Meet Tara Wrighton

Mar 8, 2022

This episode features a profile on one of Hightower Reff Law’s own associate attorneys, Tara Wrighton. Tara has been with Hightower Reff Law for over three years and recently just returned from maternity leave! In this episode, she discusses how she came to work in the profession, the exciting experiences she’s gained over the years working in law, and how she recently participated in a magic show!


Intro: Welcome to the Lady Lawyer League podcast. They are a league of lady lawyers and an all-female law firm in Omaha, Nebraska, called Hightower Reff Law. On this podcast, you’ll hear stories of what it’s like to be a lady lawyer and an entrepreneur. Now it’s time to talk about the law, share real-life stories about representing clients and discuss the current events of the week. It’s the Lady Lawyer League podcast with Susan Reff and Tracy Hightower.

Tracy Hightower: All right, on today’s podcast, we are going to meet and know all about Tar, one of our associate attorneys at Hightower Reff Law.

Tara Wrighton: Hi, I am so glad to finally be here.

Tracy: I know you are. You’ve worked at Hightower Reff Law for years.

Tara: Yeah, I can’t remember exactly how long, it feels like forever.

Tracy: Does it feel like more than 10 years because we’ve only been a partnership?

Tara: It does. I feel like I was one of the founders. Yeah.

Tracy: Yes. Time does go really fast, and I think in this job it feels like forever. So but you’ve been here for like three or four years, and this is your first time on the podcast and you’ve been gone for a little bit of time, making humans.

Tara: Made one, just a singular, but I’ve made two in my life. Yeah, but yes, I had a new baby and he’s almost four months old and he’s awesome

Tracy: Yeah, congrats.

Tara: Thank you.

Tracy: I think I think people making humans is just actually really amazing, and I’ve never done it, and I just think it’s fascinating.

Tara: It still blows my mind like, you look at it like I just you came out of me. What in the world?

Tracy: It’s so crazy now you’re a full person. Yeah, well, not full yet.

Tara: I mean, he’s he’s probably like a quarter person

Tracy: Already a quarter. Oh, yeah, he’s huge. Yeah, yeah. So we yeah. So you were gone on maternity leave and you know, we’ve just been recording podcasts and we’re like, Wait, we haven’t met Terry yet on the podcast, so you’re back and you’re back in the podcast studio.

Tara: Yes, so happy to be here. I’m slightly sleep deprived, but I’m OK and I’m here.

Tracy: Oh, I haven’t noticed. I mean, you feel good. You have coffee.

Tara: I do. I always have a large coffee in the morning. But yeah, yeah, you know.

Tracy: Yeah, I don’t know. Well, but I can imagine the sleep deprivation. I see it on TikTok a lot.

Tara: Oh, well, I’m sure the TikTok super app.

Tracy: Yeah, right. So another thing that I think is really interesting that Tara and I share is this magic show online, and we have to talk about it because this thing was just fascinating. So you tell what happened and and then I got the word and did it, and then let’s share our experience.

Tara: Well, OK. So my husband and I hadn’t had a date in like a really long time, like it was just not OK and we had tried. So our anniversary was in November and one of our kids got sick, so we couldn’t. We couldn’t go. We had plans and we couldn’t do them. And then we had a we had plans like a couple of weeks later and then our in-laws were sick. The in-laws were sick and so they couldn’t watch a kid. So it was just like back and forth, like we could not do it so. And with COVID and everything is so uncertain, I was like, I saw this thing online for this magician and you do it from Zoom at your house. And it’s this professional magician who’s been on like Jimmy Fallon. And I don’t know, he does it with celebrities and whatever. And and I thought that would be like a fun thing that no matter where we are, we can still do it. We don’t have to get up and go places. And frankly, if we didn’t have a babysitter, we could still probably work it out, you know, and do it. And so I booked it. My husband is like, Oh, that sounds really lame. And I was like, No, it’s going to be really fun. It’s going to be great. And so, you know, we got some wine and we just like, got a babysitter and we set up Zoom and you get a box like, I don’t know, what do you think like a few days before the show? Yeah. And and they’re like, don’t open it because you use it in the show. And then he comes out and there’s lots of I mean, there’s probably I don’t know, you said like two hundred people

Tracy: There, two hundred zoom squares

Tara: On the Zoom and it’s from people all over the country.

Tracy:And there were Canadian people. So oh yeah.

Tara: Yeah, yeah,

Tracy: So

Tara: So all over North America, apparently. And they he just like, well, he steps you through the box and you open it up and you’re all doing it together and interacting live. And he’ll sometimes like, unmute certain people and have them participate in the show. And I don’t know, it was just really, really good like it was. It exceeded my expectations. I mean, I’m I’m kind of a skeptic to things. And, you know, I can try to I’m thinking about how they do it all the time, you know? But some of the stuff, man, and I were like, I really don’t know how he does that.

Tracy: So you and your husband are also very smart people. And then me and my husband, I think, are also very smart people. And so same thing like a picture exactly what happened with us. I’m sure you guys were doing like what the fuck just happened? Yeah, like how did that just seriously, what’s going on? Yeah. Like there was a deck of cards and they make you do this like thing where you spell your name for each letter of your name. You put a card on the table all face down and then you shuffle them again and you throw them over your head. You throw your head in like super random. And then at the end, there’s one card left in your hand. Mine was the ace of diamonds, and I was like, Yeah, OK, what the fuck does this mean? Yeah. And then they say, now in the bottom of your box is a hidden card, and that’s your card.

Tara: You might be ruining this for people that we’re going

Tracy: To do it. No, no, no. Because I still think like, Oh yeah, just don’t look at the card in the bottom. Anyways, that card in the bottom was the ace of diamonds, and I was like, How how is that possible?

Tara: Mine was a different card because we talked about it this morning.

Tracy: Yes, I know. So I couldn’t wait. My husband and I did it on Valentine’s Day night. Yeah, and I couldn’t wait to come back and talk to you about it and be like, Did the same exact thing happen? Because there are points where I was like, Some of this is prerecorded, but no, I know it was fascinating. Well, I was like,

Tara: They were all actors, but we talked about it and it was different people. Yeah, yeah. So they weren’t actors. I don’t think, I don’t

Tracy: Know, have Canadians.

Tara: I don’t I don’t remember that.

Tracy: And that was like a big part of this. Oh, people being really? Yeah.

Tara: Oh yeah, it was bizarre. And then we talked about that one thing where they call, they called like they they had to call like a random pizza place, like they had to look it up on Google Maps, this random person who lived to wherever and they said, Look at your local pizza places. Pick one. Give me the number. I’ll call it. And then you call the pizza guy and told him to get a card. And it was the card that he had. Yes.

Tracy: What? How, what? Don’t know what. So literally, that’s a plug for the magician online. I know,

Tara: Right? Except we kind of gave away some of that stuff.

Tracy: I mean, like, it’s going to be a magical experience. Totally.

Tara: Yeah, that’s true.

Tracy: But wow, super cool. I literally want to do it again. I know.

Tara: I hope that he does a different show. So then, you know, well, it’d be fun to do the same one again, too.

Tracy: But then he’s sending that card in the bottom is different. Yeah, it’s got to be different. Yours was different.

Tara: Yeah, all of them are different anyway. So that’s like

Tracy: A super big thing that we share that I just still mind blowing to me. But OK, so let’s talk about Uttara, and I always think the the most interesting thing about someone not the most interesting thing, but one of the interesting things about someone is what was your first job?

Tara: So I’ve always had jobs that, like, work with people, and my very, very first job when I was in high school was an after school program like involved with the school. So I would go and tutor younger kids after school with their homework and things, and we would do activities. And then that went into the summer. And and I did like a summer program with kids all through high school, and it was super fun. A lot of it actually, like in the summer, especially, we’d take the kids to the pool and I would just be like, Get a tan and you know, and watch the kids.

Tracy: It was full lifeguard.

Tara: I was not. No, I was just like, I did this after. It was like an after school program. And then it went into the summer and we were just at this community center. And sometimes we’d get on a bus and we’d go to the the pool

Tracy: And I would just watch the kids and

Tara: Then get a tan and get a tan, and

Tracy: You didn’t even have to be responsible for them if they drowned.

Tara: I mean, not really. Yeah, I mean, I just like, maybe they don’t. Yeah, sweet. I mean, not a lot, you know, high school job, but it was it was nice, you know, and there was some learning involved to, you know, we did some tutoring and whatever. So that was your first. That was my first job. Yeah, I’ve al- like I said, I’ve always done things that kind of involve people and working with people. And for when I was in college, I worked for the South Dakota State University Foundation, so I went to South Dakota State University and go Jackrabbits and jackrabbits. Yeah. You don’t know. No, the jackrabbits.

Tracy: No. Is it a sport thing? Yeah. Yeah, it’s the mascots anyways.

Tara: Yeah. Anyways, so I worked for the the school and I would call like high level donors and try to get them to, like, give money. And I was like, the top earner. Wow, college. Yeah, I called all the big hit. You don’t get commission, but I did get a little scholarship out of the deal. Yeah. And I got to like do little tours for like the big like. Do you know Jerry Lawler, Jay J.Law from the wine guy? No jailer. Oh, it’s good wine. Anyway, he he went to South Dakota State. I met him many times and he always gave free wine. It was

Tracy: Awesome. And then he donated money when you and he

Tara: Donated lots of money, very big donations for like engineering and things, he still does it.

Tracy: What do you think was the trick to get people to donate money?

Tara: I don’t know. I’m not really sure. I think that

Tracy: They just gave you the good list, like these are the people that are all donating.

Tara: I really don’t know. I think I just started off being really good at it. And so then because I was good at it, then they just gave me more of the people so like, Oh, you can, you’re good at it. It’s really good at. I guess we. Yeah, so that was fine.

Tracy: We should have you call the clients here that, you know, have an accounts receivable bill.

Tara: Oh God, your guys are naturally good at it, dear God. Oh my gosh. The prior law firm I worked at, the attorney that I worked for was like, Oh, you are going to deal with all the hard people because you can do it.

Tracy: So if I have a deal, if I recall, that’s one of the reasons why you left that job.

Tara: Yeah. Among other things. But you know. Yeah.

Tracy: Mm hmm. So tell us why you went to law school.

Tara: Yeah. So that’s kind of a long story, too, because I never I didn’t figure out where I was going to land until a little bit later in life. I didn’t go to law school until my late twenties because I I just couldn’t really find my way. I guess I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I I went to college. I started off majoring in biology, which is kind of weird.

Tracy: Did you finish in biology?

Tara: I didn’t. I took so many science classes, though I basically have a mind. I think I have a minor in biology because I took so many science classes.

Tracy: What was your favorite science class?

Tara: I mean, I just I liked, you know, anatomy and physiology and things about the workings of the body. We got to like work on cadavers and things. That was super interesting. Really hard to a lot of work, but I really liked it. But it just didn’t feel right.

Tracy: And then being a mortician was out.

Tara: Being a mortician was out. I went to nursing school for a little bit. Yeah, I know and I that

Tracy: I just didn’t learn how to draw blood.

Tara: No, I didn’t really get that far in nursing. In the nursing realm I took.

Tracy: I don’t know why I asked that, but but we have one

Tara: Of the reasons why I knew I didn’t want to do it because I was like, No, I don’t want to deal with like blood and pee. Yeah, which is like all like a lot of what the

Tracy: Cadaver starts cadavers or there’s no blood and pee. Totally. Yeah. So you would have been OK with that. That’s why you like the cadaver, I guess.

Tara: But anyway, so then I was in nursing for a little bit. That didn’t really feel right, and then I thought I was going to be a therapist. Oh, so I went to I went to grad school to be a therapist, and you’re

Tracy: Like, These people are too alive. I need the dead people.

Tara: Yeah, there’s blood and pee.

Tracy: Yeah.

Tara: No. But I actually worked in a mental health for a mental health agency for a while, and I worked with a severely mentally ill, which was very, very interesting.

Tracy: Very interesting was

Tara: That this was this was in Brookings, South Dakota, for a little community mental health facility. And I really, I mean, I enjoyed it, but there was just something about it where, you know, especially with severely mentally ill, people don’t get better. It’s just like an ongoing thing. And there’s not there’s not a finality, which I don’t know something about it, just I didn’t like. I’m not like draining. It’s draining. Yeah, it’s draining. And so and so anyway. So then I took a job working. Then I took a job working for child protection.

Tracy: And still in South Dakota.

Tara: No, I was in Nebraska.

Tracy: When did you make it to Nebraska?

Tara: I just was applying for jobs. I had friends that lived in Nebraska, and so I was like, OK, it’s time to move. I was in a college town. It was I kind of just felt like I outgrew it. And so so I moved to Nebraska, and I started working in child protection, and that is where I learned about the law. This is a long story to get to the law, but that’s how it works. So I so I I as a part of my job, I would have to go into court and testify about best interests of kids and things. And I just found the courtroom fascinating. It was exciting. There was always something different, dramatic. A lot of times, you know, and I just like, loved it. I loved everything about it. And also I’d watch attorneys and I was like, I can do that. Like, why am I doing this job and getting paid? Nothing like I’m I want to do this. And so,

Tracy: So how long ago was this?

Tara: That was in two thousand twelve. Ok. And so then I then I just, you know, I applied for law school, and luckily, I had made a lot of attorney friends, especially in like the family law realm. And that’s what I wanted to do, too, because I that’s kind of where I was working and being with families, and I really like that area of the law. And so I, you know, I talked to a lot of attorneys that were doing it at the time, and I applied to law school and went to Creighton and

Tracy: And the rest is and oh god.

Tara: Oh yeah, and the rest is history again.

Tracy: But yeah, it’s not. The rest is the future.

Tara: The rest is yet to come.

Tracy: Yeah. Ok, so you’re in that moment in juvenile court and you’re testifying and you had that feeling of like, this is exciting. This is great. Look at these attorneys. I can do that. Do you feel that way today? Like looking back on that?

Tara: I still love court. I love court like. And the more you do it, you don’t. The nerves aren’t as bad. You know, you always have nerves because you want to do well for your clients, you know? But but it’s not so like where I’m staying up the night before, just so nervous. Like, it’s more exciting and like, you don’t know what’s going to happen, and maybe it will be dramatic. And who knows? Like, maybe the person will freak out and yell at the judge or, you know, who knows what’s going to happen. And the other thing is that I’m so competitive and I there’s just like something about working so hard for a client and then getting what you want from the court. There’s just some high that comes with it, you know, and I I don’t say like when because in a divorce, there’s not it’s not really like a winner, right? But it’s more just like you get what you want for your client, what your client wants. And it’s like the best. It’s just the good feeling.

Tracy: I have that same feeling to and I think like when we are representing a divorce client and, you know, we we can do a good job, but we also don’t create the facts to, you know, and sometimes we win that hearing or that issue because we were more prepared or because we like advocated harder. Sometimes we can’t win an issue because the facts are not on our side. And I think the moment when that client is so

Tara: Grateful is

Tracy: What makes it worth it. Yeah. And I was just talking to one of our other attorneys that sometimes that happens like one in every 20 clients or one in every 50 clients. And it seems like there’s a long break sometimes of that gratefulness. But then the one time it happens, after it hasn’t happened for forty nine people. Yeah, you have to soak it in.

Tara: Yeah, I keep it. I know I was talking to Joy the other day, and she had said that she went to a mediation and they had settled it and the and her client gave her a hug in the parking lot. And she’s like, I’m about to cry right now because sometimes we don’t get

Tracy: Like, it’s a thankless job.

Tara: It is a thankless job. Like you said, we don’t create the facts. We just do the best we can. And I think sometimes people expect us to, like, create miracles magic. It’s like I am not a miracle worker here, like there’s only so much I can do. Like, you’ve gone and f this up for yourself. Like, Yeah,

Tracy: You know what I mean? Like, you did this.

Tara: I sorry that you texted your your ex like twenty five million times that you were going to like, kill her. Like, I can’t control that. Sorry.

Tracy: Yeah, yeah. And then we have to like, somehow sugarcoat that.

Tara: Right? Yeah, right.

Tracy: Ok, so you do divorce work at Hightower Reff Law?

Tara: Yes. And all the family law stuff that goes with it, all of it.

Tracy: And then you also do worker’s compensation.

Tara: I do.

Tracy: Yeah about that because we don’t talk a lot about that on our podcast.

Tara: Sure. Yeah. So worker’s compensation is really and I represent the employee, so I’ll represent if an employee gets hurt on the job, they’re entitled to certain things under the law. And so, you know, the employer and their insurance company have to cover you. They have to cover your medical expenses. They have to. If you’re out of work for a period of time, they pay for your lost wages. Sometimes there is future loss of wages that they have to pay for in future medical expenses. And ultimately, sometimes people are so injured that they can’t continue to do the same job anymore and there’s some permanent impairment. And so that’s evaluated and assessed and and they get they they get compensated for that. Sometimes they have to retrain and go into rehab and learn a new job, and they’re entitled to to help you with that, too. And so I help employees get the benefits that they’re entitled to. And a lot of time, some employers are good, but a lot of times I, you know, I talk to people and I say, Are you getting this or are you getting this or are you going? And they’re like, No, I wasn’t even told that I can, you know, like a big one is like mileage or transportation to your appointments. People don’t know they need to pay you for that.

Tracy: Yeah, and I think that’s that’s an area of the law, though, too, that some people can do on their own right and you just work directly with the insurance company. And so when you don’t have an attorney helping you with that and you don’t even know those other things, you

Tara: Don’t know that you’re entitled to it. And I’m telling you the insurance company will not tell you, yeah, they they will just try to they people get railroaded so often and and in that kind of thing, because they’re already injured, they’re out of work. You know, they. And if someone offers them a big settlement, you know, they they need money now. They’re not about to try to negotiate like this. This money is putting food on the table.

Tracy: So the first time I learned about worker’s comp was, you know, when we started this, this office and this business about 10 years ago, we were like, Oh, well, someone told us, we need to get work comp insurance, and I was like, Well, here we go, let’s go get it. And you know, you get quotes and you’re told something like, Well, you’re a law office. Like the worst injury you can get is like a staple under your nail, right? As opposed. Is to like a roofing company where you’re on ladders all day, right? And so, you know, thinking about like if someone gets injured on the job here, it’s a very different type of injury than someone who’s in construction that can create a lot more. Yeah.

Tara: Hazard and debilitating, really. It can be. Yeah. So it’s it’s nice to be able to help navigate that for people because it’s one less thing that they have to worry about. They’re trying to. I let them focus on healing and getting the treatment that they need, and I focus on all the financial stuff and working with the insurance company so they don’t have to deal with that mess.

Tracy: It’s almost like divorce, right? When like, we’re helping our clients the divorce, like injured. And yes, they need our help.

Tara: Yeah, it is. There’s a lot of similarities. Yeah, except workers’ comp has this weird thing where, like different body parts are worth different amounts of money, right? Like, if you cut off your thumb, it’s worth this much. If you cut off it,

Tracy: It’s worth your pinky is not worth as

Tara: Much. Yes. Yeah, weird. And so there’s like a whole table of all of these like appendages and how much they’re worth it’s it’s a little bizarre. And I tell people like because they think they think like, Well, I’m going to get all this pain and suffering and I want this. And you know, I’ve had people say, Well, I want them to buy me a house and whatever all this crazy stuff. And it’s like most workers comp is based in statute and it’s like down to like the knuckle. Like, if you just lost this first knuckle, that’s that much money. And people don’t know that it’s like a lot of statute. And it’s just like a lot of math and not a whole lot of. Yeah. Back and forth,

Tracy: Like, so if you get the staple under your nail, like it’s not very much it doesn’t get much money. No, not very debilitating. No, right? So tell us what you like to do in your free time.

Tara: Well, I don’t have a lot of free time, right currently, but I mean, I love spending. Yeah, oh my gosh, that is like dream sleep would be a dream. I’m not getting that currently, but I do love spending time with my kids and I love I love entertaining and cooking. I love just like, fine. I don’t know if you’ve heard of America’s Test Kitchen. No. Oh, well, they they have this. So there’s first of all, there’s a TV show on like PBS of America’s Test Kitchen, and they have a huge book, but they they basically have these chefs that try to find the best recipe of a certain thing, like the best chocolate chip cookie, the best

Tracy: Lasagna came to mind.

Tara: Yes, the best lasagna.

Tracy: I feel like that’s hard to make.

Tara: Yes, right? And you know, whatever it is like, they’ve they’ve done almost all of it. And so then they they each of their chefs try to make a different recipe and they find the best one. And then they put it in this book. Oh, and and it’s true like any thing I’ve made out of it is like the best. So you have the buck thing. I have the big book. I was gifted to it by some, by some friends. A while ago, Tom and I were. And so it’s really great. But like literally, the recipes usually take like a half to a full day. Like a lot of the things, because it’s like with like like a chocolate chip cookie, it’s like brown the butter. And you know what I mean? It’s like, sit for two hours. Yes. Yes, literally.

Tracy: And so I shy away from those recipes.

Tara: Well, it’s it’s fun if you have the time. And because then I’m

Tracy: Like, Literally, I’m going to eat this thing in like 15 minutes, though, and it took me all day to make.

Tara: Yeah, but I don’t know. But it’s gratifying when it’s like so good. I don’t know. It’s just something about it. I like following the steps, like, I like going to the grocery store and planning it. I don’t know. I just like

Tracy: When I are very different.

Tara: Yeah, yeah, I like doing it. For some reason, it’s just a hobby of mine and then making it. But time it will be like, Oh my God, this is like literally taking all day. Does he help you with that? No. Oh, I mean, maybe sometimes he would. We kind of get an argument sometimes about who’s a better cook because he thinks that he can, like, put chili on a hot dog and he’s made like this masterpiece and he’s like, So proud of it. He’s like, I should be. I should be on Master Chef.

Tracy: Oh, yeah, OK. Ok, but did he toast the bun? Oh, that’s oh, you got it.

Tara: Oh God. Got it! You got it. No, I mean, he can grill. He can grill a good steak. He can make an egg. He can. I mean, he can follow a recipe. But but we fight about like, who’s better? And like, who makes better guacamole? That’s a big

Tracy: One. So test kitchen. It’s a show.

Tara: It’s a it’s a TV show on like PBS and then. But they also have a big book and they come out with new volumes every week. So it’s like a

Tracy: Thick, oh, it’s like an encyclopedia.

Tara: It’s huge. I mean, because it has like so many recipes on it. Sweet. So, yeah, I love to do that.

Tracy: And that new about you today. Yeah, I like to cook, but I like when they send me like Blue Apron boxes or yeah.

Tara: So you have all the ingredients there?

Tracy: Yeah. And it’s like the exact amount of ingredients. I like that to set it out and I’m like, Oh, pour this in, pour this in. Done.

Tara: Yeah, it does stress me out when you buy an ingredient and a lot of it goes to waste. Yeah. And I don’t know what to do with it, and I don’t want to throw it away. But then it’s going bad. And I was

Tracy: Like, Yeah, so you wait for it to mold and then you throw it away. Totally. Yeah. Totally awesome. Well, this was great to get to know you. I always learn a lot about everyone when I do these podcasts. And I think we should do the magic show maybe together next time.

Tara: That would be fun. Are you with the whole office? I know that’s what I was thinking.

Tracy: Yeah. Let’s talk to our fun committee. We have a fun committee. Yeah, that would

Tara: Be fun because, you know, they had like big like garages full when I did it, like somebody had a garage full of people. Yeah.

Tracy: And you get one deck of cards, though, so I know we’ll have to flip a coin or draw. We’ll have to draw a card. You get the WHO gets the card right. So well, thank you for being on our podcast. And you know, also all about Tara’s that she likes to help people and cook so.

Tara: Woo hoo. Woo. Help people by cooking.

Tracy: Yeah, also, OK, I’ll come over sometime for dinner. Sure. All right. Love it. Thanks, Tara.

Tara: Ok. You’re welcome.

Tracy: Thank you for listening to the Lady Lawyer League. Be sure to like and subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts. If you would like to learn more, visit our website at We’ll see you next week.

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What happens after a divorce? What are the different judgments and how do they impact you? In this episode Susan and Tracy cover all of those post decree tasks you need to know when your divorce is final. Once the divorce is final, there are a few things you need to think about. You’ll want to make sure that all the necessary judgments have been issued and that you understand them. Property division, alimony (if applicable), child support/custody—these are all important pieces for your post-divorce life.

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