After a successful three-sport career at McFarland High School, Ben Jordan, newly enrolled at UW-La Crosse, thought he would try out for the Eagles’ men’s basketball team. While looking for the head coach’s office, Jordan strolled past the office of the men’s track and field coach.
“The door was open, the rows of NCAA trophies and awards caught my eye, and head coach Joshua Buchholtz was sitting inside. I decided to stop in and chat,” Jordan said. “Coach Buchholtz told me stories behind some of the NCAA trophies, asked me about my high school times, and informed me when track practices started and where to meet. I was sold. I excitedly left Mitchell Hall. I never did talk to the basketball coach.”
That was the start of Jordan’s college athletic career at La Crosse. Before he graduated, he helped add several more trophies to Buchholtz’s office. Jordan eventually enrolled at the UW Law School. After graduating earlier this year, he’s anxious to begin his career as a lawyer.
Choosing La Crosse
A soccer and basketball player at McFarland and a member track and field team, Jordan credits those experiences with helping him prepare for a career as a college athlete and eventually, the law. He takes pride in what he learned through sports at McFarland.
“I learned that I can achieve more by collaborating with, listening to, and learning from other people than I can on my own,” he said. “Sports often demonstrate cause and effect. I learned that if I put in the time and practice hard, I will perform better in a game when it really counts. I learned to perceive the adversity I encountered on the playing field as challenges rather than obstacles.”
Jordan signed up at UW-La Crosse after considering UW-Madison and UW-Eau Claire. The weather conditions had an impact on his decision.
“When I toured UW — Madison and UW — Eau Claire, it was rainy and cold and dreary during both of those tours,” he said. “But when I toured UW-L, it was 70 and sunny, the surrounding bluffs were beautiful and green, and students were out and about. I knew immediately that I wanted to go there.”
By joining the Eagles’ track team, Jordan was following in the footsteps of his brother Steven, who was a star runner on the Drake University men’s track and field team in Des Moines, Iowa several years earlier.
“I saw how much fun he was having while running track, and I noticed that participating in college athletics really enhanced his college experience,” Jordan said. “He was able to make a lot of new friends, travel to different places for meets, and enjoy immediate structure to his college schedule.”
During Jordan’s four years with the Eagles, the team ranked near the top among all NCAA Division III schools. It finished second in the NCAA outdoor tournament in Jordan’s freshman and sophomore years, but in 2016, got past UW-Eau Claire to take first place.
Jordan’s senior year in 2017 was magical for La Crosse as it tied for first in the NCAA indoor tournament and then outlasted Whitewater by two points to take the outdoor title.
Law school begins
After Jordan earned his Bachelor’s degree from UW-La Crosse, he decided to pursue a career in law. He was admitted to the UW Law School in 2017.
It was a much different experience for Jordan compared to his days as an undergrad. All classes were graded on a curve and 100% of his grade in most courses was determined by his score on a cumulative final exam. This made learning the law very stressful.
“Early on in law school it felt like I was learning a foreign language; I needed to know various Latin phrases and legalese,” Jordan said. “That was difficult, but the perseverance I had learned from participating in sports helped me get through the early mornings and late nights of studying. Although it was at times difficult and frustrating I was never discouraged about my chances of graduating.”
He also received inspiration from some of his instructors who helped him get through the difficulties of his classwork, and gained some hands-on experience by working as a law clerk for Gingras, Thomson & Wachs (GTW), a civil litigation firm with offices all over Wisconsin.
“GTW was instrumental in my early legal education. As a law clerk, I learned from experienced and dedicated attorneys,” Jordan said. “I drafted pleadings and motions, researched complicated legal questions, and helped clients navigate an intricate civil litigation system.”
Jordan also worked as a research assistant for Professor B.J. Ard, a specialist in intellectual property law. Jordan wrote legal memoranda for Ard and helped prepare his papers for publication.
After his graduation from the UW Law School, Jordan was sworn in by the state supreme court and is now qualified to practice law in Wisconsin. He will not need to take a bar exam.
In January, Jordan will start practicing tax law for Deloitte in Milwaukee.
He also intends to pursue pro bono opportunities and assist underserved people.
After years of hard work and commitment, Jordan still points to his days in sports with helping him achieve his goals.
“In school, these athletic skills — the ability to work well in teams, being dedicated to improvement, staying positive in the face of adversity — helped me excel in the classroom. I never shied away from asking my classmates questions or studying in small groups. Although at times I might have dreaded the long hours I spent studying in the library, I knew that it would help me on exams when it really counted.
“I also reminded myself to be grateful for the opportunity to challenge myself academically, to pursue a higher education, and to surround myself with unique, kind, and intelligent people.”