In the fall of 2014, as the economy recovered from the recession and the need for distressed property attorneys diminished, I faced a career conundrum: either master a new area of law or pursue a new professional path. As you can tell from the title of this article, I pursued a new path that diverted me away from real estate and land use law and into real estate sales. Coming to the decision to pivot away from the practice of law wasn’t made lightly, nor on a whim; it was made after careful thought and deliberation with my husband and myself.
Together, we had to consider the financial risk involved with starting over in a new profession. How were we going to make the mortgage payment? What about my law school loans? How long did I give myself to succeed before falling back on law? Fortunately, we were in a place that allowed us the latitude to take on the financial risk of a change of this magnitude. More importantly, my husband knew that it was time for me to make a change, and that the benefits of more time together and a more balanced life are ultimately most important.
Memories from my childhood were pulling me to tap back into some of the earliest curiosities and passions I can remember. But personally, I had to come to terms with the social change I would be making by no longer presenting myself as an attorney. We all work very hard to earn that J.D. after our name and membership in the bar. I had to consider what it would mean to be “Scott the Realtor®” and not “Scott the Attorney.” I had to take a deep look at myself, to really contemplate how and why I became an attorney and if my ego would hold me back from a new pursuit.
I didn’t go into law with an undying need to litigate or prosecute or advocate on behalf of a specific cause or client. I was 21 when I decided to go to law school. At that time, I was the student body president at Washington State University. As a young leader with a degree in political science, I thought that going to law school was what I was supposed to do.
Fast forward 12 years after that initial decision to go to law school: I came to the conclusion that allowing myself the liberty to pursue a deeper passion and lifelong interest was something that I needed, and something I’d earned the opportunity to do.
I have been fascinated by real estate for as long as I can remember. As a child I would travel across the state with my father as he would scout timberlands for commercial use. I remember witnessing the life-changing event of my parents selling their 18 acres of land to a large developer. Like so many others, the experiences of my youth led to my interests and pursuits today, and the skills I have collected along my life journey through education and work have allowed me to thrive as a real estate professional, even after my days as a lawyer.
I joke that I’m a “recovering” attorney because once you’re an attorney, no matter how hard you try to shed that skin, it never fully goes away. (Actually, several of my real estate colleagues consider themselves fellow “recovering” attorneys as well.) Without a doubt, my background in the law distinguishes me from most other real estate brokers. I make it clear to each of my clients that I am not their attorney and refer out all matters requiring the assistance of counsel. However, this distinction has turned out to be an asset that allows me to better represent and negotiate for my clients. The substantive knowledge that I bring to the table to help people better understand the buying and selling process, land use regulations, general contract law, and property law better informs them about the transaction they’re participating in. It is essential in residential real estate to have a clear and focused marketing plan, but deals are won through strategy and skill.
I’ve never regretted my decision to take a new path. This choice has had a profound impact on my personal and professional life in ways that I could never have imagined, and for that I’m grateful. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and, truth be told, had I not decided to go to law school 17 years ago, I wouldn’t have the balanced life and professional satisfaction I have, and we all deserve.