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  • InsideTrack
  • October 19, 2022

    Kate Knowlton: Champion of Solo and Small-firm Lawyers

    Wauwatosa attorney Kate Knowlton has dedicated many years to championing Wisconsin's solo and small-firm lawyers. This year, Knowlton is the recipient of the John Lederer Distinguished Service Award from the State Bar of Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Section.

    Shannon Green

    Kate Knowlton poses with her mother, Patricia Jenkins

    In th​is 2018 photo, Kate Knowlton poses with her mother, Patricia Jenkins. Jenkins, a registered nurse and a masters-level teacher of nurses and care coordinators, was a speaker on an elder law panel with Knowlton at the 2018 WSSFC. For photos of Knowlton receiving her award on Oct. 28, 2022, see the photo album on the State Bar of Wisconsin Facebook page.​

    Oct. 19, 2022 – Just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, solo attorney Kathryn “Kate” Knowlton opened a new branch of her law practice, headquartered in Wauwatosa, in a small town in northwest Wisconsin near where she and her husband own a lake house.

    Together, they purchased an old bait shop and remodeled it as a law firm, expanding Knowlton Law Group LLC to Stone Lake. It was a choice they were able to make because Knowlton is a solo attorney. “The ability of a solo to take the cases I want, travel where I want, and to be where I want to be allowed for this,” Knowlton said. “I love both places – the Milwaukee area and northwest Wisconsin. Being a solo gave me the flexibility to do this.”

    Thankfully, the pandemic did not hurt her new rural practice. Soon after her Stone Lake office opened, Knowlton accepted an offer for full-time work with Disability Rights Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

    While she is currently not accepting new clients with her solo practice, her new position allows her to offer her firm’s existing clients pro bono services – with the full support of her new supervisor. “I’m super proud of my practice and I love it,” Knowlton said.

    ate Knowlton at the 2016 WSSFC talks to a colleague

    Kate Knowlton at the 2016 WSSFC talks to a colleague in the SSFGP section booth in the vendor hall.

    Joining ‘Astoundingly Amazing Company’

    Knowlton has much to be proud of, say those who know her work.

    Shannon Green Shannon Green is communications writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. She can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6135.

    She is the 2022 recipient of the John Lederer Distinguished Service Award from the State Bar of Wisconsin Solo, Small Firm & General Practice Section.

    The Lederer Award recognizes those focused on improving the lives and practices of solo and small-firm attorneys in Wisconsin. The award is given annually to an individual, group, or organization that exhibits the leadership, spirit, and dedication of the late John Lederer of Oregon, Wisconsin.

    “Kate has been a tireless volunteer for bar activities that benefit solo and small-firm lawyers in Wisconsin,” said Nancy Trueblood, who chaired the award committee.

    “She recognizes the need for solo and small-firm attorneys to learn from and network with each other at all stages of their practice life. She is an outstanding lawyer as well as an outstanding human being."

    “Kate is especially concerned about the struggles faced by solo and small-firm lawyers in rural areas of our state. She has worked tirelessly to develop programs to address those needs,” Trueblood said.

    “She certainly should be recognized as an attorney who has focused on improving the lives and practices of solo and small firm attorneys in Wisconsin,” said State Bar Past President Kathy Brost.

    Knowlton will receive the award next week at the 2022 Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference, which will be held in person Oct. 27-29 at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells for the first time since 2019.

    Find out more about the conference, which is also being held online Nov. 14-16, in the Oct. 5, 2022, issue of InsideTrack, or visit the conference’s website,

    Knowing past recipients of the Lederer award, being a recipient this year is “a complete honor,” Knowlton said. “It is astoundingly amazing to be in the company of those who have preceded me in receiving this award.”

    Kate Knowlton speaks during a CLE session

    Kate Knowlton speaks during a CLE session at the 2017 WSSFC.

    ‘No One is Truly Solo’

    Knowlton is known for her dedication to the State Bar Solo/Small Firm & General Practice Section (SSFGP) and to the WSSFC.

    Her current term as a SSFGP board member runs through June 2024. She was the section chair 2018-20. “As a section leader, Kate worked to bring members information and benefits to help them succeed in their practice,” Brost said. Knowlton also worked to diversify the section board and organized a regular workshop on starting a law practice. A writer, she offers tips on establishing a rural practice in her September 2019 SSFGP blog article.

    Involvement in the section and the conference is a huge boost to her practice, Knowlton said. “There’s no substitute for the collegial relationships, the professional support, and the affirmation and reinforcement of best practices as a solo than being involved in the section.”

    The support is readily available – sometimes just a phone call away. “It allows you to never feel like you’re really on your own. So much of my confidence has to come from my colleagues in the section,” Knowlton said. With section support, “no one is truly solo.”

    Conference Leader

    Knowlton has served for many years as a planning leader for WSSFC. In 2021, she chaired the conference. Currently, she serves on the conference’s plenary committee. “That’s been really fun,” Knowlton said.

    Knowlton is also a speaker this year – again, with the plenary session “Substantive Law at Sunrise” where she speaks on crime victims’ rights. “This is one of my favorite sessions,” she said.

    Someone who hasn’t missed a WSSFC for more than a decade, Knowlton began volunteering as an organizer as well. “I wouldn’t miss it. The speakers are boots-on-the-ground solo attorneys with invaluable experience – and these are my peers. I always learn something new. And having it all under one roof, one time for the year, is unbelievable.”

    In her December 2021 Wisconsin Lawyer magazine column, she says this about WSSFC: “One conference helps fulfill a year of CLE requirements. But it also highlights the State Bar’s more nuanced and intangible support: helping me stay connected with friends and colleagues. We laugh, learn, and leave refreshed and reenergized, ready to best serve our clients and profession.”

    The conference in its entirety is a great opportunity for the solo practice attorney, with its opportunities to make connection with colleagues as well as explore the latest products in the Expo Hall. “Solos have to be nimble and innovators,” Knowlton said.

    Celebrate with Kate Knowlton at WSSFC

    Knowlton will receive the award on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, at the Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference, at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells.

    This year WSSFC offers you the flexibility to attend in person or virtually – or both. Those who attend the live event can celebrate in person as Knowlton is honored by her colleagues.

    Those who attend virtually on Nov. 14-16, 2022, have access to all CLE sessions and speakers. This option offers the flexibility of viewing the content from wherever you are.

    Attend either dates and earn up to 16.5 overall credit hours from six plenaries and your choice of 32 breakout sessions. Plus, those who attend the live WSSFC can earn more CLE by watching select complimentary webcast replays in December.

    Register via’s Marketplace to reserve your spot. For more information, visit to check out the WSSFC schedule and read about the Special Events, including the Lederer Award Presentation and Networking Lunch.

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