2023 Outstanding Professional Adviser of the Year - Maureen O’Leary-Guth

HJM Professional Adviser of the Year Maureen O'Leary-GuthWhile she was still in her teens, long before she decided what career path she would take, Maureen O’Leary-Guth knew the value that lawyers brought to everyday life.

At the time, O’Leary-Guth worked as operations manager at Swimtastic Corp., a Waukesha-based business she helped grow into a national franchise and of which she became a shareholder. She had multiple attorneys on speed dial to help her deal with the variety of issues that arise with managing a burgeoning business. 

That initial exposure led her to pursue a career in law. Her background in business and her entrepreneurial spirit has led to a highly successful career in estate planning, which includes ownership of a Mequon law practice that was named Small Business of the Year by Ozaukee County Economic Development in 2023.

“All the courses I had taken because of my interest in business – courses in tax law, courses in business law, contract drafting – were all the exact same courses that make you a really good estate planning attorney,” said O’Leary-Guth, president and owner of O’Leary-Guth Law Office S.C.

Upon graduating in 2008 with honors from Marquette University Law School, O’Leary-Guth joined the law firm of Willms S.C. in Thiensville, then owned by Andrew Willms. She rose to become a partner in 2014 and later acquired full ownership in 2019. 

Much like she did with the swim school, O’Leary-Guth has grown the law firm significantly over the past 15 years. She expanded its practice areas, including tax law and business law, and tripled its number of employees. In 2021, the firm opened a second location in Mequon before eventually consolidating operations into a larger commercial office building it acquired in 2022. That same year Mequon-Thiensville Chamber of Commerce named the firm Business of the Year. 

“We are happy to be here in a place where we are needed and to provide these services that the community needs as well,” said O’Leary-Guth, who specializes in high-net worth estate planning, complex tax planning and business succession planning.

O’Leary-Guth said she enjoys helping clients avoid problems that might otherwise occur. 

“A good estate plan can help a family in times of grief and stress,” she said. “It gives everyone peace of mind that the client’s wishes are in writing, that there is a path forward and it can be fulfilled.”

Charitable giving often is one of those wishes that she helps fulfill. O’Leary-Guth has referred several clients to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation over the years and has encouraged associates to participate in the Foundation’s Community Adviser and Ambassador Network program to learn more about the value that the Foundation can offer. 

“The Foundation has been a stable force in the community,” she said. “I love seeing how it is helping the community and is involved in the community.”

While problem solving drives her in her day-to-day interactions with clients, O’Leary-Guth is also dedicated to strengthening the field and giving back to the community. She serves as president of the Milwaukee Estate Planning Forum, a multi-disciplinary organization of estate planning professionals in greater Milwaukee and is a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, an esteemed peer-elected group of the best trust and estate attorneys in the world. 

O’Leary-Guth ensures that community involvement is woven into the culture of her firm. 

“We take our responsibility to give back very seriously,” said O’Leary-Guth, noting that her firm often combines social activities with community fundraising activities.  

Recognizing the significant amount of paper used to document estate plans, the firm plants a tree for every client that signs an estate plan. The firm also offers its second-floor board room to area nonprofits to use. Organizations like the Mequon-Thiensville Community Foundation and area Little League team have held meetings and events there.

“Every time that you can provide a valuable service and the clients are directly benefiting from that, it is the greatest reward when you can see how the work you did helped make the family and the community a better place,” she said.

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