Nate Ingham

Uh-oh. It was only a couple months into 1L year when I thought, “I don’t think this law thing is going to be for me.”

I didn’t grow up with attorneys in my family, and although I had thought I had a pretty good sense of what day-to-day law practice looked like, I was beginning to sense that I had signed up for something much different than I imagined. I realized that although I had always been good at research, writing, public speaking, and the other skills that made law school and law practice seem like a natural fit, there was a difference between being good at something and wanting to do it for the rest of my life.

I stuck with law school though–both because I’ve never been a quitter and because I could see that the writing was on the wall to get one of the Big Law jobs that I was supposed to want. I hoped that by the end of 3L year I would have found some niche to get excited about. When that didn’t happen, and after a year at one of Boston’s largest firms did nothing to make me more optimistic about spending the next 30-some years in law, I decided to change course.

Aha moment.  A thought popped into my head one day, burned itself into my brain, and became something of a mantra as I plotted my transition: “When in life you realize you have taken the wrong path, the answer isn’t to keep walking down it–sometimes you have to turn around, go back, and take the right one.” It was time to do just that.

I had always been enticed by the idea of a career in real estate. After graduating from BC undergrad, I had even considered beginning my professional life in real estate, but I had chosen law school instead, largely because I saw it as providing a clear path to a lucrative career. (Ironically, the fact that I then felt like I was “too educated” for real estate and that people in my life expected something more prestigious from me also played a part in the decision.) I never quite let go of the idea of real estate, though, and I found myself daydreaming about it during my time in school and at the firm. “Maybe I’ll just practice law for 10 years,” I thought to myself at one point during 3L year. “I’ll save a lot of money, retire from law, and then I’ll go into real estate.”

The Switch. Eventually I decided that life was too short for me to wait to be happy. I made the switch to real estate sales, and I have never for a second looked back. In the past four years, I’ve helped clients purchase and sell homes throughout Boston and in almost all of the surrounding towns. I’ve steadily risen to become one of the top-producing agents in my Cambridge-based office, which is itself one of the top-producing offices in my company, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

I haven’t just found real estate to be everything that I hoped it would be–it has been more than I would have dared to imagine. Real estate incorporates all the things that I actually did like about law school and law practice–things like having a true area of expertise, strategic thinking and decision-making, and the satisfaction of guiding my clients through a process they are not familiar with and protecting them along the way (sometimes in ways they don’t even perceive). It also gives me the things I was missing in my law career, like deep personal connections with my clients, the ability to make my own hours (to the extent my clients’ needs don’t dictate them), and the opportunity to build a business that is completely my own and where I am the primary beneficiary of my own hard work. There are times of the year when my real estate practice does approach 60 hours a week or more, but it truly never feels like “work” to me.

Once a lawyer, always a lawyer. It’s hard to overstate how much better a real estate agent I am for my legal education at BC Law. The need to compete against several other offers to win a desirable property is a constant reality in the current Boston-area market, and I can attribute much of my success in guiding my clients toward making very competitive (but still reasonably protective) offers to out-the-box strategies that I don’t think I could have developed if not for a much more thorough understanding of (and comfort with) contract law than that vast majority of real estate agents will ever have. I’m also able to give my clients smoother transactions than many agents can provide thanks to my training to think through and account for many possible contingencies when choosing a course of action. I even see myself naturally drawing on my LRR&W training when writing well-organized and precise–but easy-to-understand–emails to my clients. (Really! I recently emailed Professor Gionfriddo to thank her and tell her as much!) I could go on, but to put it simply, my BC Law education has just become part of how I think, how I communicate, and who I am. I know that being able to combine that with the type of market knowledge and expertise that can only be achieved by focusing full time on real estate has made me an agent who adds real value for my clients.

The connections I made through BC Law and my time at the firm have also been invaluable. One aspect of my real estate career that I love is that it often gives me a chance to get to really know people who I have always been fond of, but who I would otherwise never have occasion to spend dedicated time with. I’ve helped no fewer than five classmates just from my 1L section (among several other BC Law alums) buy their first home, and I found myself closer to all of them as a result of the process. In one of the most interesting instances of my old career and my new one colliding, I once made an offer on behalf of a partner at my former law firm on a home owned by one of my first-year professors!

When I look back at my life, my choices, and my time at BC Law, I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing. I may have taken the long way, but there’s no question in my mind that I arrived where I was meant to be.

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