By Dan Merritt, Advocate reporter
He used to regularly attend football games in a stadium that could hold the population of Winner times 26.
He lived in a city of 200,000 where the noises of the surrounding town were always present. Not like in his hometown of Winner, says Zach Pahlke, 27.
“I do like the calm and quiet here,” lawyer Pahlke noted.
“And this is where I’m from. I have family here. I like the community. I’m a fan of hunting.
“I like having some open space, not being in a packed city.
“It’s way more that ‘town’ feeling here, where you know people. That feels good. In the city, you’re pretty anonymous.”
Though knowing and being known in a small town “has its pro’s and con’s,” Pahlke admitted. Still, ”for the most part, I like being able to know the people around me.”
He definitely knows his colleagues at the Pahlke Law Office of Winner, where he’s employed. They consist of his dad Alvin and mother Susan. Both his parents are lawyers.
Zach Pahlke grew up at Winner, graduating high school in 2006. Then, it was on to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where he graduated with a bachelor of science degree in business administration in 2010.
After a year in business with Dell Information Systems of Lincoln, Pahlke decided to enter law school at UNL, graduating with his juris doctorate in spring 2014.
Pahlke said he enjoyed the business world and his job in it, but he came to realize that being a lawyer was a profession he really did want to pursue.
And that was important, he commented. Growing up with his family in the lawyer business, it might have been expected he would take up that profession naturally.
But that wasn’t satisfactory to Pahlke, he said.
“I wanted to be sure that if I went into it, I went into it because I wanted to, not just following the tradition.
“But as I was working at Dell, I came to realize that it is what I wanted to do for myself.”
It was no small decision. Law school wasn’t the same as regular undergrad college at UNL, Paulke indicated.
It involved more intensive classroom and study times, requiring long hours in textbooks and in the law library.
He did an internship at the office of the U.S. Attorney in Pierre, which familiarized him with federal court and the prosecuting of federal crimes.
“Big-time” crimes such as murder or rape, methamphetamine or cocaine; felony level violations of U.S. law. The office also dealt with Indian reservation crimes.
At Winner —having passed the bar in July 2014 — Pahlke is a part-time assistant state’s attorney and has his own private practice at his parents’ business.
The criminal law he handles now and the business, estate, and family law he works with aren’t nearly the kinds of things he dealt with in Pierre. It could be compared to when he lived in Lincoln and at UNL as opposed to living now in Winner. Things are a bit different.
But no matter the kinds of cases handled, being a lawyer means helping people, helping to protect society, and arriving at a good solution, as much as possible, for all parties involved, Pahlke asserted.
“It is a noble calling.”
Yes, there are those who disparage the profession. Some jokes about lawyers these days are particularly vicious.
But Pahlke said he takes this “lawyer-bashing” in stride.
“I have a very good sense of humor when it comes to that. I think it’s quite funny.”
Some of the animosity against attorneys comes out in the circumstances in which people and lawyers interact, Pahlke explained.
“People generally aren’t dealing with lawyers during the happiest of times. They’re usually going through a very hard situation on one side or the other.”
But there are lighter circumstances in which lawyers are present, he noted.
“There are happier times, as well. Like if you’re starting a new business. That can be exciting.”