CASPER, Wyo. — Mike Krampner might never again shine a pair of his shoes.
For more than three decades, that was his only ritual. Courtrooms are like baseball diamonds — superstitious places for many who earn livings inside them.
Some attorneys, on the way to trial, might knot favorite ties around their necks. Others might shove good luck charms into pockets. Krampner, the night before heading to court, would sit and shine his shoes.
"That's the only thing I ever did," he said.
Krampner, a part of Casper's legal community since 1978, will walk away from the practice of law at the end of the year.
Unlike most other 57-year-olds who might find themselves putting a career in life's rear-view mirror, Krampner's not heading to a golf course. He's going to the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he will study traditional Jewish texts for a year.
Though he has enjoyed his career in Casper, it hasn't left him much time to pursue other interests close to his heart.
Being an attorney, he said, "requires a level of commitment and dedication that most people not in the business don't understand."
Aside from helping a client maneuver through legal squabbles, Krampner said, an attorney many times doubles as therapist, accountant and sounding board.
"There's a lot that goes on that isn't necessarily courtroom performance," he said.
During the past year, he's been plugging away on a master's thesis through Gratz College in Pennsylvania. His subject — Jewish history — served to show him how little he actually knows about his faith, he said.
So, he's decided to switch his life's focus and immerse himself in his religion.
Besides, he said, he remembers having to tell his father, an attorney in New York, to stop going to the office every day after he reached his eighth decade.
"How many people do you know like that?" Krampner asked.
A Brooklyn, N.Y., native whose family moved west in the early 1970s, Krampner graduated from the University of Wyoming Law School in 1978. At 24 years old, he moved to Casper.
"I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer," he said. "I always wanted to be a criminal defense attorney."
His first years were spent in business law and in a short stint as a Natrona County Circuit Court judge. The latter solidified his desire to be a defense lawyer.
"It wasn't for me," he said of sitting on a bench, which he likened to a form of government. "I wanted to be an advocate. Being a judge requires a certain style of thinking — and I mean that with respect — that I don't have. I'm much more comfortable on the outside."
Krampner spent three years with the Fagan & Fagan, Attorneys, firm before branching out on his own in 1985. Seven years later, he and Don Fuller opened a firm. Today, the firm is located at 242 S. Grant St. and is known as Krampner, Fuller & Associates. It will continue after Krampner's departure.
Throughout his career, he's defended every kind of case — from those involving people facing six months behind bars for drinking and driving to those facing the death penalty for murder.
Along the way, he earned the respect of his peers.
Daniel Blythe, a senior public defender in the federal court system in Cheyenne, finished law school the same year as Krampner. He didn't hesitate when saying Krampner was the best defense attorney in the state.
"I have always found Mike to be the most prepared attorney in any courtroom," he said. "He's got great insight."
Blythe said that, while Krampner's "extreme intelligence" and courtroom preparation set him apart, what ultimately led to his high view of his peer was the devotion that he showed to clients.
"He's so loyal to his clients," Blythe said. "In my opinion, he is respected by everyone. Now, I'm sure you could find some people to say otherwise, but that's true of anybody. He won some cases pretty handily during the years, and he was passionate about it, so there are probably some bruised egos."
Natrona County District Attorney Michael Blonigen described Krampner as an important part of Casper's legal community.
"I have a great deal of respect for Mike. We've never agreed on anything," the prosecutor noted with a laugh, "but I certainly respect his abilities."
Blonigen said Krampner was always ahead of the curve, not only when it came to facts, but to the law.
"A very intelligent man," he said.
Krampner's last day is Dec. 22. He leaves in January for Europe, where he will spend a few weeks touring historic cities before settling in Jerusalem.
After finishing his studies overseas in late 2011, he will return stateside and begin work on a doctorate. By his early 60s, he said, "Maybe I can begin a new career."
Contact William Browning at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-266-0534.