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Job scarcity led Blattner to become her own boss

Thu, Oct 6, 2011

One on One

Lisa Blattner didn’t start college with the idea of becoming an attorney, and started studying for the law school exam on a whim.

Once accepted to law school, she realized that attorneys serve as “translators for the people,” and now operates her own firm.

Blattner decided to open her own firm because she graduated from law school at the height of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression — and no law firms were hiring.

Here’s what Blattner thinks about the field of law, and Colorado Springs.

Why did you decide to open your own firm?

I graduated from law school in 2009, which was a tough job market not only for attorneys but for everyone. No one was hiring. I was fighting an uphill battle because not only was I competing for jobs against my fellow graduates, but there were the folks who graduated in 2008, and even more intimidating, there were associates with years of experience that were looking for jobs. It was at that point I realized I could either sit around or get to work on my own. I grew up with a single mother who owned her our business while still going to school. I knew what it took to run my own business, and having a business background to boot, I went to work hanging my own shingle.

What area of law do you practice? Why did you choose that area?

When I first started my practice I only did basic estate planning: wills, powers of attorneys, living wills, basic revocable trusts. I continue to do basic estate planning, however, during my first year I become heavily involved with elder law and started working in the area of Medicaid planning and veterans’ benefits for seniors.

In order to get the knowledge I needed I went to every continuing education class I could find. I also volunteered to be the chairwoman of senior law day for El Paso County — a free event put on once a year for the senior community to learn about the different areas of law that may affect them or their family. By getting involved I cultivated many professional relationships with other attorneys in my field, which has led me to expand my practice.

The estate planning, elder law, and probate law comes naturally to me because of my passion for strategic planning. I like when a client comes to office with a problem and together we can sit together and figure out a solutions together. I like to be able to explain the various options the law provides and giving my client the option to make his or her own decision. Again, it goes back to being a translator for the people.

What are some of the challenges associated with your practice?

Obviously, starting your own business, let alone your own law practice does present some challenges. The first being, how to do I get clients? I was very lucky in the fact that when I moved to Colorado Springs to open my firm, I already had a referral source that I was able to work with, Colorado Retirement Resources (http://www.coloradoretirementresources.com/). However, I didn’t want to rely on just one referral source, so I joined a small business networking group, Buisness Linx http://businesslinxcs.com/, and got involved with the legal community by joining the probate section and the young lawyers section of the El Paso County Bar. Now, I have the opportunity to help make resources available to other young attorneys.

Another big challenge with my practice is getting clients to understand that seeking the assistance of a lawyer for estate planning and probate law is not as scary as it sounds. The biggest reason that I hear for why people don’t seek the advice of a lawyer is “because it is too expensive.” Now, I’m not going to say that lawyers are not expensive, and in some cases, there can be very large legal bills, but for the majority of people I tell them it is better to do it right the first time, then to have a mess to clean up. Doing it right is never as expensive as cleaning up the mess.

What are your goals?

As for future goals, I have some ideas, but nothing set in stone. Way in the distance I would love to become a judge. But for the more near future, I just plan on continuing to expand my practice and knowledge base, and maybe add an associate in a year or two.

What should Colorado Springs change in order to become more attractive to young professionals?

Having come from Denver, I have actually been extremely impressed with the amount of resources available for small business owners, and thereby for young professionals. However, everything I have found has been by word of mouth. Perhaps if there was some sort of publication available to young professionals at a reasonable charge, Colorado Springs may become more attractive. I understand there is a young professional section of the Chamber of Commerce, which I have been told is very good; however, a Chamber membership on top of the annual Bar dues just is not reasonable for someone just starting out.

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