Career Center: Newly Self-Employed
Jill Handley, CFE
Founder and CEO
Rapid Rulings LLC
Jill Handley, CFE, was born and raised in Marble Rock, Iowa, on her family’s farm in the house where her father was born. One of the many things she learned from her mother was how to make cookies. Even now, when she is not running her own dispute resolution service, she spends time making cookie-cutter cookies. “I have collected more than 250 cookie cutters of all shapes, themes and sizes,” she said. “It is a hobby that permits creativity, but it is also relaxing because of the repetitive nature of the cutting.”
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
When I took over a university department that was in the “red,” I asked questions to figure out why it was underwater financially. There were three streams of income and one had changed radically. Unbeknownst to me, my questions triggered an internal investigation. One morning on my way to work, I heard on the news that the head of my division had been arrested for felony theft. When I got to work, I learned he was skimming off cash proceeds from events, and what he took caused the difference in that third stream of income. This experience taught me how valuable mere questions could be, even if they were from colleagues who were not suspecting any wrongdoing. From there, I continued developing the ability to ask good questions.
What steps led you to found your own company?
I took a five-day vacation to a quiet place to focus on what I might do as a second career after retiring from my position managing the litigation of a large insurance company. I spent the first day reflecting on what parts of my career I had enjoyed the most, and narrowed the field to legal reading and writing.
The next day I read about what drives millennials, because they would be the clients of tomorrow. The one trait I thought permeated their lives was their assumption that solving problems should happen quickly using technology.
The third day I reflected about shortcomings in the practice of the law. Ones that appeared constantly in my career in private practice and as in-house counsel were how long it took to reach a resolution in litigation and how the costs of litigation often prevented the litigation of a meritorious case.
The fourth day I drafted a business model that would mitigate these problems and mesh with the expectations of a new generation of clients. That night I had dinner with my millennial son, presented the model and obtained his feedback. He was working as a computer programmer for the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, so he had special insight into the impact of technology on the court system.
The fifth day I incorporated his feedback into my model. In June 2016, I opened an online dispute resolution service called Rapid Rulings. All interaction is through email and a decision is guaranteed in 60 days. The most important part of the model is that clients choose what they pay for the service because the charge is based upon the number of pages of documents/photos/argument a party submits. Rapid Rulings’ website leads the parties through each step of the process, with no legalese or attorney needed. To enhance transparency, I disclose all my business relationships and parties publicly rate the service.
I should mention that during this brief sabbatical I spent a lot of time taking walks and naps! That helped me stay relaxed and permitted new ideas to occur because my mind wasn’t focused on putting out the “fire of the day.”
What was the most surprising aspect of starting your own firm?
The isolation. I am an introvert by nature and assumed I would enjoy working by myself 100% of the time. Not so. I have become mindful of developing relationships with other new entrepreneurs and becoming more active in the professional associations of which I am a member. I have also chosen volunteer activities that will bring me into contact with colleagues.
What are the most important skills you have learned throughout your career?
In any conversation, I try to listen more than 80% of the time. In my newfound isolation, I have translated that into reading the work of others more than 80% of the time.
What is one thing you wish someone would have told you before you began your professional career?
Listening and following up with the right questions is much more important than being able to demonstrate what you know off the top of your head. Getting the complete factual picture will naturally elicit the appropriate conclusions and guide a recommendation.
How do you think your CFE credential has helped you in your role?
First, studying for the exam helped me put the skills I had into a theoretical framework. Prior to studying, I had some solid skills, but I didn’t understand how or why they worked. Knowing the theory helped me fill some gaps. Next, I became more disciplined in documenting facts and obtaining better ways to display them so that the conclusions were obvious. This in turn improved the presentation of investigation results to management. (At the ACFE Global Fraud Conference in June, there was a terrific presentation by Jeremy Clopton about “Effectively Communicating Complex Data.”) Finally, at the time I earned my CFE, I was the manager of our company’s toll-free helpline. The credential helped me establish rapport with internal and external auditors, and inspired the chief investigator to earn her CFE.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on – one that made you feel especially proud? (Feel free to alter details to protect confidential information.)
It was fulfilling to head my former company’s investigation and remediation of its first major information security breach. Working with an interdisciplinary team consisting of top information technology, physical security, employment, customer service, public relations, compliance and privacy professionals helped me to appreciate the number of roles in the company responding to fraud and the value each added.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
This is a tough question because I have lots of hobbies! I have to settle on the one my mother taught me as a child and that I enjoy to this day. I am passionate about making cookie-cutter type cookies. Even though you might automatically think “Fourth of July” when you look at the ones in the photo, I have made them when hosting a send-off for my brother-in-law, a naval reservist, when he was called up to serve in Afghanistan. I also made them for a game we played while watching last year’s election returns. If the Democrats won a seat to a house of Congress, players ate a blue cookie; red was eaten for the Republicans and white for independent/other parties. Recently my mother used this cutter to put a watermelon star at the end of a fruit kabob to make it look like a sparkler.
But, I don’t just keep using the same cookie cutters for different purposes. I have collected more than 250 cookie cutters of all shapes, themes and sizes. The larger ones may be used as molds for cheese spreads. And kids love helping — even my 30-year-old still likes to sit at the kitchen table and discuss the news of the day while frosting cookies.
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