Class of 1966
Congratulations to Personal Injury Attorney Ardell W. Skow as he celebrates 50 Years in practice! His distinguished career has been noticed by many, including the State Bar of Wisconsin. He was recently featured in an article by the State Bar, reflecting back on the last fifty years. (www.wisbar.org) Although the road has not always been easy, it has proven to be incredibly fulfilling to a lawyer who has truly invested himself in serving the good of all of his clients, no matter the case.
Ardell Skow: The Rural Lawyer
Ardell Skow still gets in his car each morning and drives the 33 miles south from his home in rural Luck to his New Richmond law firm, Doar Drill & Skow. After 50 years in the legal profession, this personal injury litigator still has the energy of a young buck.
Of course, things are different now. “There’s so much paperwork. And the motion practice, it’s incredible,” said Skow, who has tried in the area of 150 cases in his career. “And you don’t see nearly as many cases going to trial. Not like they used to.”
Skow was born and raised in Luck. His father was a blacksmith with a sixth-grade education. He never thought about being a lawyer until college at U.W.-Madison’s School of Commerce, where a business law professor encouraged him to pursue law school.
After graduation, he ventured out to Washington State, saving money for law school while working for Boeing, which was headquartered in Seattle. Then he was back in Madison at U.W. Law School, graduating in 1966. He took his first job in Madison.
He worked for American Family Insurance. Then a firm in Hudson lured him North to do insurance defense. After four years, a plaintiff’s firm offered him a partnership. He jumped at the chance to represent individuals, rather than insurance companies.
“It was a lot more rewarding to represent people, who were standing next to you when the verdict came down,” Skow said. “You hate to lose any case, but you get very close to people in these cases. It’s very rewarding when you do a good job for them.”
Then in 1977, Skow merged his practice with what was then Doar, Drill, Norman & Bakke. He has remained with that firm, now Doar Drill & Skow, ever since.
During that time, he served as president of the St. Croix Valley Bar Association and on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors (1978-1980).
Over the years, he has witnessed the legal profession change. “The collegiality is much different. You used to be able to do things by phone, put it on the record later,” he said.
The judge is asking me to sit down, and I won’t sit down. I’m really the one out of line.
“You took people at their word. It was common for opposing lawyers, the judge, and the court reporter to have dinner while waiting for a jury verdict. It doesn’t happen anymore.”
When lawyers started discussing mediation in St. Croix County, Skow was against it. “I thought it would just increase the cost and would not help cases get settled,” he said. “I was dead wrong about that. Mediation has settled a heck of a lot of cases to the advantage of both sides, particularly when disbursements are so significant.”
Despite the changing landscape, Skow loves the work. Asked about significant cases of his career, he doesn’t point to just one: “Every single case has significance in different ways,” he said. But he does recall the time his father became involved in his work.
A boy had lost his legs when he slipped near an IH 56 blower, a piece of farm machinery that blows silage. Skow’s father, the blacksmith, had designed and built three safety mechanisms to prevent such accidents. The manufacturer adopted two of them.
This blower did not have them. Skow had uncovered film footage of IH 56 blowers with the safety improvements. But the judge would not let the jury see the film.
“The judge wanted foundation,” Skow said. “He wanted the designer to testify as to what was in the film that I wanted the jury to see. So I called my dad, the designer. He had never been on the inside of a courtroom before."
When Skow’s father walked in, Skow was arguing with the judge.
“The judge is asking me to sit down, and I won’t sit down. I’m really the one out of line. We recess, and my dad turns to me and says, ‘boy, I can sure see you’re up against it here.’ Then we go into the hallway and he says, ‘how did he ever get to be judge.’ Just sticking up for his boy. It was heartwarming because of the recognition it gave my dad.”
When Skow looks back, he feels proud to have helped people who really needed it. But he says being a litigator in this day and age has its challenges. “It takes a lot of time. If you have a family, with two parents working, the family can suffer. But if you understand those challenges, it can be a very rewarding experience to help people find justice.”