Reince Priebus
Reince Priebus (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

About 300 lawyers, their clients, potential clients and political types filled a swank private club in Milwaukee on Tuesday night to hear incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus discuss what an attendee said he called “the most exhilarating and thrilling moment of his life:” Donald Trump’s victory on election night.

The three-hour gala was thrown by Michael Best & Friedrich, whose partnership Priebus will formally leave at the end of the month. He joined the Milwaukee firm after graduating law school in 1998 and became a “partner on leave” in 2011 when he won an election to become chair of the Republican National Committee.

“We wanted to give him two things: One, a send-off as a thank-you for all his years at the law firm. But also a chance for all the people near his hometown to say thank you and honor him,” said David Krutz, Michael Best’s managing partner and a firm mentor to the 44-year-old Priebus. “He’s been a real force in Wisconsin politics for the short time he’s been around.”

Krutz introduced Priebus at the event and told stories of his early years at the firm. Like many young litigators, Priebus was often given cases that partners deemed difficult to win, he said. Ahead of courtroom arguments, Krutz said he often cringed and sarcastically wished the fledgling lawyer good luck. Then Priebus came back and said his clients had prevailed, he said.

“To some extent, that’s a foreshadowing of what he’s done on the political level,” Krutz said. “Reince is really able to pull victory out of what many people would say is a real daunting task.”

Krutz said Priebus accomplished that when he won a seven-round election to head the RNC. Many voters didn’t know who he was. Or how to say his name. (Reince rhymes with “pints.”) But he beat out the others, earning cheers back at the firm’s Milwaukee offices.

The president-elect sparred with Priebus during the campaign, especially during the rough-and-tumble Republican primaries. But now, as chief of staff, Priebus will be an unconventional president’s right-hand man.

At Tuesday’s gala and in other conversations, Krutz said, Priebus commented on what he expects life to be like in Trump’s administration. He said Priebus will have to adjust to Trump’s style.

“President-elect Trump is not a traditional politician, and he’s not going to treat his staff in a traditional way that (would allow) Reince (to) learn from others,” Krutz said. “But I have no doubt Reince can keep it up. He’s got the same energy level. And so the two will feed off of each other.”