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Finding home

Deeney Law Firm end of a long journey for meaning
Joe Deeney outside his private law practice, Deeney Law Firm, at 201 E. Main St. in Solon. He plans to narrow his practice to estate planning, elder law (Medicaid planning), business work and real estate. (photo by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– Every experience has led Joe Deeney on a path to Solon.
Deeney’s spark for the legal world didn’t catch until he was in his late 20s, and it wasn’t until he opened his attorney’s office in downtown Solon that he found his calling.
“When I first made the decision to start a private practice, in the back of my mind I was thinking I’d be the town attorney, and kind of doing a little bit of everything,” he said. “But since opening my doors, I’ve come to the realization I’m very passionate about estate planning.”
Helping individuals plan so their family and assets will be taken care of in a way they would like has brought Deeney, 42, the satisfaction and meaning he had been seeking.
But it was a long road and he dipped his toes into a lot of different ponds before hanging out his shingle.
A native of Waukon, his connection with the Solon area started with the University of Iowa (UI).
A member of the Hawkeye Marching Band drumline, he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in business management and a Bachelor of Science in health promotion.
“We had a blast,” he said of his time with the marching band. “It was like coming in as a freshman, making 300 friends the first day you get there. It was a great experience.”
Early on, he was thinking along the pre-medicine lines, perhaps as a future physician’s assistant, and he worked at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in Iowa City for a couple years.
“It helped me learn that was not the route I wanted to go with my career,” he observed.
A law degree wasn’t something he considered until Deeney was in the workforce using his business management degree as a supervisor in the Chicago area.
“Not that I disliked it, but I just wasn’t finding the satisfaction from it,” he said.
He started, as many people do, to question his purpose in life.
And that led him to law.
He realized anyone’s purpose is to help other people, and decided the best way to help as many people as possible would be as a lawyer.
Deeney set to study of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), then applied to the UIC John Marshall Law School, reputed as accommodating to working students.
He continued working full time and started attending classes at night.
Typically, he said, law school takes three years full-time. Deeney took four, with the first few as a part-time student.
In his final year, he left his job and started to hone his interests in a series of internships.
He spent a semester with the Cook County Public Defender’s Office and clerked for a judge in the criminal division, both eye-opening.
“It helped me to cement that I was on the right path, but it also helped me realize criminal law wasn’t the area of law I wanted to go into. Although I did have good experiences, it kind of ruled out going in that direction.”
A final internship assisting in-house counsel with legal matters for the Niles Township School District pointed him in another direction.
“And that landed me a job, which was great,” he said.
After graduating with his Juris Doctor degree in 2011, he stayed on with the district for two years, leaving to accept a post as director of human resources with the Oswego school district, where he also provided advice on legal matters.
When Deeney’s father became ill with cancer, he decided to quit his job to spend time back in Iowa. Not knowing how much time they had left, he took his dad to appointments at the VA hospital and visited extensively.
“Thankfully, he’s in remission and doing wonderfully,” Deeney reported. “Prognosis wasn’t great at the time.”
By this point, he had rekindled an acquaintance with a fellow UI alumnus, Emily. It turned into a date, romance and marriage.
She was the co-owner of a therapy clinic in Naperville where Deeney eventually served a dual role as in-house counsel and business manager.
“Her role was very stressful, we started having children, and made the decision that we wanted to slow things down and move back to Iowa to be closer to family,” he explained.
They landed in rural Solon near the Cedar County line in July 2018, and now have three kids: Dottie (Dorothy), 5, Birdy (Beatrice), 3, and Ollie (Oliver), 10 months.
He worked to transition his law license to Iowa, became a member of the bar here, and opened Deeney Law Firm at 201 E. Main St. very quietly.
Ollie was a preemie, six weeks early, so he took some extra time before focusing on building the firm.
He plans to narrow his practice to estate planning, elder law (Medicaid planning), business work and a little bit of real estate.
The percentage of people without an estate plan is still staggering.
It’s something any adult should think about, Deeney noted, but facing mortality can be a barrier, and it’s easy to put off because few people think they might die in the next six months.
“It’s rewarding to be able to set up a plan for an individual or a family that gives them peace of mind and ensures that they can go to sleep at night knowing they have a plan in place if something unfortunate were to happen,” he explained. “It’s something that brings me a lot of joy,”
It’s not a confrontational situation, but provides a service he can be proud of knowing it will be beneficial for his client.
Helping younger couples in the community is also a goal.
“To make sure younger couples with families or that want to start a family, understand that having a will in place helps ensure that they’re able to designate a guardian for their children and ensure that they’re making the choice who cares for their child should they pass away,” he added.
People will want to use someone nearby that they trust for legal matters and Deeney wants to be available to serve them, so he took continuing education courses on needed areas of law and built a network of local lawyers to help show him the ropes.
“I’m just very thankful we’re here,” he said.
He and Emily both enjoyed their time in the area, have local friends and knew they wanted to be in Solon.
“We really like the attractions of Iowa City and being close to Cedar Rapids,” he said. “Solon was an opportunity for us to be in a more rural environment, but still at the same time have close access to Iowa sports and theatre, some nightlife.
“Obviously Solon school district has a wonderful reputation and we just thought it was a great community,” he continued.
Emily’s parents also moved to Solon to be close to the grandkids.
“They beat us here actually,” he said.
It was a hard conversation to have with them, moving away.
But they made the decision after 40 years in the Chicago area and they absolutely love it here, although it took some time to move past the culture shock of neighbors offering help.
“Not to say anything bad about Chicago, but it’s more difficult to find that sense of community that you do find here in Iowa in a smaller town,” Deeney said. “They love it, we love it and we’re so thankful to be a part of this community. We kind of celebrate it every day.”

Deeney Law Firm
201 E. Main St.