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Block Legal Services opens in Wauwatosa Featured on Wauwatosa Now

Posted on September 30, 2015 in Wauwatosa Now By Jessica Stephen

Before William Block became a lawyer, he worked at Kinko's.

And it taught him a thing or two about perspective.

"At the end of the day, when I looked back at what I accomplished, I found we were just putting ink on paper. If someone's business proposal wasn't printed right or the birthday invitation didn't turn out right — it didn't seem like I was making a difference."

So, after spending a couple of years adrift, the Rice Lake native, son of a minister and a seventh-grade teacher, put his triple major to work (English composition, philosophy and comparative theology, in case you're wondering) and went to law school.

"I thought I would end up in criminal (law)," said Block.

Still, he studied restorative justice with former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Janine Geske, before exploring mediation, dispute resolution and, eventually, collaborative divorce, a branch of alternative dispute resolution that takes a less adversarial approach to, as Gwyneth Paltrow so infamously put it, conscious uncoupling.

"What I took from all of that was to listen, really, really listen."

Including to himself.

So, after graduating from law school in 2010 and building a practice as a divorce, estate planning and probate attorney with an established private firm, he took a chance earlier this year with a big-law-type firm in downtown Milwaukee.

"That lasted about five months. I found I had a lot of ideas about how I thought a firm should be run, and getting back in the associate track behind a couple of other associates wasn't a good fit," Block admitted. "So, I decided I wanted to take my life into my own hands."

By July, he'd found a basement office on Harwood Avenue, near St. Bernard's Church.

He was going to start his own firm.

"The first two weeks were painting and trying to find a desk and chairs, buying pens, all the exciting stuff they show on the attorney shows," Block teased.

By August, he was installing the phone system, setting up a website and weighing whether to get that last bit of paint on the walls or start calling colleagues for referrals.

"I had to say, 'O.K., is it more important that I make sure my office is ready to have clients come in or do I go get clients?' They're totally different, and there's no way to balance one over the other. But now that I'm out on my own, I don't just show up and ask someone what to do. I get to do all the nitty-gritty details, and that's exciting. I've got this whole sea of what could be next."

For now, he's focused on the reason he went to work for himself: providing affordable legal service for families trying to find their way, whether that means planning for the future or forging a new one.

All, of course, while tending to the little things, like creating a paperless office and keeping overhead low, and the not-so-little things, like his three kids (ages 4, 2½ and 9 months) and his recent fifth wedding anniversary.

"It's an exciting time," Block said. "I'm sailing uncharted waters, but that's exactly why I did this. I wanted that challenge."