Karrie Bunting has blazed her own path in the law. While she was home with 4 young children and a husband who works in law enforcement with irregular hours, she attended Northwestern California University School of Law through their online program and is now a member of the California bar. She set up her mobile law practice to serve rural Central Valley California near Bakersfield. She focuses on estate planning and even makes house calls because her clients live far away (up to 70 miles!) and some are bed-ridden.
We asked her about the highs and lows of her practice and what advice she would share with those considering starting a solo law practice. She also talks about her love for Operation Smile and how she would like to master the Thriller Dance. You can catch up with her at www.karriebunting.com.
Q. What advice would you tell someone who is considering solo practice?
A. DO IT. Don’t listen to the other attorneys who think you are nuts. Turn down the job offers from those same attorneys who just want you to use your smarts and know how to make THEM money. And don’t be afraid to change it up if it doesn’t work for you. Change practice areas, change hours, or even take a job if it doesn’t work out. Give yourself the time and forgive yourself if you aren’t the attorney you want to be right away.
Q. Why did you make the leap to start your own law firm?
A. I didn’t make the leap to start my own law firm as much as working for someone else was NEVER an option.
One, I live in a very rural area with my husband and 4 children. Our nearest small town is 25 miles away, and our nearest city is 75 minutes. Working everyday in an office and having a commute was never going to be feasible for us. My husband is in law enforcement works a schedule that is not a typical Monday through Friday, 8-5 job.
Two, I don’t really like being told what to do. I went to law school at an unaccredited correspondence school that allowed me to sit for the California Bar. Other attorneys thought it couldn’t be done (my children were very young), but I did it. I’m going against the trend, and it can be intimidating. I refuse to let my own fears stop me from finding my own way. A firm would never be a good fit for me. Unless I was the boss!
Q. What makes your practice unique?
A. My practice is unique because I am willing to make house calls. This is convenient for my clients who are bed ridden. Also, I am extremely approachable. I make a concerted effort to make people feel at ease when they come see me, and I have had multiple clients tell me, “That wasn’t so bad! You made it easy!” and they have smiles on their faces.
I also don’t give them pages of “homework” to do before an estate plan.
I don’t use legal speak with my clients, and I take a lot of time to educate them to make sure their questions are answered. Also, I include a “User’s Guide” with my Estate Plans that is written in plain English, section by section, so that when their trustees inherit the trust, they will have a great start on their duties, and hopefully they can avoid hiring an attorney to guide them in carrying out their duties.
Q. What do you wish you knew before jumping in?
A. I wish I had known how isolating it can be. I don’t mind being alone, as I am naturally inclined to be an introvert. But having someone to bounce your legal ideas off of is nice. I started listening to multiple podcasts during my last year of law school to prepare me for the business of running my own firm. I highly recommend learning as much as you can prior to doing it, and then BELIEVING you can do it.
Q. What do you enjoy most about having your own firm?
A. The thing I enjoy most about having my own firm is the flexibility. For example, if my oldest child has an orthodontist appointment, I am free to schedule that and not take clients that day. Also, just last month I decided to close down my family law practice and focus on estate planning and business planning. No one can stop me from doing what is best for me. I am heavily involved in my community and having my own firm allows me to still have a life outside of my job.
Q. What was your best day?
A. My best day was when my first client told me how relieved they were to get their legal problem solved, because it had been hanging over their head for so long.
Q. What was your worst day?
A. My worst day was when a judge denied an emergency hearing and forced two children to have visitation with their biological father, who was a convicted felon and had domestic violence issues with Mom, AND who had roughed up the two kids after not seeing them for 8 years. My heart died for these children, their mother, and the practice of family law. I felt like a complete failure. In hindsight, it was one of those “aha” days that sets you on a new course, but it hurt for a month.
And Some Random Questions …
Q. If someone gave you $10,000 to give to charity, which one would it be and why?
A. Operation Smile. The charity that helps people in other countries receive cleft lip/palette surgeries. Everyone deserves to feel whole, and smiling is such a joy.
Q. If someone gave you a free plane ticket to anywhere, where would it be and why?
I’m not internationally savvy, but I would love to go explore the Alaskan wilderness. So, one plane ticket to get to Alaska, and one ticket for a bush plane to take me into the country.
Q. What cheers you up after a stressful day?
A. Chocolate and clean house. Since the former is easier to obtain than the latter, I should watch how much I actually eat so I don’t outgrow my clothes. I hate shopping.
Q. What is the next thing you want to learn?
A. I want to become the go-to person in my field. I’m not sure where my field will narrow down to this year, but my list includes the tax intricacies of estate planning and real estate, and business law: trademarks, employee issues, working with administrative regulations and offices, and contracts.
Also, I’d like to learn to how to do the Thriller Dance. I’ve got coordination, but no rhythm or grace. I will conquer this! LOL.
…Now, that would be a great video for her website! Thanks Karrie, for sharing your experiences and wisdom!
Want more tips and advice for your awesome law practice? Check out Law Office on a Laptop, Second Edition: How to Set Up Your Own Successful Law Mobile Law Practice.