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Young Lawyer Purchases 100-Year-Old Firm on Craigslist, Thrives in Small-Town Practice

Posted Aug 4, 2010 6:54 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough

While working as a lawyer in Minneapolis, Jennifer Knapp came across a Craigslist ad for a third-generation firm for sale in a small town in Minnesota.Knapp took her time to evaluate the proposition, then dove into the opportunity, which involved a yearlong mentorship with the outgoing attorney who was selling the firm where his father worked and that his grandfather founded some 100 years ago.

But Knapp didn’t last long on her own. After five months, she was pleading with a fellow University of Iowa College of Law classmate to come join her. (Knapp graduated from Iowa in 2006.)

That offer turned out to be a career lifesaver for Laurel Mohan, who was starting to wonder if she’d made the right choice when she went to law school.

Despite Mohan’s doubts about moving from California to Winona, Minn., Knapp tells SoloCorps that the firm is thriving, even with “old school” marketing such as ads in the local paper and phone book.

Knapp has been in charge of Libera Knapp since 2009 and she hasn’t lost a client yet. That’s thanks in large part to the retiring firm owner.

“He was able to introduce me people in town for that whole year we worked together, so there was a real smooth transition,” Knapp said in an interview with SoloCorps founders Lisa Solomon and Carolyn Elefant. Watch the full 14-minute interview below.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some adjustment for Knapp, the town and her clients. “The clients had kind of a mixed reaction,” she said, noting that she stood out as a single female attorney in a town full of older, white male lawyers.

“Some of them didn’t hesitate to tell me they were a little bit nervous about me taking over and wondered if I was up to the task,” she recounted. But the retiring firm owner kept her motivated and reassured her she was up to the challenge.

“He told me I could do it,” she said. “And we’re doing it.”

Jennifer Knapp, Laurel Mohan from Carolyn Elefant on Vimeo.

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