40 UNDER 40: IAN PRUST
SWITCHING HORSES IN MIDSTREAM
He was studying to be plant breeder before realizing he found the law more interesting

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

Sept. 22, 2017

Ian Prust with O’Meara Law Firm poses for a photo Tuesday afternoon in West Bend. Prust has been with the law firm since 2012.
John Ehlke/Daily News


Ian Prust took a big turn in life from originally wanting to be a plant breeder to now being a practicing attorney with the O’Meara Law Firm.

Prust has been with the firm for a little more than five years. He grew up in Marshall, a small community east of Madison in Dane County and went to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for his undergraduate degree. That was followed by law school in Madison.

“I do a lot of municipal law. I’m city attorney for Hartford, West Bend, the village of Newburg, the village of Hustisford and the town of Farmington,” Prust said. “Outside of the municipal work I do fairly standard practice like estate planning, family law, small business and real estate.

“I deal with most of the civil issues for those communities — ordinances, contracts, just general open records questions, that type of thing,” he said. “Hartford has been involved in a lot of redevelopment plans and issues recently I reviewed the contracts and TIF (Tax Incremental Finance) plans regarding that too. Everywhere has their own issues and one of the more interesting things about municipal law is the issues that pop up all over the place.”

Prust first earned an undergraduate degree in crop and soil science.

“I started grad school in plant breeding and realized early on in the process that while I liked the science side of things, the thing that piqued my interest the most during my first year classes was the legal side — the intellectual property aspects of plant breeding,” Prust said.

“I realized then I didn’t want to be a plant breeder and switched my goal to law school and being an attorney.”

He said initially he was thinking of concentrating on law regarding intellectual property issues.

“But in law school I began to realize I wanted client interaction. I didn’t want to go to one of the big firms and sit in an office and never see clients,” Prust said. “In law school when I was in the business legal clinic somebody mentioned the privacy policy guy. There was one guy who knew all the privacy policies for websites inside and out and that’s basically all he did. I thought to myself ‘that’s my worst nightmare doing this little area of law.’ Some people love that, but I like doing the broad range of things.”

Prust said it was a conscious choice to go to a smaller community and smaller law firm.

“West Bend is not a small community, but it is smaller than Madison or Milwaukee,” he said.

Prust and his wife, Holly, live in West Bend with their 2-year-old son, Brock. “We love the community and we bought a house here. The schools are excellent,” Prust said. “There’s a lot of perks to living in West Bend. We are settled, we have a house and love the area. Holly is a paralegal at the same law firm.”

With Ian and Holly working outside the home and raising a two-year-old they a pretty “full plate.”

“I have been involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters in the past, but we have a 2-year old. We’re kind of waiting for that to settle down before we get back into doing that kind of thing,” he said. “I’m currently the Washington County Bar Association president and I’m chair of the Legal Assistance Committee with the State Bar. That takes a lot of time. It’s focused on providing legal assistance for unrepresented individuals statewide.”

And what advice does Prust have for anyone considering a career as an attorney?

“Make sure you get hands-on experience. Practicing law is very different than being in law school,” he said. “There are some internships for pre-law people. A lot of colleges have a pre-law program or pre-law organizations that allow people to see first hand what it is like to work in the field. Some can also work as paralegals for a while too.”