James Shellow: A History


In 1958 James Shellow was dissatisfied with the practice of accounting and enrolled in the Law School of Marquette University in Milwaukee. He had decided that he wanted to practice criminal defense law and in his second year he analyzed the transcripts and motions in the government’s conspiracy prosecution of persons who had attended a November 1957, meeting at the home of Joseph Barbara in Apalachin, New York. The persons at the meeting were believed by the Justice Department to be the leaders of organized crime. They gave various reasons to federal agents and grand juries for being at Mr. Barbara’s home that afternoon. They were indicted by a federal grand jury for a conspiracy to obstruct justice for agreeing to give false and evasive reasons. The prosecutor said that it made no difference what the real reason was for the meeting and that the indicted defendants were guilty because they agreed to lie to government agents. He said that “it could have been a teaparty.” James Shellow concluded that the government’s prosecution theory was flawed and wrote The Teaparty Theory of Conspiracy for the Marquette Law Review. The Court of Appeals reversed the convictions. Upon graduation Mr. Shellow entered the practice of criminal defense law and was joined by his wife Gilda upon her graduation from Marquette the following year and Shellow & Shellow was formed.

Shellow & Shellow prospered over the years and expanded to six or seven lawyers all of whom, save Gilda Shellow, virtually limited their practices to the representation of defendants in the Wisconsin state courts and in federal courts throughout the country.

While the members of the firm were nationally recognized for their dedication and innovative defenses, James Shellow knows that his greatest contributions are not the acquittals, but that the members of his firm learned from each other how to research and defend their accused clients. Partners went on to apply what they had learned in new places, and the strong friendships they forged remained not just unbroken but strengthened by the diversity of their experiences after leaving Shellow & Shellow. Their names are known and respected by members of the bar and the judges before whom they have appeared: William Coffey was the first partner of Shellow & Shellow and he died in a Madison courtroom. Stephen Glynn was a partner of Shellow & Shellow and after thirty years formed his own firm. Dean Strang after more than a decade with Shellow & Shellow joined Steve’s firm and then accepted the position as the first Federal Defender in Wisconsin. He told its Board that he would only stay for five years and, true to his word, he resigned after five years and joined a prominent trial firm in Madison.

William “Chip” Burke , who had practiced with Shellow & Shellow, was persuaded to join Dean Strang at the Federal Defender office and Robert Friebert founded his own firm and has widened its practice to include significant civil litigation. After ten or more years at Shellow & Shellow, Craig Albee joined Steve Glynn's firm and Glynn, Fitzgerald and Albee was formed.  When Steve retired, Craig joined the office of the Federal Defender.  Rob Henak after leaving Shellow, Shellow & Glynn formed his own law firm and continued his brilliant career challenging criminal convictions in appeals and habeas corpus petitions.

The competence and reputation of these criminal defense lawyers is the legacy of Shellow & Shellow and the legacy of which James Shellow is most proud and will never forget.