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Home / Breaking the Ice / Breaking the Ice: Family law is a family tradition for Carly West Holler
Carly West Holler joined the Smith, Paulson, O’Donnell & Erickson firm in Monticello in 2012. (Submitted photo)
Carly West Holler joined the Smith, Paulson, O’Donnell & Erickson firm in Monticello in 2012. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Family law is a family tradition for Carly West Holler

 Name: Carly West Holler

Title: Associate, Smith, Paulson, O’Donnell & Erickson

Education: B.A, sociology and anthropology, University of Minnesota, Morris; J.D., Hamline University School of Law

Carly West Holler followed in her father’s footsteps in practicing family law in Wright County, where she grew up.

“I grew up in a family law firm,” West Holler said. “I always thought that my personality suits that [practice] and I could help people navigate the system when they are in crisis.”

West Holler said she has emulated the example of her father, Ric West, in handling her work with laid back but no nonsense approach.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” said West Holler, who joined the Smith, Paulson, O’Donnell & Erickson firm in Monticello in 2012.

“So many people want you to have a magic wand and a crystal ball and just make it happen. I do the best I can to help them do that as cheaply as possible, quite honestly, because a lot of people don’t have a lot of money to throw at a family law attorney to get divorced.”

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. Probably just say hi. I’m a pretty easy person to talk to and pretty approachable. I enjoy life. I like to laugh. Even just smile in my direction and I’ll probably wave and say hi.

Q. What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally?

A. Growing up in the law firm with my dad. I think in preschool — it was in a church behind my dad’s law office at the time. He’d walk me over there. They’d always ask what you want to be when you grow up and I said I wanted to be an “a-turkey.” I thought that’s what my dad did.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. Professionally a pet peeve of mine is dishonesty and rudeness. With other attorneys especially when it’s emotional in the family law system some attorneys take their clients’ problems and position and make it their own and it becomes a personal thing for the attorney. There’s no reason to be rude, there’s no reason to be mean. It’s much easier for families with children if attorneys can work together in the family law system.

Q. What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A. My favorite aspect is starting with a client who is unsure of what’s going to happen and the legal system and what a divorce means and helping them through that journey. So then my favorite thing is when they’re finally divorced then I can send them a bottle champagne and say congratulations, it’s over and you’re on the other side.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. I love being outside with my family, being active. We camp a lot in the summer. We have a cabin up in the woods where we hunt. In the winter now we fish. We’re just waiting for the ice to form on the lake then we’ll be out in the fish house every weekend.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. Buffalo is the cutest little town. It’s right off Buffalo Lake. There’s little home goods stores, antique shops and coffee shops and a wine bar and a microbrewery. I would go look at the little shops and enjoy some wine and coffee.

Q. Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most?

A. That would for sure be my dad (Ric West, who still practices). He’s an awesome example of a good person, a great advocate, a great attorney, a great community member.

Q. What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A. Depending on where I am, sometimes I don’t even tell people I’m an attorney because instantly their attitudes shift. People believe attorneys are not approachable, cold, calculating, sneaky. That’s never been my experience working with other attorneys and I work hard to make sure that’s not other people’s experiences with me.

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