Getting to Know Dan Willing: 2019-2020 New Lawyers Section chair

CanPhoto of Dan Willing looking at camera you introduce yourself and say a little bit about your practice?

This year, as part of my duties as chair of the New Lawyers Section, I am a member of the HCBA’s Executive Committee and board, I chair the New Lawyer Engagement Task Force, and I am on the Attorney Wellness Task Force. I also volunteer with Wills for Heroes. It has been a busy year. Professionally, my work would qualify as nontraditional as far as practicing law goes. I am an internal wealth strategist with RBC Wealth Management and my role is to serve as a subject matter expert and resource on complex estate, financial, business succession, and trust related issues affecting RBC’s clients. Practically speaking, I act as a link between the financial advisor who is responsible for your financial plan, savings, and investments, and the estate planning attorney who drafts your documents. In addition to my law license, I have my Series 7 and 66 from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, so I can speak to both the legal and financial sides of the equation, which helps me make sure everything is passing the way it is supposed to in a client’s estate plan.

What types of programming can NLS members look forward to this year?

We have put together some outstanding programming already, but things will really pick up in 2020. In November, we hosted a writing workshop CLE and launched the New Lawyer Engagement Task Force to explore ways the HCBA can better connect with newer lawyers. We are excited to bring back Speed Networking and Networkouts, as well as introduce some new activities. In our speed networking events, NLS partners with one of the HCBA’s substantive law sections to allow each person to meet dozens of other lawyers in less than an hour, followed by a social. It is a lot of fun and we always get a great turnout. The Networkout events evolved as one answer to the question, how can we put together an event that is healthy and supports wellness, while also encouraging networking? In our Networkout events, NLS partners with local fitness companies who hold a private workout event for us. Later, there is an alcohol-free happy hour with healthy snacks. As for something new, we will be hosting an escape room event sometime in January. Keep an eye on the HCBA calendar or come to our meetings to get the latest updates.

You’re married to a lawyer, what are your dinner table conversations like?

Everyone thinks it must be hard being married to another lawyer, but it’s not. Even though we work in very different areas, there is enough common knowledge of the law to share things about our day and have the other person understand. The one area that being married to a lawyer may be different is that we both absolutely hate being wrong, so there can be a lot of lawyerly hedging.

What’s been your favorite part about being involved with the NLS?

The relationships, without a doubt. My wife and I met in law school at the University of Oregon and moved here with no connections to the Minnesota legal community whatsoever. Now, many of our best friends are people we have met volunteering and at NLS events.

Why did you get involved with the NLS?

This is probably where I am supposed to say how I just knew that NLS would be a great way to get involved in the legal community while networking and building lifelong friendships, but the real reason I joined was because my wife (a past NLS chair herself) convinced me I should. I wasn’t even a practicing attorney at the time and did not think getting involved in a “new lawyer” section would be a good fit for me. Luckily, she was right. The NLS has been a great way for me to get involved, make friends, and network with my peers.

What would you say to a new attorney who says they don’t have time to get involved with the HCBA and NLS?

You do. You really do have time. The time commitment is modest, and the NLS is literally a group full of new lawyers. If anyone is going to understand your frenzied apology email at 11:15 a.m. that you can’t make the 11:30 a.m. board meeting, it is other new lawyers. Is it a time commitment? Yes. But it is a manageable one, and one that is completely worth the effort.

What’s some good advice you’ve received from more senior lawyers?

And what do you think more experienced practitioners can learn from the newest generation of lawyers? I have been lucky. In my brief career I have had the honor of working with several truly exceptional attorneys. The best advice I ever received was to be patient. New attorneys can get very impatient, wishing things would happen faster than they do. Most of us are overachievers by nature, so the idea that it will take years of sustained effort before you see the returns of your hard work can be difficult to accept. That lesson took me years to understand.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

I love experiencing the Minnesota outdoors: camping, fishing, hiking, and skiing—especially at Lutsen—are all fantastic. Also, I enjoy video games, particularly during the winter when you can’t get outside because it is dark by the time you finish lunch.