Meet Lisa Shippel with Lisa Shippel Law in Alpharetta. Lisa grew up in New Jersey and got her undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland. She was determined to get her law degree and graduated from law school at the New York Law School in only 2.5 years. She has been practicing law for 25 years and has built her own business by providing excellent service and building quality relationships. She practices small business law, estate planning, and real estate. Her business thrives on repeat customers and referrals. She is the Chairperson of the Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce and loves helping people.
What is Your Background? How Did You Become a Lawyer?
I started practicing law 25 years ago when I moved to Alpharetta. I first started working in Roswell for a father and son firm straight out of law school in 1994. I was there for 17 years. Then in 2011, I went out on my own and opened up this office. I rented a little office in the same office park. And it was just me until I hired one full-time person. Then I hired another lady who was part time and then we outgrew that office. So I built this office and that was about four years ago, maybe in 2013 or 14.
Was Starting a Business the Best Decision You Ever Made?
I think so. Sometimes I do wonder because I feel like I’m working all the time and dealing with the business itself rather than just the legal stuff for my clients. I’m not complaining because it’s all good. If you’re busy and it’s for good reasons, you really can’t complain.
How Many Employees Do You Have?
I have three staff members. I have a full-time assistant, Sarah, who mostly helps me with my real estate work. Then there’s Deanna. She’s full-time and helps me with the real estate portion, but also with my estate planning and business clients. I also have a receptionist “seat”. Sometimes it’s two part-time people, sometimes it’s a full-time person. It really just depends. In the summer, I like to have students here because they see it as an internship at a law firm. It helps me, but also gives them real world experience.
How Do You Find Students for Internships?
Over the years, I’ve had part-time students through the different high schools in the area through the internship program. And then, mainly over the summer, there are people that I find on my own. I’ve been around here so long that I know a lot of people and they just come up to me and say, ‘Hey, so and so’s looking for a summer job in a law firm’.
How Did You End Up in Alpharetta?
I grew up in New Jersey. I went to University of Maryland for my undergraduate and then I went to law school. I started at New York Law School and that’s where I obtained my law degree. I completed a visiting semester at Emory because I thought that I was going to move down here full time after graduation. I actually graduated law school in two and a half years because I was in a rush to get done. One of my semesters was here at Emory, and then I went back up there to graduate. Then I moved here full time. I took the Georgia Bar because I knew I was going to be in the Metro Atlanta area. When I was in college, I was actually a journalism major and I thought, “Oh, I’ll work for CNN in Atlanta; I’ll be a broadcaster.” I just wound up going to law school because the market tanked right before I graduated. My future was bleak in journalism at the time so I went back to school and got a law degree.
What Inspired You to Practice Law?
It was always something in the back of my mind. A lot of people come up to me and they say, “Oh, my child argues all the time, he would make a great lawyer.” It wasn’t that. You’re not a good lawyer if you can argue. It was just something I was interested in. Then in law school, I got more interested in things related to media and legalities. And then again, when I graduated from law school, the market still stunk, so I took a job doing anything that was available. My job that I got offered was in real estate. I started to learn and that’s how I made a living.
Did You Mostly Do Residential or Commercial Real Estate?
Back in 1994, Alpharetta was much different. The population was less than 20,000 and there was no Northpoint Mall yet. I think North Fulton Hospital was just built maybe a few years prior to that. So a lot of what I did was subdivision work. People were selling their property and we were handling loans for banks, loaning money to folks who were developing subdivisions or individual builders who were building houses for folks. You would call that more commercial work. I didn’t conduct house closings per se. I also did refinancing of buildings and zoning.
But then when I went out on my own; part of the reason was because the market tanked and it was a good time to leave. When things are slow and there’s not a lot of business, you can work on setting up your business without the scramble or the stress of being too busy. So you can put your processes in place and really work on getting your first few clients. And that’s what I did, but at the time I couldn’t be picky. I wasn’t going to just take commercial closings. It was like if you had money, and you were actually buying property, I was willing to do it. Today, I close residential house and commercial properties.
What Services Do You Offer?
I work in three general areas of business:
The first one is real estate. Real estate for me includes commercial and residential closings, contract drafting and reviewing, lease drafting and reviewing. I don’t do any real estate litigation, just basic transactional work. I insure title, and that is ancillary to any closing that I perform.
Second, I practice estate planning and probate. For that I draft wills, trusts, healthcare directives, powers of attorney…all of the basic stuff. I also handle probate matters, which means that when someone passes away, we file the paperwork in the county courthouse so that they can transfer assets to the people listed in the will. Again, no litigation.
The third area is small business. This includes helping people set up LLCs for operations when they start a new business. Also we help them if they’re buying or selling a business. I deal mostly with small businesses. Some people say you should focus on one area, but over the past 25 years my clients are buying real property and then they need an LLC set up. So that’s how I’ve learned. I became better at certain things because the same client needed those three areas taken care of. My business just fell into place that way.
Where Do You Get Most of Your Business?
Referrals. I love when I represent one client in a transaction; like when I’m representing them when buying a building. And the agents have no idea who I am, but they enjoy working with me. So then a month down the road they’re asking, “Hey, I’ve got a client who’s purchasing a building in Gwinnett. Can you help me with that?” I love that they think I did such a good job on a transaction that even though they weren’t my clients they feel good enough to refer me business.
So I’m very fortunate. I just try and do a good job for the clients. It makes you feel good when they are happy.
I also do a lot of networking and volunteering. I’d say the networking that I used to do is different than the networking I do now. I used to go out there and meet people and get new clients and such. The networking I do now is more so to help other folks with their businesses. Now I’m the Chairperson of the Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce and I’ve been involved with that for the past few years. Basically if you have a new business and you want to get in touch with different types of people, I try to help. I want to be able to help facilitate your networking so that you’re a successful business owner. And if you need an HVAC guy, then I know a good A/C guy and I want to be able to put you two together. I love that type of networking.
How Long Have You Been in the Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce?
When I opened my business March 1st of 2011, the first thing I did was I joined the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, like the first thing. And I went there and I met with a bunch of people. Then five years ago, I joined the Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce. I found that there were a lot of small business owners like myself and we could do business-to-business very easily. They asked me to be on the board and then it was the executive board. Initially I look at it as a way to give back when I volunteer on a board because I’m not doing it at this point for the business. I’m doing it so that the new businesses in Alpharetta have a good Chamber to go to in a way to network and grow their business.
Who is the Client You’ve Had the Longest?
So I have had one client since 1994. Honestly a bunch of them that are still around. And I see them all the time. I’ve gotten to know their families. It’s funny, this morning I got a call from a client and she says, “Hi, you did my will when I moved here years ago and I want to come in to talk to you about updating it.” I said, “When did I do your will?”. I find out she moved here in 1999, so it was 20 years ago. It’s kind of cool that I’ve had the same clients for so many years.
Tell Us About the Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce.
It’s not just networking in the Chamber, but it’s different educational classes you can take or discounts on insurance or online marketing. Every month there is a Wine Down Wednesday, third Wednesday of the month. Twice a month we have Network like a Rock Star. They have a Chamber orientation. We also have a lunch and learn maybe once a quarter. Coffee and commerce, which is a breakfast with speaker once a quarter. There’s Women Who Walk the Walk, which is an inspiring female speaker twice a year. Then we do a lot of ribbon cuttings and business grand openings. So during any given week there’s anywhere from 5 to 10 different things you can choose from.
What Do You Love Most About Alpharetta?
Honestly, I love that you can stay in Alpharetta and have everything nearby. It’s a lot different than it was. I mean, we used to have to drive down to Holcomb Bridge to have dinner and such years ago and now there’s no reason to leave. I mean, I like to travel and go places, but there’s shopping, good restaurants and lots of great businesses headquartered here in Alpharetta and there’s all ranges of housing. It’s still kind of a hometown feel. People are friendly and you go and see some of the same people over and over.
It’s a little different now. I used to go somewhere and I knew everybody in the restaurant. It’s not like that anymore. But you still get that local feel. My kids have gone through the school, they have such good programs and education for the kids. The support programs are fantastic. We have a high caliber across the board.
Where Do You See Your Business in the Next 5 Years?
I don’t even know. I kind of like where I am right now. I don’t want to be closed minded and say I don’t want to grow, but I like my team, my office, and I love my clients. I don’t have the need at the moment.
Although I will say that competing is very hard as a solo practitioner, especially in the residential, real estate arena. I don’t have an arrangement with a real estate agency where I get all their closings. That’s what the bigger guys do.
For me, it’s like, “Oh, your brother’s buying a house. Tell him I can do his closing.” But I’ve toyed over the years with the idea of either joining forces with another partner again. I like my autonomy and being by myself and making my own rules, but since I’m by myself I can’t really take long vacations. I can only really do two days and a weekend. There is a company that does legal placement where I was able to hire an attorney to come in and handle a closing for me, so that was nice. I’ll have to just wait and see what happens.
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