Julie Lathia had faith in herself and made the leap to found her own law firm at age 29.
How long in have you been in WC? Four and a half years.
Where’d you grow up? Lancaster County. It was an Interesting childhood. My parents are from India and came to the US in 1972. They settled in Elizabethtown where there were only three or four other Indian families in the whole town. Other than my brother, there was only one other Indian person in my school.
Do you identify first as Indian? I don’t necessarily identify as one specific thing—I identify as human first. There are things I do that are very Indian, like celebrating holidays, but that’s just a part of who I am.
Why did you parents settle in Elizabethtown? They owned a motel there for 21 years. I was raised in the motel’s manager’s quarters—a small, three-bedroom apartment behind the front desk.
So, you were raised in a small business. Guess that helps when you’re dealing with your small business clients. I saw how hard my parents worked to maintain their business. I understand that there’s backlash against the idea of a traditional attorney—I mean, I worked at a law firm where we charged people for leaving us voicemails. I want to change that perception. When I tell a new client my rates, they almost always say, “Oh, that’s so much better than I was expecting.”
What brought you to West Chester? Work. I started renting my office the day before my 29th birthday. I consider that the start of my law firm
Is 29 kind of early for someone to start a practice? Without a doubt, but I had four years of experience by the time I started my firm, and it was incredibly thorough experience. In a bad market, I had to do a lot of different things and learned a lot. Of course I was still trying to figure out certain aspects, but I had a good support network of other attorneys willing to offer guidance.
How’d you get your start? I was at a crossroads in 2012 wondering if I wanted to be an associate at another firm or go off on my own. Around then, my high school boyfriend called me and said he had a client who needed an attorney present in Philadelphia. So I went down and did the initial appearance. That client said, “I want you on this team.” So with that, when I started my firm, I already had one client. At six months I had multiple clients.
What’s the biggest thing you discovered since being out on your own? I’ve discovered that I know more than I realize. I’ve worked with other attorneys who have more years experience, but when I discuss something with them, they’re almost taken aback by having never thought of my idea themselves. I surprise myself sometimes.
Why do you think you’ve grown so quickly? My clients tell me that I am approachable, I maintain communication, and my rates are affordable… and I don’t charge for voicemails. New clients constantly tell me, “You’re not like a typical lawyer,” and I take pride in that.
Photo: Sabine Sister
Interview: Dan Mathers