Asked & Answered: Despite bumps and bruises of a solo practice firm, Norland would do it over again.

AuthorTeske, Ali
PositionDaniel Norland

Byline: Ali Teske

From practicing public defender cases out of his one-bedroom apartment in La Crosse to hanging a shingle on his own firm, Daniel Norland has experienced the legal spectrum.

A Wisconsin native and founder of his solo practice Norland Law Firm, he grew up in Spring Green and received his Associate's Degree from UW-Richland Center and bachelor's from UW-La Crosse. Upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2010, he opted to move back to La Crosse and set up shop taking public defender misdemeanor cases, working from his small apartment.

Norland has been a member of the La Crosse Bar Association for nine years, serving in leadership positions for the past three, including completing a term as bar president from 2021-2022.

Norland recently sat down with the Wisconsin Law Journal for a Small Firm Spotlight to discuss the mindset and struggles of being a sole practitioner just north of Madison's competitive legal market.

WLJ: What influenced you to open your own practice instead of joining a big firm or an existing firm?

Norland: In 2010, there was not a great legal job market. Unless you were top 5% of class you were not looking at a very robust employment opportunity. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I didn't want to work necessarily for a smaller firm. It was crazy to me after law school that an associate attorney salary was something like $34,000. If I'm going to be making $30,000 a year, I'm going to be my own boss. It was difficult to think about where I wanted to pull the trigger on that and how. I thought Madison would be too difficult of a place to learn the basic ropes of the actual practice of law as opposed to law school. Working from my one-bedroom apartment taking public defender cases was the only thing I could do because nobody knew who I was. I was cutting my teeth on misdemeanor cases because that's all I could take. As time went on, I started increasing my caseload and increasing my exposure with judges and the legal community, taking family law cases, no-contest divorces and learning the ins and outs of how divorces work. That was kind of a moment of when I started getting calls for private pay clients for the reputation I was building as a family attorney.

WLJ: What do you enjoy about practicing family law as opposed to other areas of the profession?

Norland: If you'd have asked me up until any point around 2012, do you see yourself practicing family law, I'd have said, 'No.' It's an...

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