No two days are ever the same for Holly Lutz. Some days she works out of a barn on her farm in Wausau; other days find her traveling the state meeting clients and practicing disability law.
“A legal career provides the opportunity to work with my favorite people and also to have a lot of time on my own to think about the work we are doing and many other things,” she said. “Being a solo (or one person LLC), I get to choose with whom and how I spend my time (having at least the illusion of control over this).”
Lutz travels to where her clients live and work in order to get to know them and their families.
“I find it fascinating to learn about their lives and perspectives, which may be different than my own, and helping them to find solutions to their disability problems in a way that edifies them and improves their lives in the long term,” she said.
Although some cases have felt more significant than others, Lutz said one of her bigger accomplishments has been obtaining a permanent total award against a major firm that claimed the statute of limitations for her client had run out.
“It was satisfying to obtain resolution of a complex claim that had merit only in the mind of the claimant,” Lutz said. “Yet, each client matters every day. Perhaps that is my accomplishment — and we are still working on it — to improve the lives of those around me who struggle with a system of complex laws and regulations that makes it hard to navigate through injury and disability.”
After working in the Missouri Court of Appeals in St. Louis, she moved to Wisconsin to practice law in the Court of Appeals in Wausau, which had been established only three years beforehand.
The judges there nurtured her love of analyzing and writing about issues that came before the court.
“Interesting work with wonderful colleagues, but it was hard to be neutral and objective — I wanted to argue for a side,” Lutz said. “So after that, also needing to find a more permanent job to go with my permanent mortgage, I signed on with the litigation firm at Wausau Insurance. This was the opportunity to return to the debating and negotiating I had enjoyed at home and in school and work with other lawyers at a great company. The claim philosophy there was to pay what we owed and fight the rest.”
While in the office, she got to try more cases than most young lawyers get to see today, but it also meant learning about Wisconsin’s geography.
“Being from Nebraska,” Lutz said, “I had trouble distinguishing Waupaca from Wautoma, Waupun, Wauwatosa, Wausaukee and Wausau and occasionally appeared at the wrong one. So this was an education.”
After Wausau Insurance was sold, Lutz decided to start her own firm in Wausau. She has now been practicing there for 26 years.
For her fellow solo attorney Christine Olsen, Lutz always was there to help other women lawyers practicing in and near Wausau.
“She is a resource for solo practitioners regarding how to open a law practice,” Olsen said. “She hosts lunches on her farm to encourage women solos to collaborate and share problems and concerns, and she is a phenomenal cheerleader for women attorneys. She does all of this while maintaining a full-time practice from her barn silo, raising four children and traveling the country working on maritime workers compensation law.”
Olsen knows she can count on her friend and professional colleague in good times and tough times.
“Holly always has a smile in her heart that matches her sunny yellow Volkswagen bug,” Olsen said. “If I am having a hard day at work, just hearing a ‘hello’ from Holly brightens my day.”