept in touch over the years. This was back when WPDN was simply known as Wehrli and Williams and, as luck would have it, the firm was looking for a young, eager, hungry young associate to come on board. Neville fit the bill and started almost immediately upon graduation and his passing of the bar exam. 

 

Seven years later, Neville was made a partner. 

 

A lot has changed in the 50 years that Frank Neville has been practicing. Some changes have been good; others, not so much. But, through it all, WPDN has remained one of the most respected firms in the region, due in large part to the precedent that Houston Williams and Dick Day set, all those years ago. 

 

“Houston Williams always told me that ‘Your word is your bond,’” Neville said. “If you say something, and you commit to something and you find out later that you were wrong, you don’t try to back out of it. You stick with your word. You gave your word, so you go through with it.”

 

That has been the mission statement of WPDN for years, and it is something that the partners impress upon any new associate that may walk through their doors. 

 

“We pass that on,” Neville continued. “From a firm that had a total of five lawyers to a firm that now has 22 or 23 lawyers- we pass that mission statement on to every single one of them. We are the largest firm in the state. We’re the most successful and the most respected firm in the state, not only by other lawyers, but the judiciary as well and the reason for that is because we have impressed upon all of our lawyers that you have to be ethical, your word is your bond, and you have to be prepared.” 

 

Those are all messages that were imprinted on Neville’s conscience right from the start. Preparedness, specifically, was a big talking point. Luckily, in the fifty years that Neville has been practicing, it has become a lot easier to come to court prepared. 

 

“When I first started, the practice of law was somewhat of a leisurely process,” Neville revealed. “You had time to go for a coffee in the morning with other lawyers and you had time to go for a coffee in the afternoon with other lawyers but, now, things are a lot busier and it’s all due to technology. Instead of writing a letter and putting it in the mail and waiting for a response that could come two or three days later, now you can send an email and get a response within minutes. And now, instead of having to haul all of your law books to court, now you just take a little computer and it has all of your briefs and cases on it.”

 

Technology may have changed, but the mission of WPDN has not, and that mission is to serve clients as best they can, whatever the circumstance. 

 

Neville said that “A lawyer represents persons who cannot represent themselves. They can’t adequately speak for themselves because, basically, understandably, they don’t know what’s going on. So, you stand in their place; you speak for them; you act for them. And that’s a big responsibility. In doing so, you have to keep in mind that the client comes first and that you should ethically represent your client to the best of your ability.” 

 

Frank Neville has been doing that for fifty years and he’s been doing it at WPDN from the very beginning. To say that Neville takes great pride in having his “name on the door,” so to speak, would be a vast understatement. He loves what he does. In fact, Neville revealed that he may have loved it a little too much. 

 

“I’ve loved practicing law from the first day I started,” Neville said. “It’s been so exciting and so challenging. Looking back, I didn’t really have any struggles, per say. But the only regret that I have is that [the job] took a little bit out of my family life, which is something you can’t get back.” 

 

That’s how it was for hungry lawyers back in the day. These men and women would work around the clock, sometimes putting in 12- or 16-hour days. It was something of a rite-of-passage for many lawyers but, thankfully, those expectations have softened considerably in recent years. 

 

“These younger lawyers, these new lawyers- they have a different perspective,” Neville stated. “They put a lot more value in time with family and they don’t make the job something that totally encompasses their lives, day and night. And I’m very glad about that. I’m very glad to see that.” 

 

Work/life balance has become immensely important to the most recent generation of career-men and women, and that includes the staff of WPDN. When they are home, they are devoted to their families. But, when they’re on the clock, they are devoted to their clients and that is something that will never change. They are also devoted to the community in which they serve, which is why they spend so much time trying to give back to their neighbors in Natrona County. 

 

“There are a lot of members of our firm that are on various charitable boards,” Neville revealed. “They donate a lot- not just their money, but their time, their advice, and their participation. I think that speaks very well for us and it’s something we’ve done consistently throughout my fifty years of practice with the firm.” 

 

Members of WPDN have served on the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), the Defense Research Institute (DRI), USLAW, the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association, the Wyoming Bar Association, and more. WPDN partner Stuart Day is the President of Equal Justice Wyoming, which is a state-funded civil legal services program that works with Wyoming legal aid providers and community organizations to help people with limited income find help for their legal issues. Every year, WPDN lawyers take part in ‘The Summer Trial Institute,’ which serves as an experiential, immersive ‘dress rehearsal’ for college students, detailing the ins and outs of trial law. Instructors from all over the state provide guest lectures, answer questions, and share their experiences. Judges, lawyers, and many others involved in the world of trial law speak to the students and offer insight into the courtroom. Additionally, Scott Murray, another WPDN attorney, serves on the Board of Directors for The Lyric, for CASA of Natrona County and the Casper Boxing Club. All of these endeavors are efforts to give back to the community for allowing WPDN to remain in business for more than half of a century. 

 

When a firm has been around as long as WPDN has been, the word ‘legacy’ gets thrown around a lot. Every day, the men and women at Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville strive to honor the legacy that Houston Williams and others created more than seventy years ago. Frank Neville has been a part of WPDN almost since its inception and he wants his legacy to be the same as that of his firm.

 

“As far as ‘legacy’ goes,” Neville stated, “I want both my legacy and the legacy of the firm to be that we are known for being honest and ethical and that we represented clients to the best of our abilities.” 

 

If those three characteristics are what Neville wants himself and his firm to be known for, then it’s safe to say that the legacy of WPDN is etched in stone. 

 

READ MORE ABOUT FRANK

In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups- the police, who investigate crime, and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories. 

 

Shannon Rezanina would spend countless hours in front of the television, not just watching what was going on, but studying it, being mesmerized by it. Whether it was Lenny Briscoe and Jack McCoy or Elliot Stabler and Alexandra Cabot, the characters Rezanina watched enchanted her. They inspired her. In all honesty, they set her future in motion and cemented the idea of what she wanted to do with her career. 

 

“Watching Law and Order is what first interested me in the world of law,” laughed Rezanina. “That probably sounds stupid, but it’s true. I thought that the world was really interesting, and it was one I wanted to be a part of, so I went to school to be a paralegal, and got my Associate’s of Science degree in Paralegal Studies.” 

 

She received her degree from Casper College in 2005, and shortly thereafter she began working for Williams, Porter, Day and Neville which was, quite literally, a dream come true. 

 

“The process of getting hired was actually a pretty smooth one,” Rezanina remembered. “My teacher at the college helped all of us find jobs. She was very well-respected, so a lot of attorneys would go to her if they were looking for paralegals. Craig Silva, at the time, was looking for a paralegal, so they contacted me, I went in for an interview and they offered me a job the next day!”

 

Sometimes, people just click. That’s what happened with Rezanina and the rest of the team at WPDN.  They saw how eager she was, how talented she was, and how passionate she was. She saw how honest, hardworking and trustworthy they were. It was a good fit, that’s all. If Rezanina needed any more proof about the integrity of the attorneys at WPDN, she would find it in a case she worked involving a truck driver who was being sued because of an accident. It was during that case that she found out just exactly what WPDN was made of. 

 

“One case that really sticks out is one involving a truck driver who had gotten into an accident and was being sued because of it,” Rezanina said. “We were representing the driver and when he got in the accident, it totaled his truck. He basically lost everything because he lived in his truck. He had nothing and was living in a cargo trailer in one of the trucking companies’ lots. We met him in Denver for his deposition and saw that he was down and out and had no money. So, the attorney I was working for gave him money for his medication that he hadn’t been taking, because he couldn’t afford it. And we just helped him out as best we could.” 

 

They didn’t have to do that. They were only required to defend the man in court. They didn’t need to go above and beyond that, but they did because it was the right thing to do. Eventually, they were able to settle the case for the driver, who ended up getting back on his feet and started working for another company. It was not a fun situation for any of the parties involved, but the man got a happy ending, simply because his attorney and paralegal offered not only a handout but a hand up. And that made all the difference. 

 

“During the case, I would talk to him a lot, of course. And even after the case was done, he would talk to me. That story really sticks out to me the most because we’re not just representing these people; we play a big part in some of their lives. Plus, it was really cool to see another side of my attorney as well, just the fact that he reached out to this man and gave him something without expecting anything in return.” 

 

That was when Rezanina knew, really knew, that she was in the right career, with the right firm. 

 

These days, Rezanina works primarily for Scott Ortiz but, she says, everybody basically works for everybody at WPDN. They all help each other out when they can, which is something she absolutely loves. 

 

“I really like working for Scott, which is good because, before I started working for him, I was very nervous to work with him,” she laughed. “But now that I’m working for him, I have a great working relationship with him that I cherish.   He is very caring, and he genuinely cares about his staff. He’s really good at teaching things and including me in decisions. Whether we’re at trial, or picking the jury, he’ll always ask my opinion about things, which is really nice.” 

 

In addition to offering her opinion when asked, Rezanina also performs a lot of the behind the scenes work during the case and at trial. 

 

“We do a lot of insurance defense,” she said, “so my responsibilities include all of the discovery. I do a lot of medical chronology, which means I go through the medical records and create a summary of events of somebody’s medical history. Paralegals can also draft initial pleadings. We can go to trial with the attorneys and help pick the jury, we can manage the exhibits and create PowerPoints (sometimes in minutes!), and we can offer our opinions as well. 

 

In essence, paralegals are the backbone of a law firm. They’re the unsung heroes of the legal world, and that is a position Shannon Rezanina holds with great gratitude. She loves her job and she admires the people with whom she works. 

 

“It sounds silly, but I just think we’re one big family. I call my coworkers my second family because we’re with each other more than we’re with our real families a lot of the time. We work well together and, while I mainly work for Scott, any one of us would jump in and help another attorney or another paralegal on a case that they’re working on. The partners also like to encourage us to be active in the community and to continue our education.”

 

That’s exactly what she did, too. In addition to her degree in Paralegal Studies, she has also completed her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, an area that could absolutely apply to her job if she ever wanted it to. Rezanina is an Advanced Certified Paralegal and, every year, she is required to take the CLE to keep her certification, which speaks to the drive and passion she exhibits in her career. 

 

For most of us, just watching a television show and being entertained by it would be enough. But that show was more than just a TV show to Shannon Rezanina. It was a challenge. It was a glimpse into a potential future. And when she had the opportunity to move towards that direction, she jumped at the chance. She may not be cross-examining a witness or going toe-to-toe with a prosecutor. But what Shannon Rezanina does matters. She helps people. She impacts people. She changes people.

 

More than anything, she gives people a sense of law and order.