“I don’t have a great ‘Why did you want to be a lawyer?’ story,” Blaine Burgess said. Burgess didn’t grow up wanting to be an attorney. He didn’t know what he wanted to be when he was a kid. Or when he was a high school student. Or, even, a college student. “I was probably 23 years old, coming out of college,” Burgess stated. “I was a history major and just so happened to take a couple of legal history classes. Burgess was immediately intrigued by the law and decided to apply for law school.
So, he did.
He got his law degree and passed the Indiana Bar in 2014, before taking his first job with a boutique immigration law firm in Cincinnati. “I got a clerkship with this place and I just really fit in well with all the partners there,” Burgess said. “It was a small firm which, in Cincinnati, a small firm was eight people. Every other place, you’re a number; you’re not really an individual. You’re talking about a 500-person law firm where you might never meet one of the partners in 20 years.” Burgess said he learned a lot from his time at that firm. “I really liked that job,” he remembered. And some of the work we did was pretty interesting. I got to work on a lot of pretty cool immigration cases and that’s where I kind of started getting into criminal law and doing criminal defense.”
Following his time at the immigration firm, Burgess moved on to a prosecutor’s office in Wayne County, Indiana. He wasn’t there very long, however, because his mother took ill so he took a job in Dearborn County, Indiana to be closer to her. “For the first four years, I was the prosecutor in charge of handling most of the cases in Dearborn County Circuit Court; most of the major felonies in the county.” As a deputy prosecutor, Burgess often worked around the clock to protect the citizens of Dearborn County and was often on call for law enforcement requests and questions, and even responded to homicide scenes.
For Blaine Burgess, life is an adventure. And that adventure led him to Wyoming in 2020. First, he just vacationed in the Cowboy State. But it wouldn’t be long before it beckoned him for something a little more permanent. “I had only been out west once when I was a little kid; we went to the Grand Canyon,” Burgess stated. “So I didn’t really cross any mountains. I didn’t see mountains until my late twenties, but as soon as I saw them I fell in love with them and wanted to come out west. I’d been trying to get out here in some way, shape, or form for several years. And it just so happened that I had been an attorney long enough in Indiana that I could just waive into Wyoming. I didn’t have to take the bar exam or anything since I had been an attorney for the five years preceding that. My girlfriend and I came out here a couple of times last fall and I just really liked Wyoming. I liked the people we met here and I just wanted a change.”
So, he moved to Wyoming. After a brief time in Wyoming, Burgess began working for Williams, Porter, Day, & Neville. And, just like that, Burgess began the next chapter of his adventure. Burgess has only been working with Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville for about three months, but he can already see why the firm has the reputation that it does. “It’s been great,” he said. “Everybody is very supportive. It’s a great resource to have everybody in Casper. Being a small firm has its advantages and I kind of have the best of both worlds right now. I’m at a very small office because there’s only five of us who work here, but I also have all of the resources from the Casper office. Anytime I need them, I just Email them.”
Burgess has transitioned from criminal practice into civil, and he calls that transition both interesting and challenging but, he said that he has a great mentor in Sean Scoggin. “I probably go into Sean’s office five times a day, just asking random questions,” he laughed. “He’s a good resource and he’s never too busy. I’ve learned a lot from him, just in the month I’ve been here. He’s a good teacher and it doesn’t even seem like you’re working for him, either. It seems like you’re working with him. “
When asked about what advice he would give to younger lawyers, Burgess parroted advice he received from Frank Neville: ‘Be honest in all your dealings with opposing counsel and don’t let anyone compromise your integrity.’” This may have been advice for Burgess, but it’s also the mantra of Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville as a whole. That’s why it has built such a reputation in Wyoming. And hiring young attorneys like Burgess continues to add to it. “WPDN is a firm with integrity,” Burgess said. “It’s a big firm, but it doesn’t have that big-firm feel. Everybody gives their clients individualized attention and nothing, and nobody, falls through the cracks. WPDN cares about its clients and I’m excited to be a part of that.”
So why does Blaine Burgess want to be an attorney? It’s because he likes helping people. And that is, quite possibly, the best reason to become a lawyer. And the moral of this not-so-great story is this: you don’t have to always have a plan. Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes, life just finds a way of working itself out. And sometimes, just sometimes, that was the plan all along.