Willis Norton graduated the University of Minnesota Law School in 1906, was admitted to the bar and began practicing with his brother Frank in a partnership that lasted until the latter's death in 1937. In 1912, he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives and quickly became a force in state politics and the legislature, where he served through 1934. After leaving the legislature, he became counsel for Investors Diversified Services. He died on June 1, 1957, at age seventy-seven.
He was a renowned draftsman, as George E. MacKinnon, a close observer of state politics, recalled in memorial proceedings for the Hennepin County Bar Association in 1958:
"During the time that he was active in public life he was a powerful figure in the state's political affairs, and he had more to do than any other person with the shaping of major state laws for the two decades of his legislative service. For years he was the recognized leader of the State Legislature. He was its parliamentarian, drafting expert, Chairman of the House Rules Committee, formulator of policy and director of the destinies of those who sought to build up political careers. Many Speakers owed their election to his organizing ability and he was a trusted advisor to many Governors, being particularly relied upon by Governor Theodore Christianson.
"He was the author and principal draftsman of scores of important laws, which included the so called Brooks Coleman Act, placing control of inter city street car companies in the hands of the Railroad and Warehouse Commission. He drafted the State Reorganization Act of 1925 which placed state departments on a new operating basis under the Big Three. He was also largely responsible for drafting the Cooperative Marketing Laws and the Rural Credits Act, and helped shape the Workmen's Compensation Code and the Basic Science Law which regulates the practice of medicine. He was legislative spokesman for the Prohibition forces and drafted the State Prohibition Act of 1919. Scores of other state laws bear his handiwork. He fought consistently for the appropriations he considered necessary for the University of Minnesota to carry out its destined role for the people of the state."