On December 1, 2013 I will be opening my own solo law firm here in Superior, Wisconsin. I have spent the last seven years practicing at Torvinen, Jones, Kirk & Routh, S.C. and will be forever grateful for the experience, wisdom, and relationships I have gained through the years. The decision to leave the firm and start my own has not been an easy one because of the respect and admiration I have for my partners and the legacy and reputation of the firm. Many people have asked me why I’ve decided to go solo.
I’m calling it my own version of a mid-life crisis. That’s the best explanation I have. I’ve always been a person who set out my dreams and benchmarked the goals I needed to achieve to make the dreams come true. I decided to become an attorney when I was fourteen or fifteen years old. (Thank you former Taylor County District Attorney Shawn Mutter for that inspirational and life changing presentation at Gilman High School’s career day!) With my checklist in mind I took the world by storm – graduate high school, graduate college, attend a private law school on the East Coast, pass the Bar Exam, get a job, make partner at a firm. Check, check, check, all done. So now what?
Now I set out to achieve a new dream with a new checklist. My hope is to practice law in a way that goes beyond what clients typically expect and receive from attorneys. I plan to integrate technology in ways that are not expected. You’ve heard of “paperless” offices? While I can’t promise entirely “paperless” I do promise less paper to reduce costs that are usually passed on to clients. You’ve seen those t.v. shows and movies with law offices that have expansive libraries full of books? Not at my office. All of those books have been made digital so I won’t be spending money buying physical books, vhealthportal.com/product-category/antiallergic-asthma/, storing them, and buying new ones to update the old ones. I also plan to use technology to better communicate with clients – fewer letters in the mail that take three days to arrive and more e-mails so that clients’ matters can move faster.
I plan to use new methods for structuring exactly what I do for clients and how I charge them. According to the State Bar of Wisconsin’s 2012 Economics of Law Practice Survey attorneys are recognizing that we aren’t effectively competing with the online providers who offer questionable legal services or documents at minimal prices. You’ve seen the commercials. You know the websites. Yes they are cheaper than most attorneys, but are they really giving you what you need? I plan to move away from the expensive billable hour and incorporate billing systems that take into consideration both what a client is able to pay and the value of the work being performed. Clients are demanding this – quality legal help at reasonable prices. The alternatives include flat rates for standard estate planning documents, set billings for different steps in a lawsuit or divorce, and a return to the traditional “retainer” agreement where a company or person pays a set amount for the attorney to handle all legal matters. The key isn’t how much some legal document or service will cost. The key is that the client gets input into determining the cost and payment plan and understands it from the start. I plan to use all these methods and more to ensure that clients have what they deserve – to know up-front what to expect both in the work I will do and what it will cost.
So back to the question – why go solo? Because I want to be known as an attorney who does more than just provide legal advice or service and send a bill. I dream of being an attorney who clients think of as a friend. I dream of being an attorney who knows your kids’ names and grandkids’ names. I dream of being an attorney who clients trust to be fair and honest. Because to me, the practice of law is more than doing work and getting paid, it’s a life-calling, a vocation, and I want my clients to think I’m more than just a good lawyer.
Johanna R. Kirk – Kirk Law Office, L.L.C. – 1418 Tower Avenue Suite #6 – Superior, WI 54880