I had a great law job

February 17, 2015

Close-up of couple doing finances at homeI used to be an estate planning attorney in a thriving boutique firm.  I had a good job.   I enjoyed a good salary with benefits, great co-workers, and had a nice big office in a brand new building.  In the fall of 2008, I left job security and steady paychecks behind to become a financial advisor, unknowingly on the brink of the financial crisis.

My journey begins back in college, when I did an internship in the public defender’s office.  It solidified two things for me.  First, I determined I wanted to go to law school. Second, I realized I didn’t want to be a public defender.   The latter wasn’t because I didn’t like criminal law, but my observation at the time was that lawyers either work on the planning side or they work on the consequence side—meaning they are reacting to some action like crime, divorce, tort, etc.  I am a planner.  This is where I thrive.  With that in mind, over the course of my time in law school, I decided to become an estate planning attorney.

My legal career was instrumental in laying the groundwork for my current role.  I went from someone who dreaded public speaking, to actually enjoying it.  In face-to-face meetings with potential clients I honed my communication skills.  Our initial consultation was always free, so I had a limited time to pinpoint what the potential client’s goals and fears were, educate them on available options, and sell myself and our firm as the one to do the work.  During my four years as an estate planning attorney, I developed a passion for educating people and empowering them to make good decisions.  I gradually realized this is where I wanted to focus my energy.

When I left in 2008 I joined the family business.  At that point my father had been a financial advisor for over 20 years.  Wait…did I just lose you?  Is the word “nepotism” flashing behind your eyeballs?  While I am grateful for the opportunity, I should share that I took a 50% pay cut, lost my benefits, and was required to build my own book of clients.  At the same time, my husband had been in night school for three years to transition from “Big Bank” into his dream job—high school teacher.  The financial crisis expedited his career move when he was laid off.  So I was still making significantly less than I did as an attorney and my husband was substitute teaching.  I picked up a part-time job in a bar and he added mowing for the city. The saving grace was the home we had purchased in 2006, at the height of the market and the loose lending, cost about half of what we had been “approved” for and we were able to keep it all together.

The best part of my job is that now, instead of meeting a couple times to complete the work, I am able to establish life-long relationships with clients and their children.  I coordinate a team of legal and tax advisors as we focus on comprehensive planning for our wealth management clients.  I’m focused on education, both for myself and for my clients.  I still do public speaking, most recently on ways to maximize social security, and have started a weekly podcast. This spring we are adding monthly lunch meetings to discuss financial topics in a town hall format.

I also have ownership and flexibility in my business.  I don’t have to work with everyone who walks through the door.  As an independent advisor I can choose what products and services I want to offer based on what is best for the client.  I feel my job is more important than ever. People are busy.  They are constantly bombarded with information (much of which is bad or incomplete). I help them navigate through it and work towards securing their financial future.