Every year, many Wisconsin lawyers who work for small firms or practice law solo attend a conference sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin which facilitates gatherings, lectures, and conversations about relevant topics and issues. I was excited to be able to attend this year’s Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference to gain insight into approaching legal practice in this way through lectures and conversations. These in-person discussions are especially valuable to me as a new lawyer at an all-remote firm who graduated from law school during a global pandemic.

This conference offered sessions in areas ranging from substantive law and technology, to managing a practice and quality of life as a lawyer. I arrived at the conference eager for learning, and I want to share three takeaways I brought back with me to consider and try to integrate into my work:

First, while virtual meetings and lectures can be quite useful in many situations, I remembered that there is no complete replacement for time spent in person with other lawyers and members of one’s industry. I recommend to anyone spending at least a bit of in-person time with colleagues if possible, even if your job is largely remote. In one session I attended at the conference discussing emotional intelligence, which featured voices across legal practice, psychology, and business, several discussion threads made clear to me that spending time with colleagues in-person can strengthen empathy, mindfulness, and the ability to read and support others.

Second, I learned that while solo practitioners and small law firms face many challenges in their work, the opportunities for growth and creativity often outweigh those difficulties to create a unique and satisfying legal work experience. From a session discussing flexible work practices in the legal industry, I gained several new strategies for making the most out of my schedule to be the best lawyer I can be. I was inspired by the panelists, who embrace flexible schedules to go above and beyond for their clients on a regular basis and who use the resources at their disposal to grow and thrive as effective advocates. In many situations, these lawyers were able to achieve professional successes made possible by the flexibility and creativity allowed in their practices.

Third, lawyers who take the time to attend lectures and meetings like the ones at this conference are poised to be at the forefront of emerging technologies and industry disruptions to be ready to help clients with that kind of work. Solo practitioners and small firm lawyers who can focus and specialize their practices on these areas are especially primed to do so. For example, a session I attended introducing topics around the areas of blockchain and cryptocurrency opened my eyes to the complex, exciting world of technological advances which only grow each day. I also realized how well lawyers can bring benefit to their clients by understanding these areas and being able to spot chances for further growth.

In sum, I was happy to get the opportunity to attend this conference to grow as a new lawyer in my work. I hope to implement what I learned to become a better lawyer at my small but mighty firm.